Crucial M550 Series Solid State Drive Review
Introduction and Specifications
The solid state storage market continues to be one of the hottest in the PC industry. Over the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen the release of the Intel SSD 730 and the OCZ Vertex 460 series of drives and there are still plenty more on the horizon, as many companies ready products with different capacities, form factors and connectivity options.
Today is Crucial’s turn to make some noise. The long-time memory maker is launching a new line of solid state drives, dubbed the M550 series, targeted at performance-minded, but budget-conscious enthusiasts. The M550 family of drives will be offered in array of form factors, including mSATA and M.2 flavors, but we’ve got a couple of 2.5” SATA models on tap for you here.
Below are the full specs for the Crucial M550 series and a few pics of the 1TB drive that’s been opened up to reveal its internals. We’ll discuss the drive’s performance (along with a 512GB model) on the pages ahead...
From the outside, the Crucial M550 looks just like many of the other 2.5” solid state drives currently on the market. The drive has a slim, 7mm Z-Height (though, an adapter is included in the box to 2mm if necessary), and it is adorned with a couple of decals listing the product family, model number and some other identifying information, but other than that, there’s not much to see.
Whip out your tool-kit and open up the M550 and you’ll find that the drive is built around the tried-and-true Marvell 88SS9189 SATA 6Gbs controller, which has been used by a variety of other SSD manufacturers as well. This particular drive is a 1TB model, and as you can see, the PCB is outfitted with 16 pieces of NAND—or more specifically, 20nm IMFT MLC NAND (all M550 drives features 20nm, 64Gb or 128Gb NAND)—and a bit of DRAM cache as well.
All of Crucial’s M550 drives are outfitted fitted with an LP DDR2 DRAM cache. This 1TB drive has 1GB of cache memory, though the lower capacity 128GB - 512GB drives have 512MB.
The Crucial M550 series of drives are rated for 550MB/s sequential reads with 500MB/s writes (350MB/s on the 128GB drive) and random read and write IOPS of 90K – 95K and 75K – 85K, respectively. All of the drives support technologies like SMART and TRIM, and have built-in AES 256-bit encryption capabilities. In addition, Crucial’s custom firmware supports active garbage collection, data path protection, and adaptive thermal monitoring, along with RAIN support (Redundant Array of Independent NAND). RAIN can be considered somewhat of an internal RAID 5-type solution that works across the flash channels in the drive. With RAIN, the M550 can recover lost data beyond page, block, and die-level failures, to ensure long-term data integrity.