Final Words

I'm not sure whether to call the m4 an evolutionary upgrade in performance or a shift in performance. Write speed is faster across the board, but read speed took a definite hit compared to the C300. Overall Crucial has a faster drive on its hands, one that's particularly well suited to most of our lighter workloads. It's only in our new 2011 heavy multitasking workload that the m4 really fell short. For your average desktop usage model, the m4 is either the best or second best you can get.

I am a bit put off by the fact that the m4 doesn't seem to have the peak sequential performance of some of the other next-generation drives we've reviewed. The Vertex 3 and Intel SSD 510 both do much better in sequential transfer speeds than the m4. To Crucial's credit however, without any data deduplication/compression it delivers the best 4KB random write performance we've seen to date.

My remaining concerns with the m4 are really not that different from those I had with the C300. Crucial's very late garbage collection allows the possibility for some very poor write speeds over time. If you're running in a configuration without TRIM support, I'd say this is enough to rule out the m4. Sure performance should recover with sequential write passes, however if your workload isn't sufficiently sequential then this could pose a problem. If you do have a TRIM enabled OS I'm not entirely sure how the m4 will behave over time. TRIM should keep things running smoothly but that will largely depend on workload. Again, I think that for most desktop/notebook users the m4 will do just fine but it's tough to say for sure without months of testing under my belt. In other words, like any other brand new SSD—approach with caution.

We should have the final Vertex 3 in house soon, but it's looking like all cards are on the table for this round. If SandForce/OCZ can manage to deliver a well tested, reliable product it may be difficult to recommend an alternative.

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  • MrSpadge - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Wait for the final hard- and software. Some power saving mode was probably not active in this beta version.

  • Out of Box Experience - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    The majority of users as of January 2011 were still using XP
    55% used XP
    22% used Windows 7
    So for the Majority of users, Intel's 320 series is still the best SSD to get as it uses the same OS agnostic controller that the last Intel SSD's

    OCZ on the other hand just purchased Indilynx so we may yet see a OS agnostic controller from them in the near future to compete with Intel in the non-Windows 7 space

    This would make perfect sense for OCZ to add the offset to Indilynx controllers to compete for XP users and keep the Sandforce line for Windows 7 users

    Although Indilynx does not have the Raw throughput of a Sandforce SSD, it would give respectable performance on "ANY" OS without the need for partition hacks and should be suitable for dual boots if the proper offset is implemented

    One of the most basic problems with partition offset hacks for XP was that the offset would be lost if you backup and restore a single partition using Acronis True Image

    The only way to keep the offset would be to backup the entire drive!

    O&O defrag Pro v14 has a "Manual" Trim command if anyone is interested ???

    Controllers that do not include the proper offset for XP boxes generally have horrible "USED" performance after several writes but seem to function OK if you only use them for a boot drive and avoid writes (Hard to do with XP)

  • Out of Box Experience - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    So for the Majority of users, Intel's 320 series is still the best SSD to get as it uses the same OS agnostic controller that the last generation Intel SSD's had
  • 7Enigma - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    Could you site your source for those numbers? My hunch is that the people still on XP are likely NOT the same people that will be purchasing these drives. More likely they are on Vista or Win7 which mainly negates your comment.

    Don't get me wrong I love XP still (my laptop and wife's computer are still running it), but for my main gaming rig (only system with a SSD) I've been through 2 OS revisions (Vista and now 7). Why? DX10/11 support.

    And people upgrading existing systems for a SSD are likely upgrading for similar reasons. Few people are going to drop $100-400 for a SSD on a 3-5 year old computer. They are brainwashed into thinking the spyware/virii loaded system is slow because it's old, not because it just needs a fresh install and some proper lockdown/protection.
  • Out of Box Experience - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    Sorry, I could not find the exact source that I used but here is a different one with similar results

    Your hunch that people still using XP are likely NOT the same people that will be purchasing these drives is a good bet due to the fact that these drives tend to perform quit badly in a used state when compared to the Intel SSD's on an XP box

    This is also the reason I think that OCZ may have purchased Indilynx
    To add the offset needed to compete with Intel on the XP boxes

    Even if Windows 7 had the same market share "TODAY" that XP enjoys, it is still foolish for SSD makers to ignore that huge XP market at their own detriment

    Windows 7 may be the future, but there's gold in them thar XP hills
  • LeTiger - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    With the major players out of the woods now, I guess it's just time to wait until next year to see prices go down. Overall, I can't decide whether I'm happy over a (potentially) knockout performance by OCZ, or sad at the state of Intel/Crucial/etc... offerings...

    With prices where they still are at this point, I am very satisfied with my 30gb boot drive, and will continue to wait till costs go down until I convert fully over to the SSD realm...
  • Wave Fusion - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    I don't place much faith on that happening.
    SSDs are selling well enough there's not a good enough reason to reduce prices anytime soon.

    At about $1 per GB most SSDs costs more than major parts like the CPU, GPU, RAM and HDD combined.

    Allow me to pose a question for a general consensus: All and SSD does better is open files/programs faster and move large files (drive 1 to drive 2) faster; due to its high read/write speeds and more simultaneous operations.

    BUT; if you've already run a program once since booting, closed it, then opened it again.. I thought the program was likely cached in the RAM. Which means an SSD would no longer improve anything

    The only potential benefit past 1st run would be any data that's never rerun, like media encoding. But the often poorly designed/outdated single threaded programs themselves are a bottleneck way before a HDD is. At least on my machine, even similtaneous

    So then I have to ask myself, assuming recently accessed files/programs cached in RAM isn't some myth; what do I really gain from using an SSD?

    Why would I spend that money when I could instead use it for an even better GPU or something I actually will notice?
  • MilwaukeeMike - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Valid point.. but when I use my PC i do a few things frequently that would benefit. I have a kid, and therefore lots of pics and videos, and i play some video games, so i deal with loading screens. I don't ever sit and wait and wish i had 100 FPS instead of my current avg 60. The only times i'm ever looking at my screen and waiting for my PC to finish doing something is either loading a webpage (1-2 seconds) or loading a game (often) or copying files (kinda rare).

    You're right, if you only use word and excel, this isn't for you. But if find yourself waiting for game screens to load it's worth it. Also, many people have already perfectly fast CPU's/GPU/s and good enough monitors.

    The HD is the last slow piece of my computer for me to upgrade.
  • Ammaross - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - link

    Yes, most CPUs bought within the last two years will be more than powerful enough to handle common use. Juicing a system with an SSD will be the best way to regain "lost" performance. Rather than telling your parents to get a new computer when their old one is just "too slow," upgrade their hard drive to an SSD. They likely don't reach 120GB as it is.
  • LeTiger - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    I would spend the money because for what I do, an SSD greatly benefits my workflow. Tooling around in Lightroom/CS5 all day benefits from an SSD. I just think they are still too much, and when they do get down to the $1 per gig, I will snatch up the biggest one I can afford.

    As far as "something you will actually notice", you couldn't be more mistaken, an SSD will make the biggest noticeable difference in performance in a computer that you will be able to see. As the comment below says, (and I agree), would you rather watch your FPS meter jump from 60 to 100? or have almost everything you do load very, VERY quickly.

    - It made my intel Atom/ION laptop feel as fast as my Quad Core for light usage scenarios, now that is worth spending money on as peace of mind.

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