Crucial m4 256 GB / Micron RealSSD C400 256 GB SATA3 2.5" SSD Review with Firmware 000F

The introduction ...

Most readers already know our review of the Crucial m4 SSD with the first firmware version, which we provided several months ago.
In the meantime Crucial and Micron worked hard to publish some firmware updates for their m4/C400 series, which is at present available with a capacity of 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB, up to 512 GB.
Today we have tested the latest Crucial SSD firmware more detailed, in order to evaluate the Crucial m4 SSD again with at present most current firmware version 000F.
The firmware version 000F is published on 11th April 2012 and is interesting not only for new buyers of the Crucial m4 SSD, but of course also for all users, which already bought a Crucial m4 SSD for their PC or Mac.
We offer several benchmark comparisons of the new m4 firmware 000F with the previous firmware versions 0002 and 0309 in order to see, if the firmware update is worth for the current Crucial m4 64GB, 128GB, 256GB or 512GB SSD.

 

 

 

Thanks for the support ...

Many thanks for the support with the Crucial m4 256GB 2.5" SSD by the manufacturer Crucial.

The Crucial m4 256GB SATA3 2.5" SSD CT256M4SSD2 / Micron RealSSD C400 256GB SSD MTFDDAC256MAM-1K1 has at present a price of approx. 260 Euro (04/2012).

The Crucial RealSSD m4 2.5-inch series contains at present the following types:
64GB CT064M4SSD2 ab approx. 70 Euro (04/2012)
128GB CT128M4SSD2 ab approx. 130 Euro (04/2012)
256GB CT256M4SSD2 ab approx. 260 Euro (04/2012)
512GB CT512M4SSD2 ab approx. 520 Euro (04/2012)
Whereby the performance of this 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 SSD 256GB !

Here you can buy the Crucial SSD.

 

 

The supply of the Crucial m4 256GB SATA3 SSD ...

In this well protected cardboard box comes the new m4 Solid State Drive from Crucial:

 

 

The technical data ...

Crucial supplies the m4 2.5" SSD with a short installation guide well padded in a hinged box.

Here is a picture of the Crucial m4 SSD:

 

The following picture shows the front of the 2.5" Crucial m4 256GB SSD, where one can see the SATA3 connections for data and power on the left side.
These connections are identical to conventional SATA3 hard disks and this SATA3 SSD can also operate with a slower speed at an SATA2 interface:

 

On the flipside one can see the label of the manufacturer Micron with the Crucial CT256M4SSD2 m4 256GB SSD instead of their brand Crucial.
Micron call this SSD Micron RealSSD MTFDDAC256MAM-1K C400 256GB SSD:

 

Here you can see a picture of the 8-Channel Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2 Controller ICs and the four of altogether eight 25nm Micron NAND components of the SATA3 SSD with 256GB capacity, whereby the 256MB DDR3 cache can be found on the back side:

 

That is contained ...

Manufacturer Crucial
Article number CT256M4SSD2
Capacity 256GB
Interface SATA3 6GB/s
Cache 128MB
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 260 MB/s
Seek Time < 0.1ms
Power Consumption 0,065 Watt idle / 0,15 Watt average in operation
MTBF 1.2 million hours
Other TRIM support, RAID support, SMART support

 

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 an possible in two different methods ...

a) With the "manual boat file":
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.

b) With the "Windows 7 Updater Application":
Download the firmware 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.

We decided for the variant b) and executed the firmware update in Windows 7.
Veeeeery important is thereby however that one unpack the file to the Desktop as mentioned in the update guide and do not start it from an USB stick, because otherwise one could destroy the Windows boot files !
In our firmware tests we "managed" this unfortunately once, since the update tool thought that we have the operating system on our USB stick and not on another HDD.

 

In the old Crucial m4 256GB SSD test we already updated the firmware FW0002 of the SSD.
In the current review of the Crucial m4 256 GB SSD we measured first all benchmarks with the firmware version 0309 and then again with the firmware version 000F, which is the most current firmware at testing date.

 

 

Benchmark values and test results ...

Let us continue with the benchmark results.
SATA2 drives are currently tested with an ASRock M3A790GXH/128M motherboard and SATA3 drives are currently tested with an ASRock 890GX Extreme3 motherboard.
At present, Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition is used as the operating system.
For our firmware comparison test we used the firmware 0001, 0309 and 000F for the AHCI measurements and we used the firmware 0309 for the IDE measurements.

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 2010c - 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.
The 256GB Crucial drive achieved in AHCI mode directly after TRIM an enormously high sequenzielle read and write performance.

With the older firmware 0002 in our first m4 SSD review, we discover that in IDE mode and after a few reading and writing cycles in spite of correct C400 SSD alignment only slow and fluctuating reading rates were reached.
The performance was at that time some times so slow, that we assumed a defective SSD.
Directly after the TRIM the performance went back to the default fast values.
According to Crucial support this was attributed to the new NAND memory, which has a higher density of 8K with the 256GB m4 SSD and not the 4K block size as with the smaller SSDs or the C300 RealSSD.
Today, with the new firmware versions 0309 and 000F we did not notice this phenomen again, so it is already at this point recommended to update the SSD to one of these current firmware downloads.

In IDE mode with the FW 0309 AS SSD measured approx. 450 MB/s, the maximum transfer rate of the Serial ATA 2.0 interface was exceeded, so that a SATA3 interface is really the best choice for this SSD.
The previously firmware 0002 contrary to this result achieved only 275 MB/s.
The write performance in IDE mode was approximately 278,57 MB/s, which is much faster than approximately 241 MB/s of the older firmware version 0002.
The overall score reached in IDE mode very good 325 points.
In comparison to this result, the FW0002 reached 291 points, an OCZ Agility 120GB SATA2 SSD reached 138 points and a 256GB C300 SSD reached 290 points.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (Firmware 0309 SATA3 IDE):

 

In AHCI mode also another result beneath the read performance was much higher than in the IDE mode and that is the important value "4K-64Thrd".
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.
Since the weighting of this value is very high in the AS-SSD benchmark tool,the total score in AHCI mode is with 576 points (530 points with FW0002) much higher than the same benchmark in IDE mode.
In AHCI mode the Crucial m4 256GB reached even 495 MB/s read- and 252 MB/s write performance (410MB/s read- and 266MB/s write performance with FW0002), which currently beats the highest score in our reviews.
The most current firmware 000F published yesterday achieved 484 MB/s read- and 276 MB/s write performance.

Hint:
Who think now about changing its SATA port in the BIOS from native IDE and/or legacy IDE to AHCI, should change first for example (if possible) only one part of the SATA port, where the drive with the operating system is not installed.
Because if one like to save the new Windows installation, one must install the hard disk controller driver before changing SATA mode from IDE to AHCI - alternatively there are also Registry entries for it.
If you like to upgrade from HDD to SSD, you should not copy the content 1:1 only with a tool like Norton Ghost or Acronis Backup.
It is better to install a fresh Windows7 or adjust at least the SSD Alignment.
We help you with questions to this topic or all other PC related questions at any time 24/7 in our PC Forum.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (Firmware 0001 SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (Firmware 0309 SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (Firmware 000F SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD iops results to measure the input/output speed (Firmware 0001 SATA3 AHCI):

 

With the firmware 0309, the very important 4K-64Thrd measurements reached better read and higher write values (Firmware 0309 SATA3 AHCI):

 

And here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD iops results, where the firmware 000F offered minor read decreasements and major write increasements (Firmware 000F SATA3 AHCI):

 

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 256GB 2.5" SSD in IDE and in AHCI mode, whereby the diagram is updated shortly with new SSDs.
Currently, the Crucial m4 256GB SSD is clearly at the top, followed by the Mach Xtreme Technology MX-DS Turbo 120GB.

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.
Here we see once again a huge difference between legacy IDE and AHCI, especially with this SSD.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (Firmware 0309 SATA3):

 

Compared to this result, the read performance in AHCI mode is significantly increased starting with a transfer size of 32k.
Here we see can see a very good comparison of the conventional native IDE mode and the modern AHCI mode, which offers beside the higher performance also advantages like e.g. the support of NCQ (Native Command Queuing) or Hot-Plug.
With ATTO above all clear improvements of the firmware 0001 compared to the firmware 0309 could be recognized, but the firmware 000F is with ATTO somewhat slower.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (Firmware 0001 SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (Firmware 0309 SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (Firmware 000F SATA3 AHCI):

 

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 and a lot of other SSDs, where this Crucial m4 barely didn't reach the top 8192K and 32K 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 (Firmware 0309 SATA3):

 

As seen in the previous 4K-64Threads results, the read and write 4K QD32 and the sequential read result is much higher when operating in AHCI mode.
With CDM clear improvements of the firmware 0001 to the firmware 0309 could be determined, additionally the firmware 000F improved again the read value.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskMark values (Firmware 0001 SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskMark values (Firmware 0309 SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskMark values (Firmware 000F SATA3 AHCI):

 

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 tested Crucial m4 256GB SSD or Micron RealSSD C400 256GB SSD has the fastest sequential read performance in AHCI mode with the firmware 000F.

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.
HD Tach measured with the Crucial m4 256GB SSD and firmware 000F in AHCI mode also after a TRIM performance break-downs during the write procedure and a constant read rate with extremely low access times of approx. 0.1ms, whereby these peaks did not appear with the firmware version 0309.
To compare these results you can move the mouse over the following drives to see their respective benchmark results:
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 read and write speed and a low average access time of the Crucial m4 256GB SSD, where the fastest performance of the somewhat older HD Tach is measured with the firmware version 0002.

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.
The average access time of the Crucial m4 256GB SSD was in SiSoftware Sandra with 50us extremly low and the drive index of 438,38 MB/s was also in IDE mode higher than in the previous tests

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values (SATA3 IDE):

 

In AHCI mode SiSoftware Sandra measured the to-date fastest result of 507.81 MB/s at the read performance with firmware 0309.
The firmware 000F reached 498.89 MB/s and the oldest firmware 0001 achieved the slowest performance of 470.20 MB/s.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values (Firmware 0001 SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values (Firmware 0309 SATA3 AHCI):


Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values (Firmware 000F SATA3 AHCI):

 

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

 

 

Result and general impression ...

The Crucial m4 2.5" 256GB SATA3 SSD CT256M4SSD2 achieved with the latest firmware on SATA3 port in AHCI mode the to date highest continously transfer performances and is with these results the best of all SSDs tested at ocinside.de so far.

Regarding the firmware we recommend at least an update to the firmware version 0309, whereby apart from the performance also security plays an important role, which is again improved in the firmware version 000F according to Crucial.
So one should take some time, make a backup of the data and make an update to at present most current firmware version 000F, which was published on Crucial's support page, yesterday.

The Crucial CT256M4SSD2 256GB MLC Solid State Drive with Marvell Controller and 25nm Micron NAND was tested both in the current AHCI mode, and in legacy IDE mode, whereby the AHCI mode showed as with most SSDs clear advantages.
So one should thus operate this Crucial m4 2.5" 256GB SATA3 SSD necessarily in AHCI mode.

The enormously high speed of the SSD became clear with everyday tasks at the PC, because a Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate boot procedure took only unbelievable 7 seconds !
The complete boot time inclusive BIOS post and Windows 7 start took thereby only approx. 22 seconds.

All in all the new Crucial m4 256GB SSD with a current firmware is a very good choice for users, who like to achieve very high transfer rates on a current Windows Vista or Windows 7 operating system and SATA3 interface in AHCI mode.
The Crucial m4 256GB 2.5" SSD reached the best performance of all SSDs tested at ocinside.de so far and offers additionally an excellent cost-performance ratio.
Thus the Crucial m4 256GB SSD earned our Redaktion ocinside.de Overclocking Dream Award 04/2012.

 

Discuss in our forum and exchange experiences ...

Here you can buy the Crucial SSD ...

Read on in the hardware test area with several hardware reviews ...

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