Crucial M550 512GB SSD Review
Late last year the M500 series not only cemented Crucialís reputation as an industry leader but it also helped prove to consumers that there was another alternative to TLC NAND. By leveraging the power of Marvell's then top of the line 9187 controller and a strong relationship with IMFT through their parent company Micron, massive 128GBit ONFi 3 NAND ICs ushered in a new era of price vs performance. Since then Crucial and Marvell have learned many valuable lessons about the nature of these new ONFi 3 beasts.
These hard won lessons have now been distilled into an entirely new model called the M550 which uses only top-shelf ONFi 3 NAND, binned specifically for these SSDs.
In nearly every critical area the M550 exhibits a noticeable improvement over its predecessor the M500. Everything from its IOPS rating to sequential file performance has been boosted significantly. However, much like the AData SP920, the biggest difference for the average consumer is the increase in capacity. Due to tweaking of the parity stripeís size for RAIN (redundant array of independent NAND), Crucial was able to squeeze additional capacity out of the same number -and size- of NAND ICs. RAID essentially increases redundancy which has a side effect of making the drive more resilient to premature aging. In the M550 512GB's case this technology frees up an extra thirty two gigabytes of space which would normally be used for over-provisioning.
Amongst other things, this extra space will help improve the M550s price vs. capacity ratio over that of the M500 and its competitors. hough with an online average price of only $329 the M550 does not need much help in this regards.
Usually when a new model comes out with such obvious improvements it replaces the previous model. This is not what Crucial have decided to do in this situation. Instead of End Of Life'ing the redoubtable M500 and replacing it with the M550, Crucial has simply decided to let both co-exist in the marketplace. The M500 will now focus on the entry level market and gain an even lower price point, whereas the M550 will now be Crucial's mainstream offering. This move certainly is good news as consumers who previously couldnít afford a mega-capacity drive now will be able to purchase the M500, conversely and with more money can get the M550 with more performance and additional capacity.
Due to the fact that this drive is so similar on paper to the AData SP920 we would be remiss in not comparing and contrasting the two drives. So if you have not already read our review of the SP920 we strongly recommend you do so before continuing. If you donít thatís youíre loss but the Coles notes version is both of these drives use similar ONFi 3 NAND ICs, RAM, controller, and with an online price of $329 - or 64 cents per GB- the M550 512GB is on paper very similar to that of the $334 ADadata SP920 512GB.
From the exterior the M550 follows firmly in its predecessorsí footsteps. Just like the M500, it uses a 7mm all metal exterior that is quite thick and secure feeling. Crucial has also included both a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter and a 7mm to 9.5mm black plastic adapter covering. This combination allows the M550 to be installed in everything from an Ultrabook to full tower PC system.
Internally, the M550 also is very similar to the M500 and the new AData SP920 with a classic Marvell layout. There is a single Marvell controller, 16 ONFi 3 128GBit NAND ICs and a single Micron 512MB external ram cache IC. There are also onboard capacitors which allow for Flush In Flight abilities. Seeing a consumer grade drive with FiF is not as rare as it once was, but this costly to implement feature is always welcome on consumer grade storage devices.
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