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Josh Norem

Oct 14, 2013

Crucial M500 480GB SSD

At A Glance

Puppies

Fastest drive in its class by a hair; great value.

Armageddon

Bare-bones bundle; 3-year warranty.

A winning package of low price and high performance

The Crucial M500 is the company’s third-generation 6Gb/s SSD, and the successor to the often-praised M4 SSD, which we named the “Best Bang for your Buck” SSD back last year due to its well-rounded package of decent performance at a great price. In our estimation, the new drive follows suit, though with much-improved write speeds and massively increased capacities at lower prices, thanks to its move to smaller-process NAND flash. Not only does it come in the standard 120GB, 240GB, and the 480GB version you see before you, but it’s also offered in a pants-tightening 1TB version at just $600, making it the only truly affordable 1TB SSD ever offered. Since the terabyte drive was not available at press time, we’re taking a look at the 480GB version, which sports the exact same specs as its big brother.

The M500 is the first SSD to offer a relatively affordable 1TB option. Who needs kidneys, anyway?

The drive itself comes in a shiny 7mm silver enclosure, so it fits into some thinner notebooks. A 9.5mm spacer is included, but not a 3.5-inch adapter, nor is there any software in the box or online aside from a firmware updating tool, which is disappointing. Inside the M500’s shell we find that Crucial has moved from 25nm NAND to 20nm MLC NAND flash. Smaller-process NAND offers benefits such as lower power consumption and increased capacities, but also reduces the NAND’s life span somewhat. Still, Crucial offers the drive with a 3-year warranty and says the drive can handle 40GB of data written to it every day for five years, so the drive’s NAND should last long enough even for hardcore data-mongers. Crucial is still using a Marvell controller, though it’s an updated version of the one used on the M4, and, of course, it has updated firmware.

In testing, we saw the M500 post very respectable scores across the board, though none were the fastest we’ve seen, nor would we expect them to be at this price. The biggest improvement we see over the M4 is in write speeds, which have gone from 193MB/s in CrystalDiskMark to 422MB/s, and that difference shows in the AS SSD compressed-data test as well, showing almost a doubling of speed from the M500. The ATTO test mirrors our other results, showing the drive capable of around 500MB/s read speeds and 422MB/s write speeds, which is superb for a “value” drive. Its Iometer score of 83,354 IOPS is also top-of-its-class as well, as is its PCMark Vantage HDD test score of 71,619. Oddly, its Sony Vegas score is unchanged from the M4, so it’s possible the Marvell controller still has a tough time with data-compression duties when writing huge files, 20GB in our scenario.

Overall, the M500 shows just how far value drives have progressed, since this drive is about as fast as the fastest SSDs available a year ago. When compared to its most direct competitor—the Samsung 840 500GB—the two are pretty evenly matched, though the Crucial drive was a little faster in more tests. However, the Samsung drive costs about $40 less, has the same warranty, and better software support, making it a nail-biter between them.

$400, www.crucial.com

Benchmarks
 Crucial M500
Crucial M4
Samsung 840
Controller
Marvell 9187
Marvell 9187
MDX
Capacity480GB256GB500GB
CrystalDiskMark



Avg. Sustained Read (MB/s)
480
500
464
Avg. Sustained Write (MB/s)
422193
333
AS SSD   
4KB Read (IOPS)6,3886,7416,921
4KB Write (IOPS)17,00310,10015,955
ATTO   
64KB File Read (MB/s)502200335
64KB File Write (MB/s)422449531
Iometer   
4KB Random Write 32QD (IOPS)83,35456,08756,087
PCMark Vantage x6471,61951,75852,557
Sony Vegas Pro 9 Write (sec)485480435

Best scores are bolded. All tests were run on an Intel Core i5 3470 test bench with 8GB of RAM, an Intel 520 Series SSD, Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 motherboard, and a Cooler Master 450W PSU.

THE VERDICT

Crucial M500 480GB SSD

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