Crucial v4 256GB budget SSD review
SATA 2 and proud of it
The latest addition to Crucial’s range of SSD’s, the v4 series isn’t, as you might expect, the follow up to the company’s highly successful m4 series but a different animal entirely. It's so different in fact, it makes you wonder what was Crucial’s thinking behind it.
Practical electronics: Crucial's v4 256GB
To quote the press release “The new Crucial v4 SSD provides SATA 2 (3Gb/s) systems with enhanced start-up times, transfer speeds and durability...” Yep, you’ve read that right: a brand new SSD drive range using a 3Gb/s interface – go figure.
To be fair, it's not too difficult to understand Crucial's thinking with the v4. After all, why bother with the expense of adding a SATA 6Gb/s drive to your 3Gb/s system if you can’t use its performance to its fullest potential? A sound argument? Well it would be if it wasn't for the fact that SSD pricing is so fluid at the moment. Indeed, mainstream 6Gb/s drives are no longer that much more expensive and, by using a 6Gb/s unit, you'll have a drive to hand to upgrade 6Gb/s HDD-based computer at some point in the future.
Another thing stated in the press release was that the “Crucial v4 SSD boils down to two things: performance and value”. Well, unfortunately for the marketing guys at Crucial, the prices in SSD market are so volatile at the moment the v4 series finds itself out-gunned in both departments before it starts, not only from the external competition, but from within the company itself.
Not the latest slimline package, but should fit most standard notebooks
Take for instance the bare 256GB v4 drive I’m reviewing here, currently on Crucial’s website it sells for £143, but Crucial has recently slashed the prices on the m4 series so now you just pay sixteen quid more - £159, to get the much faster and more capable 6Gb/s m4 256GB. I, for one, would pay the extra in a heartbeat and I have a hunch I'd not be alone either. It may be stating the obvious, but what needs to happen to the v4 series is a serious drop in price once the dust of the launch settles.
Counting the cost
The v4 SSD is built around a 9.5mm format – so it might not fit in the more svelte notebooks out there – and Crucial backs it up with a three year warranty. The range is made up of four capacities; 32, 64, 128 and the flagship 256GB drive with quoted Sequential Read performance for the family of 230MB/s. The 32GB drive makes do with just 200MB/s Read and the Write performance is a lowly 60MB/s. The 64GB drive has a quoted Write speed of 100MB/s, the 128GB 175MB/s and the 256GB unit 190MB/s.
Micron NAND chips and a Phison controller
At the heart of the drive isn’t the usual Marvell or LSI SandForce controller but the less well known PS3105 from Phison. This is the same controller found in the earlier Patriot Torqx 2, Corsair Nova 2 and the Zalman P series of drives. For storage, the v4 relies on Micron 25nm synchronous NAND.
ATTO and AS SSD results
The quoted sequential Read/Write performance for the 256GB model is a little on the conservative side compared to what I achieved when using the ATTO benchmark, which produced figures of 276MB/s for Reads and 235MB/s for the Writes. This may appear rather pedestrian compared to the latest 6Gb/s interfaced drives, but these are good results for a 3Gb/s SSD. Unlike the SandForce controller, the Phison PS3105 doesn’t have much of a problem dealing with compressible data, as can be seen from the two CrystalDisk benchmark scores.
CrystalDiskMark results: compressible data scores on right
Given that Crucial is positioning the v4 as a replacement to a hard disk drive in a 3Gb/s system, just how does it compare? Naturally, the v4 is much faster booting up than a conventional HDD – it took 20secs to boot into Windows 7 compared with the 42secs of a standard drive – in this case a 320GB Seagate HDD.
Low cost alternative? In concept only, it would seem
Copying a 10GB folder of mixed file types and sizes took a mere 2mins 7 seconds with the v4 compared to the standard drives time of 6 minutes. A large 4GB image file took just under 3 minutes to copy using the standard HDD which seems a lifetime compared to the 47 seconds the v4 took. No complaints there then.
Unfortunately for Crucial, the v4 has been launched into seriously competitive and fast moving market where prices are seemingly dropping on a weekly basis, even in the larger capacities. Even though it's unashamedly promoted as a 3Gb/s SSD, its performance is overshadowed by the 6Gb/s drives that, even in Crucial's own camp, are very close to the v4's price point. ®
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