Essential m4 256GB SSD Evaluate

Crucial announced the global availability of its next generation solid state drive late last month. The company's latest entry, known simply as the "m4", is being hailed as the successor to its award-winning RealSSD C300 and promises more speed and higher capacity. Despite these claims, we can't help but feel like the m4 has some big shoes to fill.

The C300 was a milestone for the consumer SSD market as it has been the only available flash drive with SATA 6 Gbit / s support for quite some time. While most SSD manufacturers opted for the SandForce SF-1200 controller with a top read rate of 285 MB / s, the C300 was able to achieve speeds of 355 MB / s thanks to its Marvell "Van Gogh" 88SS9174 chip.

Not only does the C300 excel in sequential throughput, but it also offers strong random performance when working with files of all sizes, making it a well-rounded competitor. However, it's been more than a year since the RealSSD C300 landed, and a lot has changed in that time. The latest SandForce SATA 6Gb / s controllers in particular have really changed the game.

OCZ has undoubtedly delivered the best SandForce-based product of the current generation. The Vertex 3 (240 GB) is powered by the SF-2281 and offers read and write speeds of up to 550 MB / s and 520 MB / s. Needless to say, the drive blew us away when we checked it out last month and our "Great!" Awarded after passing our real speed tests.

While the Vertex 3 puts things on the SandForce front, Intel recently launched its performance-driven SSD 510 series that advertises reads and writes at 500MB / s and 315MB / s, respectively. The 510 series surprised us a little as it comes with Intel's dated 34nm MLC NAND flash chips and a Marvell 88SS9174 controller instead of a chip made by Intel.

Interestingly, Crucial has also decided to add the Marvell 88SS9174 controller to its m4 drives, despite the fact that the company has opted for less expensive 25nm flash storage. As a result, the 256GB model currently sells at $ 1.95 per gigabyte, while the 250GB version of the Intel SSD 510 series is significantly more expensive at $ 2.40 per gigabyte.

Given the intended price, we shouldn't expect the m4 to dethrone the OCZ Vertex 3 and possibly not even Intel's SSD 510. Still, we might get a pleasant surprise if Crucial's newest competitor delivers performance above that of the RealSSD C300 in its prime, so let's go ahead and find out what the m4 is made of.

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