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CrystalDiskMark — transfer rates
TR regulars will notice that we've trimmed a few tests from our usual suite of storage results. The drives were all benchmarked in the same way, but we've excluded the results for tests that have grown problematic or less relevant over time. This abbreviated format should be a little easier to digest until our next-gen storage suite is ready.

First, we'll tackle sequential performance with CrystalDiskMark. This test runs on partitioned drives with the benchmark's default 1GB transfer size and randomized data. I've color-coded the results to make the M500 and M550 easier to spot.

Crucial's latest SSD is faster than its predecessor in both tests. The difference is only about 30MB/s with reads, but it's double that with writes—and much larger for the 240-256GB drives. The M550 256GB more than doubles the sequential write speed of the M500 240GB.

Likely thanks to its tweaked die configuration, the M550 256GB barely trails its 1TB sibling. Both are competitive with the fastest SSDs we've run through this test, and they easily outclass the mechanical and hybrid drives at the bottom of the pile.

HD Tune — random access times
Next, we'll turn our attention to random access times. We used HD Tune to measure access times across multiple transfer sizes, and we've presented the data in a couple of ways. The line graph shows the results for all the transfer sizes for only the Crucial SSDs, the Seagate hybrid, and the WD mechanical drive. We've also busted out the 4KB and 1MB transfers sizes into bar graphs that compare the Crucial SSDs to their solid-state counterparts. The mechanical and hybrid drives screw up the scale for the bar graphs, and the SSDs end up stacked on top of each other in the line graphs, so the two-pronged approach works best.

Besides, we're really looking at two separate things here. The first is highlighted by the line graph, which shows the vast gulf in access times between solid-state and mechanical drives. SSD access times are orders of magnitude quicker than those of traditional hard drives, at least with smaller transfer sizes. The delta is pretty huge at the largest transfer size, too.

Now, notice the relative parity between the solid-state drives in the bar graphs. Even though the field looks a little spread out in the 4KB test, the differences amount to small fractions of a millisecond there and in the 1MB test. The M550 isn't appreciably faster or slower than any of the other SSDs.

Similar subplots are found in our random write results, but with a couple of twists.

Unlike in the random read test, the Desktop SSHD's write access times are notably slower than those of the SSDs. The hybrid still beats the mechanical drive hands down, but it lags behind the SSDs more than in the random read test.

The right side of the line graph shows a difference between the M500 240GB and the other Crucial drives. Let's see what the bar graphs tell us.

The 1MB results show the M500 240GB well behind most of the field. Whatever ails that drive doesn't seem to affect the M550 256GB, which hangs near the front of the pack with its 1TB sibling. Both M550s have a slight edge over the M500 480GB and 960GB.

All of these SSDs are very responsive with 4KB random writes. The differences there amount to a few microseconds at best, just like in the random read tests.