The new SATA-Express standard may be just around the corner both in terms of compatible mainboards, cards and drives but that obviously isn't reason enough to stop most SSD manufacturers from launching their next generation models based on SATA III. The list of names is quite long but as expected the main players like Kingston, Toshiba, Samsung, Crucial, Corsair and OCZ are the first ones to do so (and the ones that interest us the most since they have the largest piece of the market). A few days ago we had the chance to test the Q Series Pro 256GB SSD by Toshiba and although far from excellent it did provide surprisingly good read & write performance at a very tempting price tag. Today we'll be taking a higher end SSD model for a ride to see how well it does the brand new M550 256GB by Crucial.
Crucial.com is a leading online retailer specializing in computer memory (RAM) and solid state drives (SSD), and is operated by a subsidiary of Micron Technology, Inc., one of the world's leading manufacturers of computer memory products. Crucial.com offers more than 250,000 compatible products for nearly every computer system: home and business, old and new, PC and Mac® computers. Utilizing a suite of easy-to-use, free online tools, including the Crucial® System Scanner and the Crucial Memory Advisor™ tool, crucial.com makes it easy to find a compatible upgrade to improve computer performance and restore system reliability. For more information, visit www.crucial.com.
The M550 model by Crucial was launched as a higher performance option compared to the M500 which we reviewed a while back but it's not really a replacement (M600 in the works?) since both models will continue to exist in the market. As a matter of fact once you remove the casing both the M500 and the M550 are almost identical since both use the same 20nm MLC NAND flash modules, PCB, DRAM and capacitors so if you place both next to each other you will probably not be able to tell them apart. The only difference is the controller used and whereas the M500 made use of the Marvell 88SS9187 the M550 makes use of the new and slightly improved 88SS9189 (adds support for LPDDR and adds optimizations for DevSleep). The software/hardware features are also identical to the ones offered by the M500 model so once again we see support for RAIN (Redundant Array of Independent NAND), TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 making the M550 fully compatible with Microsoft’s eDrive encryption. Crucial has once again used capacitors on the PCB for power-loss protection just like with the M500 but this time over they have also implemented several NAND-level tweaks to improve on that although they haven't been really clear on what those tweaks are (till now anyways). So the time has come for us to see whether or not the brand new M550 is faster compared to the M500 and a worthy addition to the Crucial SSD lineup.