Micron/Crucial briefed us on their new M500 line of SSDs, which upgrades the controller to the Marvell 88SS9187-BLD2 along with moving to 20nm Micron MLC NAND. Along with the NAND process shrink comes higher NAND die capacity: 128Gb per die to be specific. This in turn allows Micron to bring higher capacity SSDs down to previously unheard of prices—particularly for what should be high performance, high quality SSDs. The M500 line will launch with 120/240/480/960GB models, in 2.5”, mSATA, and M.2 (formerly NGFF) form factors. Full pricing information isn’t available yet, but Micron is promising the 960GB drives will cost under $600. We’ve basically seen the same sort of drive upgrade from Plextor already with the M5 Pro, though both Plextor and Micron of course provide their own customized firmware. Note also that both the Micron and Crucial versions will use the same M500 branding, which will hopefully alleviate any confusion this time around. Here are the core specs for the four capacities.

Micron / Crucial M500 Specifications
Controller Marvell 88SS9187
NAND Micron 20nm MLC NAND
Form Factor 2.5", mSATA, M.2 2.5", mSATA, M.2 2.5", mSATA, M.2 2.5"
Raw NAND Capacity 128GiB 256GiB 512GiB 1024GiB
User Capacity 120GB 240GB 480GB 960GB
Sequential Read 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s
Sequential Write 130MB/s 250MB/s 400MB/s 400MB/s
4K Random Read 62K IOPS 72K IOPS 80K IOPS 80K IOPS
4K Random Write 35K IOPS 60K IOPS 80K IOPS 80K IOPS
Warranty 3 years

There are a few key points worthy of note. One is that the M500 posts lower transfer rates and IOPS than the M5 Pro, though of course these are all paper specs so take them with a grain of salt. The other interesting item is that Micron is now going with more overprovisioning than on their previous model SSDs. We’ve seen the effect of spare area in our recent testing, so the move from 7% spare area (the difference between GiB and GB) to 14.5% spare area will improve the worst-case performance. Another item to note is that the 2.5” enclosures are now all 7mm thick, and they ship with a free 9.5mm adapter. All of the M500 line includes hardware AES 256-bit encryption, and Micron showed us an array of small capacitors on one of the M.2 form factor drives that supported flushing of all data to the NAND in the event of a power loss--not a super capacitor as seen in enterprise class SSDs, but there's no RAM cache to flush so it's just an extra precaution to ensure all of the data writes complete.

At this point, we’re now getting very close to the limits of the SATA 6Gbps interface, so some performance improvements over the previous generation M4 aren’t all that huge. Read speeds have improved from 415MB/s on the M4 series and write speeds are up from 260MB/s on the larger models; on the other hand, 4K IOPS almost double from 40K/50K read/write (again on the larger models), so random performance should be substantially better. Reliability has been quite good with Micron/Crucial drives over the past couple years, and the new drives will hopefully continue that legacy. Availability I believe should be Q2 2013 (Micron wasn't specific on this),  and we’ll have full performance reviews when we get samples.

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  • Kougar - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Write speeds are not "up". The 240GB M5 write speed is DOWN from 260MB/s to 250MB/s, as well as the 128GB from 175MB/s on the m4 to 130MB/s on the m5.

    Also, 4k IOPS writes have not "doubled", they only increased from 50K to 60K.

    I'm eyeballing the specs from the m4 datasheet... better be more careful when making general statements that only apply to >500GB models.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    I would take the earlier M4 numbers with a bit more skepticism as they generally felt more inflated, particularly on lower capacity drives. Mostly though, I was speaking about maximum performance/IOPS on the 480/960GB drives. 80K/80K is indeed "almost double" 40K/50K, and read/write speeds are up as well. On smaller drives where there are less NAND die to talk to (thanks to the increased die sizes), performance may not always go up, but in general I expect the 120GB M500 to match or exceed M4 128GB performance in all benchmarks. Reply
  • smalM - Friday, January 18, 2013 - link

    You're looking at it the wrong way.

    The smallest M4 has 95MB/s write speed, the smallest M500 has 130MB/s.
    The 2nd smallest M4 has 175MB/s write speed, the 2nd smallest M500 has 250MB/s.
    The 2 biggest M4 have 260MB/s write speed, the 2 biggest M500 have 400 MB/s.

    So all M500 models have gotten a nice speed bump over their predecessors.
    Reply
  • iwod - Friday, January 11, 2013 - link

    It was supposed to be the lowest power consuming SSD. Where did that piece of info gone? Reply
  • Scour - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link

    Still waiting for the M500-series.

    After the V4 Crucial need to find it´s old strength.
    Reply

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