Crucial have been in memory business for a long time and it's only natural for them to have been one of the first companies who provided solid state drives for the home user. Today we will be looking at their M225 128GB SSD which is designed as a large capacity notebook replacement storage solution.
As we're all aware by now a Solid State Drive (SSD) is the number one performance enhancing upgrade you can purchase. Nowhere is this more true than in notebooks where not only do they need every bit of performance assistance they can get, but also any improvement in battery life allows for more productivity. So does the Crucial M225 deliver?
Specifications The Crucial webpage for this particular drive has a very limited specifications page, although it covers most of the details that the average purchaser would be interested in.
|Series Name||Crucial M225 Solid-State Drive|
|Internal Cache||64MB DRAM|
|Performance||250MB/s READ, 190MB/s WRITE|
|NAND Flash Components||Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND Flash Memory|
|Interface||Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s (SATA)|
|Form Factor||2.5" (100.20 mm x 69.85 mm x 9.50 mm)|
Heady numbers indeed. Hopefully the small amount of cache relative to other SSDs we've tested recently wont lead to the infamous stuttering problems. Of course there is only one way to find out, but firstly let's take a look at the packaging.
Packaging for SSDs is luckily an area that doesn't require huge amounts of effort or design. There is no need to include clear panels to demonstrate lighted areas of neat design touches. Nor do SSDs have a plethora of adapters or things in the box. So something that provides the minimum of explanations and protection is enough. Crucial have supplied the M225 in a nice looking box that provides that everything you could ask, and precisely nothing more. The top of the box has a pleasant blue colour and a simple design . The back lists the specifications as we listed on the previous page. So far pretty uninspiring but as I said above, nobody buys SSDs to look at the packaging and the Crucial certainly is as good as other efforts we've seen.
Opening the box the first thing is apparent is that the courier didn't treat the package as nicely as they should have. However it has given us a great opportunity to show how well the M225 has been packaged. Crucial have used a very sturdy cardboard for the box and a lots of folds to keep it as stiff as possible and it's held up very well. Any damage is solely cosmetic and the drive itself is entirely unharmed. Removing the drive from it's anti-static packaging it's great to see the subtle box art carried over to the sticker atop the drive. A very nice metal cover protects the internals, and the universal screw holes for mounting are already in place which is good to see.
Unscrewing the four holding screws, and let's see what is within this very sleek cover.
Firstly the bottom of the M225 is very clean indeed. Opening it up reveals the Indilinx IDX110M00-LC controller. This controller, named the Barefoot, is rated as delivering 230MBps maximum read speed and supports up to 512GB of MLC NAND. The Crucial is equipped with the LC variant of the Barefoot, basically the the same as the FC version seen in many other SSDs, but the LC versions are more cherry picked to ensure higher performance on higher capacity drives. Having tested Samsung controllers a lot on OC3D, we're intrigued to see how the Indilinx compares, especially as this is marketed as a notebook replacement rather than a pure desktop speed machine.
Above the Indilinx controller is the Elpida 64MB SDRAM that is used as a cache to help reduce the stuttering that can occur on high speed SSDs. Naturally this will be tested later on. The RAM used is Samsung K9HCG08U1M chips. RoHs compliant lead-free chips that are multi-layered with a rated latency of 25ns. As Samsung RAM is almost ubiquitous in SSD drives and so has had a lot of development, it should definitely perform as expected.
Onwards to the notebook we're going to use for today's tests.
The Crucial M225 was sent to us to review as a notebook replacement storage solution, therefore we took the not too difficult decision to test using a notebook and see how much benefit a SSD can have.
Model : Compaq Presario V6500
CPU : AMD Athlon 64 X2 @ 1.9GHz
RAM : 2GB
Graphics : NVIDIA GeForce 7150M
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate
Chipset : AMD 780G
Storage on Test : Crucial M225 128GB. Western Digital 320GB
HD Tune is not perfect for testing Solid State Drives but there is no doubting it's capability to produce very friendly results with a wealth of information available in an easy to read format. The graphs produced are very simple to understand and if anything demonstrates the ability of an SSD to be quick no matter where the data is held, this is it. Defragmenting is a thing of the past.
Firstly we'll take a look at the graphs produced by HD tune. On the left is the Crucial M225, and on the right the WD320. As you can see the Western Digital is very poor indeed at small sizes, and only really gets up to any useful speed once we deal in 1mb chunks. It also suffers from the standard HD problem that the further to the edge of the platter you go, the slower the revolutions and therefore the slower the transfer rate.
The Crucial however is only mildly poor at 64kb, but this is a common thing with Solid State Drives, and then blazingly fast at anything above that. 240MB/s read speed on a drive marketed as a notebook one is amazing and certainly up there with the very best SSDs available.
Starting with a 64kb cluster.
And now the 512kb cluster
And finally a 1mb cluster.
Although we ran the full range of File Transfer benchmarks, the results mirrored those of the read above, so we'll show one of them to prove this, and also take a look at the random access times.
As you can see, actually accessing files matches very closely the synthetic results of the benchmarks above. Extremely small files are pretty poor on both systems but the moment the size matches something you'd actually use, the speeds plateau very quickly. With very large files the drop off on the WD320 is huge, whereas the Crucial on test today barely skips a beat.
Random access times, as would be expected from a SSD, are blazingly fast. So fast that timing them in a meaningful manner is almost impossible. It's here that the real benefits to the overall speed of your system are felt, and it made a huge difference in the usability of our Compaq Presario.
So with the synthetic benchmarks out of the way, let's take a look at some real world improvements and see if the Crucial M225 can breathe new life into your notebook.
With the synthetics out of the way it's time to load up some applications and see how the Crucial M225 performs in the 'real world'. Naturally as this is a notebook replacement we are not going to run the usual OC3D battery of gaming tests, but stick to the applications likely to be used.
All tests were run three times and an average taken. With the booting and rebooting we're also showing you the best result we obtained. Whilst this doesn't change a lot from the average result, it does demonstrate the consistency of the Crucial drive. Sometimes the best result is no change.
Because battery life is a primary concern in notebooks and laptops, booting and rebooting are common occurrences so any improvement in the amount of time it takes to get the system up and running is a bonus. Especially, as they so often say, time is money. A 14 second improvement on the time to boot from the Western Digital standard mechanical Hard-Drive, and the Crucial M225 SSD, is quite something when we consider how fast Windows 7 boots anyway.
But if the time to boot is good, the time to reboot is incredible. The SSD is TWICE as fast as a standard hard drive. An amazing result.
Application loading and Battery Life
Most of the use that laptops and notebooks get are for general office applications and a the always popular internet browsing. One of the things to keep in mind here is that even though the improvement from 2 seconds and 1 seconds doesn't appear to be massive, it's solely loading of the application. If every instance of IE is a second faster, and every application load is a second faster, plus of course the file access themselves, it all very quickly adds up to a swathe of time saved each use.
The big selling point of SSDs as a useful item for those portable PC users amongst us is not only the pure speed enhancement that it provides, but also the saving in battery life. Having often been of the opinion that hard-drives consume so little power any improvement would be marginal at best (and anyone who has calculated their PSU requirements will understand how tiny their consumption is), it was with some surprise that the battery life test provided the result it did. Clearly if you require longer battery life and good performance, the Crucial M225 is something you should look at.
Phew. On to the, hopefully fairly easy to anticipate, conclusion.
The Crucial M225 128GB was sent to us as something billed for notebook replacement and so expectations for blazing performance were minimal. It's also priced similarly to the OCZ Solid 2 series of drives and they provide around the 120MB/s speed bracket so it was yet another reason hopes weren't high. We know that Samsung produce a drive at the same price that the Crucial is marketed at, but the Samsung chips are produced in such volumes and Samsung can give themselves a good deal, that it's not really fair to compare the Indilinx equipped Crucial.
Very very quickly it became apparent that it didn't matter which drive we compared the Crucial M225 to, it would stand with its head held high. In fact any allowance we might have been willing to give it for being designed as a replacement notebook storage solution also quickly had to be dispelled.
Any drive that can provide sustained and random read speeds around 240MB/s has to be considered very seriously indeed for everyone from notebook/laptop users all the way up to the uber-performance desktop market.
It's a struggle to think of much that the Crucial doesn't do with aplomb. It's built well and looks nice. It's seriously fast and despite having only 64MB of cache at no point did we encounter any stuttering. It increased the battery life of our test notebook by around 20%, which is a massive saving in downtime and electricity from recharging. Plus, if this very high feature set wasn't enough, it's priced right down at the low end of the 128GB SSD market.
Almost entirely flawless. Our only small reservations are about the general fact that SSDs are still around £2 to the GB which is very pricey. Otherwise, it comes as highly recommended as we can recommend anything. If money is no object or you're a performance junkie, you should have stopped reading already and be off to buy one.
- Fast. Incredibly fast.
- Looks very swish.
- Huge improvement on battery life.
- Packaging is perfectly fine, but not exciting.
- As always with SSDs. Price is brutal. This is a cheap SSD, but still expensive.
Many thanks to Crucial for providing the M225 for today's review. Discuss in our forum