2x Crucial m4 128GB CT128M4SSD2 SATA3 2.5" SSD RAID Review

The introduction ...

Today, two fast Crucial m4 128GB SSDs were tested in RAID0 to get more performance.
Regarding TRIM there are still weak points for a SSD RAID, but the ocinside.de review will show if this is really important.
The team of 2x Crucial m4 128GB in RAID0 is compared against 1x 256GB Crucial m4 and against 1x 128GB Crucial m4.
We will see who keeps one step ahead and if it is better to buy one large SSD or two smaller SSDs.

 

 

 

Thanks for the support ...

Many thanks for the support with the Crucial m4 128GB 2.5" SSDs by the manufacturer Crucial.

One Crucial m4 128GB SATA3 2.5" SSD CT128M4SSD2 has at present a price of approx. 112 Euro (07/2012) in their online store.

The Crucial RealSSD m4 2.5-inch series contains at present the following types:
64GB CT064M4SSD2 for approx. 77 Euro (07/2012)
128GB CT128M4SSD2 for approx. 112 Euro (07/2012)
256GB CT256M4SSD2 for approx. 214 Euro (07/2012)
512GB CT512M4SSD2 for approx. 430 Euro (07/2012)
Due to the SSD layout the performance of the Crucial m4 SSD Series alters depending on the capacity.
A higher capacity of this Crucial m4 SSD has a higher write performance up to the fastest Crucial m4 256GB SSD !

Here you can buy the Crucial SSD.

 

 

The supply of the Crucial m4 128GB SATA3 SSD ...

In this cardboard box comes the two Crucial m4 SSDs:

 

 

That is contained in the delivery ...

Crucial delivered the m4 2,5" SSD CT128M4SSD2 well padded with a quick installation guide.
The following picture shows the front of the 2.5" Crucial m4 128GB SSD, where one can see the SATA3 connections for data and power on the right side:

 

On the flipside one can see the label of the Crucial m4 SSD with some technical data:

 

Here one can see a picture of the 8-Channel Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 Controller ICs which is also used on Micron C400 / Crucial m4 SSDs.
And one can see the eight of altogether sixteen 25nm Micron NAND components of the SATA3 SSD with 128GB capacity:

 

Here you can see the other eight 25nm Micron NAND components and the 256MB DDR3 cache chip:

 

Here is another more detailed picture of the 8-Channel Marwell 88SS9174-BLD2 Controller IC:

 

 

The technical data ...

Manufacturer Crucial
Article number CT128M4SSD2
Capacity 128GB
Interface SATA3 6GB/s
Cache 256MB
Controller Marvell
Flash Type MLC - Multi-Level-Cell
Size 2.5" (100.5 x 69,85 x 9,50mm)
Weight 75 gramm
Speed Read up to 500 MB/s / Write up to 175 MB/s
Seek Time < 0.1ms
Power Consumption 0.065 Watt idle / 0.150 Watt average in operation
MTBF 1.2 million hours
Other RAID Support, SMART Support, Built-in EDC/ECC

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskInfo 4.3.0 SSD and HDD information software:

 

 

SSD firmware update ...

At review date, the company Crucial offered the firmware version 000F for Marvell based m4 SSDs, which offers in comparison to the older versions a higher LPM (Link Power Management) performance without pauses and hesitations with certain host systems, a better stability on heavy load and an improved data protection in the event of an unexpected power loss.
The update of the Crucial firmware is very easy and possible in two different methods:
One way is to download the firmware from Crucial, unpack the contained ISO file, burn it on a CD, boot with this CD, select the SSD in the firmware update utility and confirm the firmware update several times.
Or download the firmware with the "Windows 7 Updater Application" from Crucial, unpack the EXE file to the Desktop, start the firmware update utility, let the system restart, wait until the update is finished and let the operating system restart once again, as explained with possible problems in the special Crucial m4 256 GB SSD firmware 000F review.
In the current RAID review we updated the SSDs with the most current firmware version FW000F, before setting up the RAID 0 array.

 

 

RAID Setup ...

The RAID installation is essentially quite simple:
- first attach both SSD drives at a RAID capable controller e.g. on the motherboard.
- then enable the RAID controller in the BIOS or by a Jumper (pay attention to additional references in the manual) and change the SATA controller in the BIOS from IDE or AHCI to RAID.
- at the next start enter now the RAID BIOS with the explained key combination (ASRock e.g. CTRL+F).
- there activate and define the desired RAID assignment.

In order to explain only two simple RAID array type possibilities (there are still some further combinations):
RAID1 mirror drives, in order to operate two or more drives at the expense of the size as much fail safe as possible reduntant.
RAID0 stripe drives, in order to operate two or more drives at the expense of the data loss possibility with higher performance, thus without redundancy.

Since we would like to reach a higher SSD speed, we setup a RAID-0 Striping.
After the previously review with a stripe block size of 64KB vs. 128KB, we've decided to define a stripe block size of 64KB.
Gigabyte Boundary remains to ON, Fast Init remains to ON and Cache Mode to WriteThru.

Here is a screenshot of the RAID BIOS ROM, where both 128 GB SSD drives are combined with RAID0 into one logical 256 GB SSD drive, in order to achieve a higher performance:

 

After creating the RAID array we restart the PC and see now the new logical drive assembly, to which we assigned the LD name ocinside, which we can partition and format now in the Windows like a conventional drive.

 

 

Benchmark values and test results ...

Let us continue with the benchmark results.
SATA3 drives are currently tested with an ASRock 890GX Extreme3 motherboard.
At present, Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition is used as the operating system.

The SSD drive speed was examined and compared with the following benchmark software:

AS SSD Benchmark 1.4.3704.27281 - Download
ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.46 - Download
CrystalDiskMark 3.00 - Download
HD Tach 3.040 - Download
SiSoftware Sandra 2011 - Download

 

AS SSD benchmark result ...

The SSD benchmark values offers a very good reference point of the maximal possible reading and writing performance, the speed with smaller files and the respective access time.

In RAID mode 1x SSD at the SATA3 controller reached like in IDE mode a significantly lower performance than in AHCI mode despite correct alignment.
Individual tests of a SSD in IDE mode, in RAID mode and in AHCI mode, were already done in previous tests.
Now it's about the performace of 1x Crucial m4 256GB vs 1x Crucial m4 128GB vs 2x Crucial m4 128GB SSD.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (1x Crucial m4 128GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (1x Crucial m4 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (2x Crucial m4 128GB at SATA3 RAID Controller as RAID0 64KB):

 

 

Regarding the total score, the Crucial m4 128GB reached in AS-SSD 590 points, which is a bit above the result of the Crucial m4 256GB with 580 points, followed by the two Crucial m4 128GB combined in RAID 0 with 547 points.
If you look at the values more accurately, the comparison looks a bit different:

1x Crucial m4 128 GB SSD in AHCI reached a reading of 493.63 MB/s and a write value of 200.95 MB/s

1x Crucial m4 256 GB SSD in AHCI reached an almost identical reading value of 484.23 MB/s and caused by the Crucial SSD layout a much better write value of 276.47 MB/s

2x Crucial m4 128GB SSDs in RAID0 reached the so far absolutely highest reading value of 748.22 MB/s and still a very impressive write value of 377.24 MB/s.

It may confuse one or the other, why the RAID array has achieved with such high transfer rates only the lowest total score.
This is due to the very high weighting of the "4K 64Thrd" values in the AS-SSD Benchmark tool.
4K means that small 4K blocks are read and/or written and with the 4K 64Thrd this is distributed on 64 Threads at the same time.
Thus the benchmark program simulate for example a typical program start.

How big the difference is, becomes even clearer in the iops value comparison where the data input and output performance of 44392 drops to 12926 and thus can delay quick file access:

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD iops results to measure the input/output speed (1x Crucial m4 128GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD iops results (1x Crucial m4 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD iops results (2x Crucial m4 128GB at SATA3 RAID Controller as RAID0 64KB):

 

In order to get an impression of the speed, we tested also the ISO, program and game copy benchmark.
Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD copy benchmark (1x Crucial m4 128GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD copy benchmark (1x Crucial m4 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Also the AS SSD copy benchmark values of both SSD in RAID 0 are nearly twice as fast as one single SSD, which results in half of the copy time (2x Crucial m4 128GB at SATA3 RAID Controller as RAID0 64KB):

 

The comparison of the AS SSD benchmark results is extended with each new HDD/SSD test.
Here we see several SSDs in comparison to the Crucial m4 128GB 2.5" SSD in RAID0, IDE and in AHCI mode, whereby the diagram is updated shortly with new SSDs.
Currently, one Crucial m4 128GB SSD in AHCI is at the top, directly followed by the Crucial m4 256GB SSD in AHCI.
The peak in the lower diagram part is the read and write rate of the Crucial RAID0 m4 128GB.

Here is a comparison of the AS SSD benchmark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

ATTO Disk benchmark result ...

The ATTO disk benchmark values gives a very good overview about the write and read rate on different file sizes.
These values are maximum ratings, which are different to the previously continuous transfer rate benchmarks.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (1x Crucial m4 128GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (1x Crucial m4 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (2x Crucial m4 128GB at SATA3 RAID Controller as RAID0 64KB):

 

Both, the write performace (red) and the read performance (green) of the SSDs in RAID0 array are beginning at 16K nearly twice as fast as the bandwidth of one single SSD at the RAID controller.
This compensates in RAID0 even the write value differences of the two smaller SSDs clearly.

The ATTO disk benchmark values are compared with a small transfer size of 32KB and a large transfer size of 8192KB.
The bar chart already shows a first comparison to the Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 1TB hard disk drive, the OCZ Agility 120GB SSD, the Crucial 256GB C300 RealSSD, the three upper constellations and a several other SSDs, where the Crucial m4 in RAID reached the very best 8192K result.

Here is a comparison of the ATTO disk benchmark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

CrystalDiskMark result

With CrystalDiskMark one receives a balanced measurement of the performance with different transfer sizes.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskMark values (1x Crucial m4 128GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskMark values (1x Crucial m4 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskMark values (2x Crucial m4 128GB at SATA3 RAID Controller as RAID0 64KB):

 

As seen in the previous 4K-64Threads results, the read 4K QD32 value is nearly one third lower, but the sequential read and write result of both Crucial m4 128GB is much higher when operating as RAID0.

The following diagram shows the CrystalDiskMark results once again compared with other SSDs and platter drives, which are extended step by step.
In the CrystalDiskMark comparison one can see significant differences between the to-date tested of the Solid State Drives and Hard Disk Drives, where the two tested Crucial m4 128GB SSDs in RAID0 are with their read and write performance at the top of all currently tested drives.

Here is a comparison of the CrystalDiskMark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

HD Tach result

With HD Tach one can measure the gradient of the performance, but the SSD transfer is not comparable with a conventional HDD.
New logical NAND cell access of the SSD controller results in varying values like some other equal build SSDs tested with the latest HD Tach Version 3.0.4.0 version.
HD Tach measured with the two Crucial m4 128 GB SSDs in RAID0 a relatively constant read and write rate with high transfer rates and extremely low access times of approx. 0.1ms.
To compare these results you can move the mouse over the following drives to see their respective benchmark results:
2x Crucial m4 128GB 2.5" SSD at SATA3 RAID, Crucial m4 128GB 2.5" SSD at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial m4 128GB 2.5" SSD at SATA3, Crucial m4 256GB 2.5" SSD FW 000F at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial m4 256GB 2.5" SSD FW 0309 at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial m4 256GB 2.5" SSD FW 0002 at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial m4 256GB SSD FW 0309 at SATA3 IDE, Crucial m4 256GB 2.5" SSD FW 0002 at SATA3, ADATA S511 120GB SSD at SATA3 AHCI, ADATA S511 120GB SSD at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial C300 64GB 1.8" SSD at SATA3, Crucial RealSSD 256GB 2.5" SSD at SATA3, Crucial RealSSD 256GB 2.5" SSD at SATA2, MX-DS Fusion 60GB SSD SATA3 IDE, MX-DS Fusion 60GB SSD SATA3 IDE, MX-DS Turbo 120GB SSD at SATA3 AHCI, OCZ Agility 128GB SSD, Samsung Series470 128GB SSD AHCI, Samsung Series470 128GB SSD Legacy IDE, Hitachi 7K1000.C 1TB disk drive and Toshiba MK8007GAH 1.8" disk drive.

Here is a Snipping screenhot of the HD Tach benchmark values:

 

The comparison of the HD Tach benchmark results shows very impressive the fast reading speed, writing speed and the average access time of the two Crucial m4 128GB 2.5-inch SSDs as RAID0 array.

Here is an impressive comparison of the HD Tach benchmark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

SiSoftware Sandra benchmark result

Of course, SiSoftware Sandra benchmark should not be missing in this test series.
SiSoftware offers with their SiSoft Sandra program a very comprehensive tool, which contains a lot of tools to get very reliable test results of all hardware components.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values (1x Crucial m4 128GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values (1x Crucial m4 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values (2x Crucial m4 128GB at SATA3 RAID Controller as RAID0 64KB):

 

Here is a comparison of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

 

Result and general impression ...

The two Crucial m4 2.5" 128GB SATA3 SSD CT128M4SSD2 achieved with the at testing date most current firmware 000F as RAID0 array a gigantic high sequential read and write performance, very low access times and in spite of the lower 4K values, the impression was clearly better than one single Crucial m4 128GB or Crucial m4 256GB in AHCI mode.

The two Crucial CT128M4SSD2 128GB MLC Solid State Drives with Marvell Controller and 25nm Micron NAND were tested in a RAID array and compared to one single Crucial CT128M4SSD2 128GB in AHCI and one single Crucial CT256M4SSD2 256GB in AHCI, whereby the RAID0 array showed regarding the transfer rates clear advantages with nearly double performance.
But the continuously transfer rates in AS SSD and in CDM clearly showed the disadvantages of the onboard SATA3 controller in RAID mode compared to the AHCI mode.
Because similar to the controller in IDE mode, the 4k and 4k-64Thrd results decreased rapidly at the same controller in RAID mode and has additionally the same disadvantages as the IDE mode, like the technology communicating in Windows with missing TRIM, which can result in a slower performance after some time.
And of course the risk of loosing the data by a possible mailfunction of one of both SSDs in RAID0 is twice as high.

Last but not least took the boot time with activated RAID BIOS approx. 20-30 seconds more than without RAID BIOS.
The Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate boot procedure from start screen to login screen took approx. 7 seconds and the Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate boot procedure including motherboard BIOS and RAID BIOS took approx. 40 seconds.

All in all, a RAID 0 array with two Crucial m4 128GB SSDs in the sequential transfer test, is so fast that both, the longer boot time with the RAID BIOS, and the lower 4k values, that the RAID0 array can be easily preferred.
As long as the data is backed up regularly, you can prefer the SSD RAID0 array with two or more Crucial m4 SSDs against a single Crucial m4 SSD.
Depending on financial possibilities you can clearly increase the performance with more Crucial m4 SSDs.
The two Crucial m4 128GB SSDs earned the Redaktion ocinside.de Overclocking Dream Award 07/2012 for such a great performance!

 

Discuss in our forum and exchange experiences ...

Here you can buy the Crucial SSD ...

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