If you have a crucial need for speed, you need a Crucial SSD

If you have a crucial need for speed, you need a Crucial SSD

Summary: SSDs are fast, quiet, and they make spinning disks obsolete. Meet the Crucial M5xx SSDs: M500 and M550, your spinning disk replacements.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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Crucial's M5xx line-up of SSDs are blazing fast workstation models that put spinning hard disks into the nostalgic "Remember when?" category. Seriously. Once I experienced the speed of SSDs, I could never go back to standard disks. Plus, I don't want to hear that high-pitched whirring noise from a spinning disk anymore nor do I want to feel the heat generated from one. It always makes me a bit uneasy to feel my leg burning from a laptop hard drive or to feel the hot spot where my laptop has been on a table. There's something better and we should just use it: the SSD.

Solid State Disks aren't all that new but the new SSDs are faster and less expensive than their predecessors. And they're big. 512GB and 1TB SSDs are very common these days.

The one barrier that held me back from adopting SSDs was price. They're still not as cheap as regular disks but 30 cents (or less) per gigabyte, isn't a deal breaker for me — especially after experiencing the differences in speed, noise, and heat.

Enter the Crucial M5xx solid state drives. I've tested both the M500 in my Mac mini and the M550 in my laptop and I'm impressed with both of them.

Crucial M500 SSD benchmark data:

Mac mini 2.3GHz Quad-core i7, 4GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM, OS X 10.9.2

UNIX CLI dd benchmarks:

$ time dd if=/dev/zero bs=1024k of=tstfile count=1024
1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes transferred in 2.488167 secs (431539283 bytes/sec)

real 0m2.493s
user 0m0.003s
sys 0m0.669s

412 MB/s Write


$ dd if=tstfile bs=1024k of=/dev/null count=1024
1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes transferred in 2.776033 secs (386790018 bytes/sec)

369 MB/s Read

Xbench benchmarks:

Results 495.05
System Info
Xbench Version 1.3
System Version 10.9.2 (13C64)
Physical RAM 4096 MB
Model Macmini6,2
Drive Type Crucial_CT960M500SSD1
CPU Test 310.67
GCD Loop 343.41 18.10 Mops/sec
Floating Point Basic 251.86 5.98 Gflop/sec
vecLib FFT 250.73 8.27 Gflop/sec
Floating Point Library 498.89 86.87 Mops/sec
Thread Test 1217.76
Computation 1217.76 24.67 Mops/sec, 4 threads

Crucial M550 SSD Benchmark Data:

Crucial M550 SSD Windows 7 benchmark
Figure 1: Crucial M550 SSD Windows 7 Benchmark

HP Probook 6460b Laptop 2.5GHz Dual-core i5, 4GB RAM, Ubuntu 14.04 64-bit (Fresh install)

$ time dd if=/dev/zero bs=1024k of=tstfile count=1024
1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1,1 GB) copied, 3,73648 s, 287 MB/s

real 0m3.873s
user 0m0.005s
sys 0m1.166s

$ dd if=tstfile bs=1024k of=/dev/null count=1024
1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1,1 GB) copied, 0,190216 s, 5,6 GB/s

And the same hardware with a fresh install of Windows Pro 7 SP1 64-bit using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 benchmark utility. See Figure 1.

Figure 2 illustrates the same benchmark on the same hardware (HP Probook 6460b) with a not-so-fresh Windows 7 Pro SP 1 (Approximately one-year-old installation, 0% fragmentation) installation with a HGST Travelstar 7K750 HTS727550A9E364- 500 GB - SATA-300. I expect a little degradation in performance due to the age and relative fullness of the drive but, as you can see, the performance differences between the two are still significant.

Figure 2: Hitachi HTS727550A9E364 Windows 7 benchmark
Figure 2: Hitachi HTS727550A9E364 Windows 7 Benchmark

From a purely subjective point of view, I notice that startup time is very fast on the SSD, and opening applications such as Microsoft Word is near instantaneous. Shutdown is much faster as well. 

I kept benchmark results after the fourth run of the test for each disk type. That gave the results time to stabilize. The first results from both disks were pretty random and not representative of either drive's true performance. The second and third passes were much better and as you can see from the numbers, they are consistent.

I've been in the IT business long enough to know that benchmark results are kind of like gas mileage numbers reported by auto manufacturers when they say, "Your mileage may vary," but I'll have to say that these numbers, coupled with my observation of the speed differences, don't lie.

What you have in my unofficial tests are results from a variety of systems. Because this is not an official benchmark test, I don't have side-by-side results for both drives compared to a standard disk, but you do get a feel for the speed differences.

I gave you the exact commands I used on each system and the software name and version so that you can make your own benchmarks and compare them to mine.

One word of caution when installing CrystalDiskMark: It will attempt to install a third-party search engine (Conduit) into your browsers that is actually a search engine and browser hijacker, so be sure to perform a Custom installation and deselect the search engine changes or you'll be sorry that you didn't. Other than that the software is good. I'm surprised that the developer would do such a thing.

I'm happy with the results. Crucial (Micron) makes some excellent SSDs at impressive prices and downright shocking performance. After experiencing SSD speed, I'm not sure that I'll ever be happy with anything but an SSD. I used to call Disk I/O "The last great performance bottleneck" and now that barrier has been breached. You can put together a system with a super high-performing multi-core, multi-processor capability and add all the RAM you can afford, but if your disks are slow, your system will be slow by comparison with one equipped with SSDs.

What do you think of SSDs compared to standard disks? Have you had the SSD experience yet? If not, what's stopping you? Talk back and let me know.

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Topic: Hardware

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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14 comments
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  • SSD performance is great but until there's price parity...

    For my desktop fleet, which uses a good deal of large size files, I've gone with an SSD for the OS, and a larger standard drive as a secondary storage drive.

    For laptops, I'm still about 70/30 with traditional drives. The SSD machines have shown a good boost in performance, especially a few older machines that I needed for legacy use.

    The real issue still is price, so overall our plan is to to the upgrades through the normal process of fleet upgrades. Given the ability to purchase SSD's at a price closer to traditional disks would help to speed the process, and we're getting there but for now I don't have the luxury, or desire, to swap storage size for performance at such a premium.
    SalSte
  • Steer clear of this software

    "One word of caution when installing CrystalDiskMark: It will attempt to install a third-party search engine (Conduit) into your browsers that is actually a search engine and browser hijacker, so be sure to perform a Custom installation and deselect the search engine changes or you'll be sorry that you didn't. Other than that the software is good. "

    This doesn't speak well of what other treasures might be hidden in the software. Best to steer clear of self-infecting yourself. If the developer is legit they'd take immediate action to correct this.
    ejhonda
    • I agree

      Terrible, that they would even allow them. It does make you wonder what else is hiding.
      schultzycom
  • Dell E6440 with standard hard disk

    I was just issued a brand new Dell E6440 laptop with a traditional spinning hard drive. The machine came with an i7 processor and 8GB RAM. Performance is NOT sufficient for my specific use case running multiple apps and a virtual machine. I will invest in a new SSD to hopefully get the performance gain necessary to be able to do my job most efficiently.
    krisoccer
    • What do you do.

      That requires that performance.
      schultzycom
      • Product management in software industry

        This function typically requires the following applications to be run at the same time: Outlook, IE (5 tabs), Chrome (8 tabs), Word (1 document), PowerPoint (2 documents), VMware Workstation (1 or 2 VM's), Adobe Reader, and sometimes more. The virtual machines are especially slow when all of these applications are loaded in memory. I suspect an SSD plus an additional 8GB of RAM would significantly improve performance. Time to procure and test!
        krisoccer
  • SD Best in a big field of heavyweights

    Have installed well over a hundred SanDisk SSDs for my clients as well as my own equipment and have not found any other brands as quick or as reliable with not even a single unit having an installation problem.
    sickntired44
  • SSDs are great

    I replaced the 720 rpm, 750 GB drive of my last Asus N53SV laptop with 500 GB Samsung SSD. Wow, what a performance difference! When I bought a new Asus N550JV laptop, I swapped out the hard drive for the Samsung SSD before I even turned it on. Blazingly fast, silent, cool, low power drain, what more could you ask for? I'd like to get one for my desktop machine as well.

    What I still don't understand, though, is the expected lifetime of the SSD. I do software development, so there's lots of relatively small read and writes. Does anyone have some up to date knowledge of this?
    Sir Name
  • Agreed

    I switch to SSD drives about a year ago. I went with the 256gb models mainly due to price. On my laptop, its not an issue since I use a very small and specific set of programs. On my desktop, I simply added a conventional HDD and changed the default windows locations to that drive. For those programs that I use often and/or are resource hogs, I install to the SSD otherwise I install from the standard HDD. The performance increase in both cases is amazing. I am especially happy with the bootup and shutdown processes. With Windows, you need to do both frequently and now its not such a big deal.
    ccs9623
    • Why

      Do you need to do a start-up and shut down so frequent in Windows.
      schultzycom
  • Perhaps ome older Crucial SSD are better

    I bought a Crucial 300 series, it was the first one to work right for me, it had a speed of near 120 yet after firmware install it went near 240
    troubled241
  • Not much improvement over Hybrid

    I had a Seagate 750GB Hybrid drive in my i7 desktop machine. I started to have some slowness and dragging issues, so I bit the bullet and bought a Samsung 840 EVO-Series 1TB SSD. I don't see much performance improvement at all, only the Windows Experience Index went from 5.9 to 7.8 on the Hard Drive portion. Turns out my secondary 2TB Seagate Hard Drive was failing and that caused the dragging issues.

    The problem is that a normal 1TB Hard Drive is under $100. My 750GB 2.5" Hybrid was over $200 and the SSD is $500. That's hard to justify for most computers.
    John Hanks
  • Price will come down

    I remember my first HDD was a used 20 MB Seagate 225 for which I paid $150 (in 1989). Now see what you can buy for that amount of money.

    SSDs have already gotten more affordable. Just look for sales but stick with known brands.
    n2add@...
  • SSD prices have dropped down enough now

    My local Microcenter has 120Gb SSDs for $65, 240Gb for $110, and 480Gb (a Crucial M500) for $240. If your computer has sufficient memory, nothing will bring back that new-PC feeling quite like an SSD.
    JustCallMeBC