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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 in December of 2012 due to its well-rounded package of decent performance at a great price. In our estimation, the new drive fulfills the same well-rounded role, 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 pant-tightening 1TB version at just $600, making it the market's first truly affordable 1TB SSD. 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 move to 20nm NAND has allowed Crucial to bump capacity up to 960GB with the M500
The drive itself comes in a shiny 7mm silver enclosure, so you can jam it into an Ultrabook. A 9.5mm spacer is also included, but there is no 3.5-inch adapter in the box, 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 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 this is 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 its 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 its successor. 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 however, 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 though — the Samsung 840 500GB — the two are pretty evenly matched though the Crucial drive was a little faster in more tests. The Samsung drive costs about $40 less though, has the same warranty and better software support, making it a nail-biter between them.
MSRP: $400, www.crucial.com
Best scores are bolded. Test system consists of Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 motherboard,
Intel Core i5-3470, 8GB of RAM, Windows 7 64-bit.
Fastest drive in its class by a hair; great value.
Bare-bones bundle; 3 year warranty.