Crucial M4 256GB SSD review
Real world tests
Real world copy tests
It has become clear recently that simply conducting endless benchmarks on SSD drives is pointless. Real users may run a few benchmarks when they first fit their SSD drive, but most users just want a drive that performs well in the real world. They want their drive to work "out of the box" and work fast and smoothly.
Most of the latest SSD drives can deliver very fast sustained reading and writing speeds, but these alone tell you very little about how the drive will perform in the real world.
If you intend to use your SSD as your primary system drive, with an operating system and applications installed and running from the drive, real world performance becomes much more important than just fast sequential read and write speeds.
Real world copy tests
I will now conduct a few real world copy tests. These tests simulate what real people do with their drives. I will be conducting writing tests, using a large single file and a multiple file copy of various file sizes. Then I will round off the tests by copying a folder of MP3 audio files, and also a folder of JPG pictures.
I should point out that this is not a scientific way of measuring performance. These timings were taken with a stop watch; we have however ensured that the reading drive is well able to supply a data stream to our writing drive, which is high enough not to be slowing down the performance of the writing drive.
I will once again be comparing the obtained results with our comparison drives, and will present the results in the form of graphs.
Write a folder of JPG picture files.
For this test I copied a folder of JPG picture files from the Crucial M4 SSD to the OCZ Vertex 2 SSD, Western Digital 500GB Blue and also copied the same files to another location on the Crucial M4 SSD. I also copied the files from the OCZ Vertex 2 SSD to the Crucial M4 SSD, but the result was slightly slower, so I decided to keep the faster one. The folder contained 3,377 JPG pictures, with a total capacity of 2.56GB.
The Crucial M4 is clearly the winner in this test.
Write a folder of MP3 audio files.
Again I used the same procedure that was described in the copy pictures test. For this test I copied a folder of MP3 audio files from the Crucial M4 SSD to the OCZ Vertex 2 SSD, Western Digital 500GB Blue and also copied the same files to another location on the Crucial M4 SSD. The folder contained 259 MP3 audio files, with a total capacity of 1.36GB.
Once again the Crucial M4 is the fastest drive on our test.
The Crucial M4 SSD is clearly the fastest drive I have tested so far and one of the fastest that MyCE has ever tested.
Windows start-up and closedown
For these tests, I simply used a stop watch and tested the amount of time taken for a full installation of Windows 7 to boot to the desktop, and then timed how long it took for Windows 7 to close down by the normal start menu method.
The timing was started once the BIOS had initialised and reached the “loading OS message”.
Windows 7 boot time
Windows 7 closedown
The Crucial M4 SSD is clearly the winner, the fastest drive that we have tested, it even manages to beat the OCZ Vertex 3 by half a second.
Installing applications is possibly something you don’t do that often. But should you replace your system disk, then you will most likely have to re-install your applications. Most of the SSD drives I have tested in the past were quite slow at installing applications, but this has changed. Most modern SSD’s have very good I/O performance and times are getting closer than ever.
For these tests, I left the original test that Dee did and on the bottom and added my own test for the installation of MS Office. The reason I did this was mainly because of different hardware used, but more importantly, a different version of Microsoft Office 2007.
We then installed these applications onto our comparison HDD drives, which were all running mirror image installations of our Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit installation, and timed the amount of time taken to install the application with a stopwatch on each of the drives.
MS Office 2007 Professional (full install)
MS Office is another of those applications that make you cringe at the thought of re-installing it.
Let’s find out how our drives coped with the MS Office 2007 full install.
Now let’s see how the Crucial M4 performs with the installation of MS Office 2007 Enterprise Edition.
The procedure followed was very simple, I copied all the files from the CD to the crucial M4 SSD and the Crucial M4 was used as a source drive for the installation of MS Office 2007. I also copied the files to the OCZ Vertex 2 and use that drive to install to the Crucial M4 and again the installation time wasn’t much quicker, so again I kept the faster time.
As we can see we can’t compare the results with the ones that we previously had, so here is the chart of the recent tests and the Crucial is the fastest drive.
By the time that I finished the review Crucial had released a new firmware. So I spent some time running the some basic tests again. Remember that the disk had over a month of use and all the software that I use every day, so the results might not look as good as the earlier tests.
A picture of the change log for the Crucial M4.
I want to take some time to explain the firmware update process that I believe is one of, if not the simplest out there. Firstly you need to get the correct file for your drive, then extract it and burn the ISO file to a CD-R/RW. The firmware can be found here and also the instructions for updating your SSD.
After that you need to go into the BIOS, set your hard drive into IDE mode and select your DVD drive as the boot device, save changes and boot from your optical drive. The rest will almost be done automatically for you. Once the SSD is identified all you need to do is type "yes" for the update to start, and within a few seconds your SSD will have the latest firmware.
Reboot, go into BIOS and set the drive again into AHCI mode.
Set it as the boot device, that’s it, you are done.
So now is a good time to see what the new firmware has to offer. I will be running only three tests, ATTO, AS SSD Benchmark and CrystalDiskMark. All the tests will be done from Crucial M4, and the drive has over a month of everyday use.
We can see a very impressive 70MB/Sec improvement in the read speed, and the write speed has remained the same. Excellent, read speeds up to 530MB/Sec and write speeds up to 260MB/S for the Crucial M4 SSD with the latest firmware.
AS SSD Benchmark
Again we can see that the new firmware gives a huge advantage for sequential read speeds.
Here is the last result. Again we can see a huge improvement in read speed, and a small loss in write speed.
Overall, I can say that Crucial has done an excellent job improving their SSD. The 009 firmware is giving close to 70MB/Sec faster read speed, depending on the test application. There’s a slight reduction in write speed, but this won’t be missed in everyday use.
Clearly the Crucial M4 SSD is a very fast drive and with the latest firmware update the drive is getting even closer to the SATA 3 limits for read speeds. We can see that the drive has everything that is needed to secure a place in your new system and in some tests it’s the fastest drive that we have ever tested here at MyCE. Overall the Crucial M4 SSD has impressive performance.
Let’s now move to the conclusion …