It has long been believed that solid-state drives are the single most important upgrade you can give a modern computer to increase its overall performance. This holds true to this day by a considerable margin, as even budget-minded SSDs wipe the floor with the fastest 3.5-inch hard drives, offering users near-instant access times compared to the more than 10 ms delay experienced with faster 7200 U hard drives / min is connected.
SSDs are not only faster than HDDs, they also use less power and generate less heat. Also, because they have no moving parts, they are quieter, more reliable and more compact than their rotating counterparts. These "bonus" attributes are not particularly important to desktop users, but they are particularly beneficial to notebooks that are increasingly using flash memory instead of (or alongside) sluggish hard drives.
In response to this demand, in September 2009 the Serial ATA International Organization standardized a new compact "mSATA" form factor that manufacturers can use to produce tiny 1.8-inch drives for Ultrabooks and other such mobile systems. Despite the many advantages of SSDs, until recently they were an expensive option with limited storage capacity, especially with the mSATA form factor, which is typically 128GB or less.
So we took note of this when Crucial announced its m4 mSATA SSD with a capacity of 256 GB for less than 1 USD / GB. The mSATA drive is tiny compared to the standard 2.5-inch Crucial m4, and despite the size difference, both 256GB models offer the same read and write speeds of 500MB / s and 260MB / s – an exciting one View. Assuming there aren't any problems Crucial's new mSATA offering could become the solution for ultra-portable upgrades …
Crucial m4 mSATA in detail
Like the 2.5-inch m4, the mSATA version uses the Marvell 88SS9174 controller along with a large Micron 256MB cache to improve write performance. Since the Marvell 88SS9174 controller alone measures 17 mm x 17 mm, it fits together with the 256 MB cache and 256 GB NAND flash memory on a 30 mm wide circuit board are an impressive achievement.
According to Crucial, the m4 series has a mean time between failures (MTBF) of 1.2 million hours, which is an estimate a little more conservative than the ~ 1.5 million hours you'll find on most other SSDs. To accompany the usual MTBF number, Crucial offers a drive endurance rating for each model.
As mentioned earlier, Crucial claims that the m4 mSATA 256 GB can achieve a read and write throughput of 500 MB / s and 260 MB / s, which is identical to the larger 2.5-inch model. The IOPS (inputs / outputs per second) rating is also the same, reaching 45,000 IOPS for 4K random read and 50,000 IOPS for 4K random write.
The 64GB m4 mSATA is reportedly capable of 36TB of data, while the larger models have a 72TB rating. That may not sound like too impressive, but 72TB will be reduced to an average of 40GB per day for five years, which is quite a lot for standard usage. Plus, the m4 mSATA will be an old story in five years anyway.
In terms of physical durability, Crucial claims the m4 mSATA offers 1500G shock resistance, which is pretty typical of competing flash products. The company's new drives can also be operated reliably at temperatures of up to 70 degrees Celsius and withstand 85 degrees when not in use.
Like all SSDs, the m4 mSATA states very low power consumption values. All models consume less than 100 mW when idling. When active, the 64GB and 128GB versions only consume 150mW while the 256GB model has 160mW of power, which is still exceptionally low.
The m4 mSATA series measures 50.8 x 29.85 x 3.75 mm and weighs 10 grams. The drives are compatible with both laptops and desktops. However, you will need an mSATA to SATA adapter if you plan to install on a desktop that does not support an mSATA connector on the motherboard. They also work in RAID if you buy more than one.