Crucial has recently introduced a new M550 SSD to replace the M500. We tested both the 256GB and the 512GB models and compared them to their competitors.
We noticed that lately the prices for the Crucial M500 SSD's were dropping significantly. We wondered if Crucial (which is part of chip manufacturer Micron) was trying to start a new price war like they have done in the past. This time however the price drop was due to the M500 being replaced by the new M550.
Crucial's new M550 SSDs are based on a new generation of Marvell controller, the 88SS9189. As usual we don't have a lot of information about the controller itself, Marvell usually doesn't share too many details about their controllers. One thing is clear however, as with their other controllers the manufacturer of the SSD has to develop their own firmware. This means that the performance can vary significantly between SSDs with the same controller.
In addition to the Marvell controller the M550 SSDs are equiped with Micron's newest generation of 20nm MLC flash-memory. In the 512GB and 1TB models Crucial has used chips with 128 Gigabit per die, similar to the M500 SSDs. In the M500 however this caused some performance loss in the 240GB and 120GB models and for this reason Crucial has chosen to go back to 64 Gigabit per die for these.
It is noteworthy that the Crucial hasn't included any extra capacity for redundancy, expect for the 7% due to the the conversion from GiB to GB. While the Crucial M500 SSDs were available in 120, 240, 480 and 960 GB, the new M550's can be found in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB.
Crucial has specified read speeds up to 550 MB/s and write speeds up to 500 MB/s for all capacities but the 128GB model, this one will be limited to 350 MB/s write due to a lower number of channels. The random 4k IOps are listed as 90k/75k for the 128GB, 90k/80k for the 256GB and 95k/85k for both the 512GB and the 1TB models.
A similarity between the new M550 and the old M500 is the extensive support for encryption. The SSDs feature an AES-256 encryption engine and are compatible with TCG Opal 2.0, IEEE-1667 and Microsoft eDrive. The last one is especially useful as it means that the SSDs can be used in combination with Microsoft BitLocker assuming you have a Pro-version of Windows 7 or 8.
The drives are available in the usual 2,5" form factor, but also in mSATA and M.2 2280 with exception of the 1TB version. The 2.5" drives are 7mm thick meaning they will fit in almost every laptop.
Just as with the M500 SSDs the new M550 feature several capacitors that will ensure that in the event of a power failure there will be sufficient power for the SSD to write all the data from the cache to the flash memory. While some people might not agree with us we don't feel that this is a particularly necessary feature in consumer SSDs. It is however still a benefit.
The new Crucial SSDs come with a 3 year warranty period. All capacities are listed to support 72TB of writes, this is comparable to 40GB per day for 5 years. It is really surprising that this counts for all models, from that 128GB all the way to the 1TB varaint, while clearly the number of writes possible is dependent on the type and amount of flash memory. We think crucial is being very careful with their claims, for example in the 1TB drive this would only amount to 72 p/e-cycles per flashcel. It seems obvious that the chips used should be capable of a lot more. Whatever the case with 40GB per day for 5 years you shouldn't have anything to worry about as a consumer.
As usual Crucial is pricing the new M550 SSDs very competitively. We still expect the prices to drop a little bit once more shops start to get stock but the average price per gigabyte is already similar to that of the Samsung 840 Evo for certain capacities. One thing is clear, Crucial is once again positioning themselves as a low-cost competitor.
Pictures Crucial M550 256GB:
Pictures Crucial M550 512GB: