Closer Look: Crucial M550 SSD
Solid state storage devices have gained quick popularity with performance-minded consumers because they work equally well in PC, Linux, or Apple computer systems. Likewise, these drives install quite easily into both desktop and notebook platforms without any modification necessary. The Crucial M550 SSD is designed for the high-performance user segment, and gives personal computers a much faster response time that can help boost productivity. The Crucial brand is sold through retail outlets, while the Micron M550 is packaged for OEM distribution.
In this article Benchmark Reviews tests the 512GB Crucial M550 solid state drive, which comes packaged in a cardboard retail kit with the 7mm SATA SSD and notebook adapter that brings the drive to 9mm. Crucial M550 solid state drives are available in 2.5″ SATA form factor, mSATA, and M.2 Type 2280. Micron Technology offers the Crucial M550 SSD series in four capacities for the SATA interface: 128, 256, 512GB, and 1TB. These models share the same part numbers with a capacity designation: CT512M550SSD1 that represents the 512 GB model. At the time of launch, the Crucial M550 SSD was available for $99.99 (128GB), $168.99 (256GB), $336.99 (512GB), $530.99 (1TB).
Using custom Micron firmware to drive the Marvell 88SS9189 controller inside these Crucial M550 SSDs, the 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB models are all specified to reach 550 MB/s sequential read and 500 MB/s sequential write speeds. Micron promises random read operations up to 90,000 IOPS and random writes up to 85,000 IOPS for the 512GB/1TB models. Although Crucial’s higher-capacity models offer the fastest performance ratings, the 128GB model perform to nearly the same levels.
Unlike fragile the older Hard Disk Drive (HDD) magnetic storage products, SSDs are not nearly as sensitive to impact damage and do not require (or benefit from) any kind of special vibration dampening or shock-proof enclosures. Once installed the SSD is usually hidden away from view, which explains why the Crucial M550 has maintained such a conservative appearance.
The Crucial M550 SSD features a 7.0mm thick chassis that comes with a textured silver metal finish. Micron utilizes a standard two-piece metal enclosure for the Crucial M550 SSD, with a series branding label at the top panel and product information label on the bottom. Internal components are revealed by removing four small counter-sunk screws located at the bottom of this solid state drive.
Standard 2.5″ drive bay mounting points are pre-drilled into the SSD chassis with fine screw threading, allowing this drive to fit directly into notebook computers that use SATA connections. For older notebooks that fit a 9mm drive, Micron has included a plastic adapter that fits atop M550. The threaded mounting positions matched up to the drive bracket on my notebook computer, and after only a few minutes of upgrading I booted-up from a restored Windows Backup Image with ease.
Backwards compatible with SATA 1.5 GB/s and 3.0 GB/s interfaces, the SATA 6.0 GB/s Marvell 88SS9189 controller offers: TRIM support and active garbage collection for supported Operating Systems (such as Microsoft Windows 7/8), Microsoft eDrive compatibility, power loss protection, ECC (Error Correction Code), and basic Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) command set. All Crucial M550 SSDs include a proprietary data integrity algorithm that provides four layers of defense against data corruption, hardware-based AES-256 data encryption, and adaptive thermal monitoring and protection.
In the next few sections we’ll test the Crucial M550 SSD, and compare this solid state drive to other retail products intended for notebook and desktop installations.