Crucial M500 240GB, 480GB and 960GB

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3/19/2014 12:29:04 AM

Crucial’s M500 drives are handled by Marvell’s 88SS9187 controller, for which Crucial develops its own firmware, while IMFT 128Gb (16GB) 20nm MLC NAND dies are used throughout.

Crucial M500

The controller is connected to 16 NAND packages in each drive (one 128Gb die per package for the 240GB, two for the 480GB and four for the 960GB). Such high-density NAND keeps down productions costs; the 960GB works out at an incredible 38p per gigabyte, while the others are below the 50p mark. Only Samsung’s SSD 840 EVO 1TB and Transcend’s cheap and cheerful SSD340 manage the same feat.

Crucial M500 240GB $176.26 inc VAT

The M500’s DDR3 cache scales with capacity, from 256MB in the 240GB model to 512MB in the 480GB drive and 1GB for the 960GB model. It’s used mainly for page mapping, if there’s a power failure, a series of capacitors allows any user data in the cache to be quickly flushed to permanent storage.

Crucial M500 480GB $324.25 inc VAT

The M500 is also compatible with the TGC Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 specs, enabling hardware-accelerated encryption such as that in BitLocker. This is more secure than ATA password encryption and has a smaller overhead than software encryption. Finally, RAIN (Redundant Array of Independent NAND) sets aside the extra inaccessible area of the NAND for data redundancy, providing some protection against NAND cell failures.

Crucial M500 960GB $560.36 inc VAT

Sequential read speeds are comparatively low, capping out at 500MB/sec and leaving the drives at or near the bottom of the charts in both tests. Write speeds don’t fare much better, but the two larger-capacity models have a clear advantage, hitting around 430MB/sec in AS SSD and 15MB/sec more in CrystalDiskMark, while the 240GB drive is limited to sub-300MB/sec speeds and comes last in CrystalDiskMark. This limit is due to the controller only being populated with two NAND dies per channel.

Single-queue-depth random speeds are essentially identical throughout the range. With a maximum read speed of 28.7MB/sec in CrystalDiskMark, the drives are relatively poor performers here, but they have excellent write performance. The peak of 125.4MB/sec loses only to OCZ’s Barefoot 3 drives.

Again, there’s little separating the three drives with high queue-depth read speeds, although the other Marvel 9187 SSDs outperform them. As for writes, the highercapacity drives hit around 300MB/sec in AS SSD and 340MB/sec in CrystalDiskMark, leaving them mid-league, while the 240GB model comes in rather lower, with write and read speeds of 238.9MB/sec and 276.3MB/ sec respectively.

Crucial M500 structure

The drives struggle in real-world tests although they’re bunched tightly together in PCMark 7. In the Starting Applications test, they’re particularly low in the charts, failing to break the 90MB/sec bar. Booting Windows favours smaller capacities – the 240GB has a respectable 12.03-second boot speed, but the 960GB takes 14.4 seconds to boot. Iometer speed is also respectable. The higher capacities are better here, but even the 240GB model averages 34,975 IOPS – higher than the Samsung SSD 840 Pro 256GB, but not as good as the Plextor drives.


At under 50p per gigabyte, the M500 drives are the best value SSDs on test (the 960GB model is even cheaper than the OCZ Vector 150 480GB). Performance throughout could be better, and Samsung’s victory here is clear. Still, the 240GB drive is much better than the cheaper Transcend one and would make an excellent primary drive for a budget SSD based system. Meanwhile, the 480GB and 960GB models would make great laptop upgrades by bringing both speed and capacity to a single 2.5in slot, and the encryption, redundancy and power loss protection features are added bonuses too.


Some nifty features and acceptable performance, but the low cost per gigabyte is the real highlight of the M500 series.

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