Micron and Crucial introduce next-gen M500 SSD

Would you believe it’s been nearly two years since we took our first look at Crucial’s m4 solid-state drive? That’s an eternity in the PC world, and the drive is long overdue for a replacement. As luck would have it, Crucial and parent company Micron have one waiting in the wings. Their new M500 SSD is due to hit shelves this quarter.

Micron is one of the biggest producers of flash memory in the industry, so it’s no surprise the M500 uses chips produced in-house. The drive’s MLC NAND is fabbed on a 20-nm process, just like the flash found in the Intel 335 Series SSD released toward the end of last year. Intel and Micron share a joint flash venture called IM Flash Technologies, so the chips are likely coming from the same production lines.

Smaller fabrication processes allow more dies to fit onto each wafer, which can help to lower costs. Crucial seems intent on passing the savings onto consumers, because the 960GB version of the M500 is due to sell for less than $600—under $0.63 per gigabyte. To put that figure into perspective, consider that SSDs around the terabyte mark typically sell for $1,000 and up. 

The M500 in an NGFF-based M.2 form factor

The 960GB version of the M500 will be limited to the drive’s 2.5" incarnation, which will also be available in 120, 240, and 480GB flavors. Those smaller capacities will be offered in ultrabook-friendly mSATA and NGFF-based M.2 form factors, as well.

Mobile systems seem to be the focus for the M500, which features an adaptive thermal throttling mechanism that should prevent overheating in cramped quarters. Crucial claims the drive consumes only 5 mW while sleeping and 150 mW when active, so there shouldn’t be too much heat to worry about. Notebook users should also appreciate the fact that the M500 is supposed to wake up from sleep mode in just 0.2 seconds, five times faster than the previous generation.

Check out the capacitors clusters on the M.2 (top) and mSATA (bottom) versions of the M500

Marvell provided the 88SS9174 controller silicon for the Crucial m4, and the M500 uses a newer version dubbed the 88SS9187. The updated chip has eight NAND channels and supports hardware-accelerated AES encryption. To that, a collection of tiny capacitors has been added in order to protect against data loss from power failures. Based on the capacities listed, it looks like the M500 has more overprovisioning than the m4, which came in 128, 256, and 512GB models. The flash capacity that’s been skimmed off the top could be used to improve performance, create a larger pool of spare NAND cells to extend drive life, or store parity data for a RAID-like die redundancy scheme.

The M500 is rated to endure 72TB of writes over its lifespan. That’s 40GB a day for five years, which seems sufficiently generous. The drive’s warranty coverage runs out after three years, though.

Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) 4KB random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
120GB 500 130 62,000 35,000
240GB 500 250 72,000 60,000
480GB 500 400 80,000 80,000
960GB 500 400 80,000 80,000

On the performance front, the M500 SSD is rated for top sequential read and write speeds of 500 and 400MB/s, respectively. That read speed is identical to what’s quoted for the m4, but the maximum write rate is a fair bit higher than the 260MB/s listed for Crucial’s fastest last-gen drive. Of course, the M500 240GB model tops out at only 250MB/s, so you have to spring for one of the larger models to enjoy optimal performance. The 480 and 960GB variants are also the only ones to reach 80k IOps with 4KB random I/O. At least in that front, the 240GB model’s random I/O performance exceeds the 45-50k peak IOps of the old m4.

Retail consumers will see the M500 as a Crucial drive, but the same product will be sold to PC makers under Micron’s name. The 2.5" version is scheduled to hit the market first, followed by the mSATA and M.2 variants. If the per-gigabyte cost ends up being as low as Crucial says, this could be a very appealing SSD for desktops and notebooks alike.

Comments closed
    • davidbowser
    • 10 years ago

    I have tested a couple of Crucial drives in my systems and they all pretty much hit the specs. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they did.

    The whole Sandforce compressed data thing is very cool technology and I think will continue to be optimized until it becomes a licensed (or reverse engineered) standard for everyone, but I will admit myself concerned with the first iterations of it and the need for “dirty drive” comparisons to show real performance.

    • btb
    • 10 years ago

    Yeah, nice notebook drive for those with cash to burn 🙂

    • stdRaichu
    • 10 years ago

    Likewise; been hankering for a 1TB SSD for a while now; previously the only option on this side of the pong was either RAIDing or spanning stuff together, or an outrageously expensive SATA2 OCZ drive that IIRC was four times the price of a 512GB crucial/samsung (and was just two 512GB SSD’s with a RAID0 chip anyway).

    I do a lot of DVD + Blu-Ray ripping (I’ll typically set up 24-48hrs worth of encoding in one go), and whilst encodes aren’t I/O limited by a long shot, when you’re muxing or demuxing a >25GB M2TS, an SSD makes a world of difference. It’ll often take upwards of 15mins on a regular hard drive.

    Still not sold on TLC yet so I’ll be holding fire for at least six months after it comes out, but glad to see 1TB “monolithic” SSDs come to the mainstream.

    • Deanjo
    • 10 years ago

    Well, same argument could be said for SSD’s. 2 years ago you were paying around $3/GB and now you are into the sub $1/GB with vastly improved speeds and reliability. A video card on the other hand rarely sees the video performance being doubled for the same money over a period of a couple of years. It is not uncommon to see people using their high end video cards for 3 years+ which is beyond even the warranty range of most SSD’s.

    • grantmeaname
    • 10 years ago

    Two by fours are bigger and cost less, too.

    • BIF
    • 10 years ago

    Who says his tooth doesn’t have GPS tracking built in? Or a cyanide capsule? I wonder if he would have reason to know?

    • phileasfogg
    • 10 years ago

    The 480GB m500 will cost about the same as, or more than, a tablet 😉 But yes, if next-gen tablet manufacturers make such a slot available, a lot of buyers will be very happy!

    • Firestarter
    • 10 years ago

    [quote<]I surely don't sit there and wait for it to fully boot[/quote<] I regularly turn my computer on and wait for it to boot, it's about one spoon's worth of cereal waiting time.

    • wierdo
    • 10 years ago

    The crown in your tooth doesn’t need a $10 billion fabrication plant :p

    • kvndoom
    • 10 years ago

    In terms of performance right now, a video card.

    In terms of long-term value, the SSD. A $600 video card will be outclassed by $200 video cards next year.

    • MoFoQ
    • 10 years ago

    from original article:
    > The 960GB version of the M500 will be limited to the drive’s 2.5″ incarnation

    the 2.5″ versions usually have more than 2 chips on the PCB.

    that said, I hope they’ll have a 7mm version so I can upgrade the m4 I have in my ultrabook.

    • someuid
    • 10 years ago

    Ah, finally. Affordable 1TB SSDs. Now we’re talkin! I don’t need it to be the fastest of the SSDs, I just need it to be big enough to hold the OS, my programs and my data.

    Yeah, I know, an MP3 or video doesn’t need blinding fast speed, but I don’t want mechanical hard drives any more. I want the moving parts gone. Gone I tell ya!

    And I know some folks think having the OS on the SSD is enough, but seriously. How many times do you boot your OS a day? I do it once a day, and I surely don’t sit there and wait for it to fully boot. I walk in the door, say hi to the dog, hit the power button, then go do a gazillion other things like feed the cats, change into lay-about-the-house cloths, check the mail, turn on the oven, etc.

    I want speed when I’m sitting in front of the computer, which means programs and data on the SSD, not just the OS. The 256GB SSDs weren’t big enough, the 500GBs too expensive for the size offered.

    But this, at 1TB, even if it isn’t the fastest, is exactly what I’m looking for. A nice mix between capacity, speed and cost (and the cost will only go down as we’ve seen.)

    • albundy
    • 10 years ago

    two chips on a pcb for $600? wtf! the crown on my tooth is bigger and costs less!

    • willmore
    • 10 years ago

    It makes plenty of sense. There is only so much data on a HD that is sensitive to access speed (be it latency or bandwidth). For example, let’s say I have an MP3 and a MKV archive of songs and movies I like. Except for some retagging events, I will *never* need to read the MP3 files faster than a few KB/s. The movies, even in HD would be in the 1MB/s range. They would not at all benefit from being stored on an SSD.

    Photos are probably in the same boat–that’s where my wife uses up most of her laptop HD–because, other than thumbnail generation, the load time for a JPEG is CPU bound, not I/O bound.

    Things that do benefit are OS, programs, and some large and frequently accessed data (like level maps for video games). If there was a clean way to do it, a 64GB ‘cache’ SSD would be quite enough for a normal desktop system. Sure, there are going to be people who will exceed that, but they’ll be in the single digit percents.

    • jonjonjon
    • 10 years ago

    that question doesn’t even make sense. i’m not sure that your even saying. 64GB is too small for an os boot drive. after you format it you will loose some capacity. windows 7 x64 takes up ~20GB by itself and you want to leave at least 10-20% empty. sure its doable if you want to always worry about space and what your installing. with 128GB drives going for $90 and less on sale there is really no excuse to buy a 64GB drive anymore.

    i would say getting a 1TB ssd for $600 would not be worth it unless money isn’t an issue or you have some specific need for that much ssd storage. on a home/gaming pc the answer is no. get a 256GB ssd for $140 on sale.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 10 years ago

    A better question would be:

    How many GB on my hard drive would load faster on a SSD?

    Personally, I get by fine with a 64GB drive. A 1TB drive would not make my computer any faster.

    • Deanjo
    • 10 years ago

    Does she use the optical drive? If not you can get one of those hard drive caddys to replace the optical drive and put her old mechanical in there as a second drive.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 10 years ago

    I could never ever ever see myself going back to booting from a mechanical drive for personal machines. I do that daily for my work PC and it’s just…ugh. A Sandy Bridge system with 8GB of memory and a 5400RPM hard drive.

    The only thing stopping me from putting one in my wife’s laptop is cost – she’s got about 300GB of stuff and can’t/won’t part with any of it.

    • dashbarron
    • 10 years ago

    While still expensive at $600, the price/GB ratio is very attractive, especially having it all in one hard drive without having to RAID through special hoops.

    • spuppy
    • 10 years ago

    Interesting to see overprovisioning making its way over to other consumer drives besides SandForce controlled ones. It has to be said, most drives that don’t do this do not handle SSD performance consistency very well.

    • phez
    • 10 years ago

    I’m guessing this is more of a cost exercise rather than throwing mb/s at the consumer. And in that respect, can’t wait to see what these will sell for.

    • Deanjo
    • 10 years ago

    Really depends on your use. Not everybody needs or has use for a gaming video card.

    • Deanjo
    • 10 years ago

    [quote<]That read speed is identical to what's quoted for the m4, but the maximum write rate is a fair bit higher than the 260MB/s listed for Crucial's fastest last-gen drive. Of course, the M500 240GB model tops out at only 250MB/s, so you have to spring for one of the larger models to enjoy optimal performance. [/quote<] That is the best thing about Crucial, they publish [i<]real world[/i<] speeds not synthetic benchmarks that rely heavily on compressible data.

    • Arclight
    • 10 years ago

    [quote<]Smaller fabrication processes allow more dies to fit onto each wafer, which can help to lower costs. Crucial seems intent on passing the savings onto consumers, because the 960GB version of the M500 is due to sell for less than $600—under $0.63 per gigabyte[/quote<] Would it be more worth it than a high end video card?

    • liquidsquid
    • 10 years ago

    That is a pretty reasonable size/performance/capacity/power for portable devices. An image/video storing tablet or similar would be a great place to have a slot in which you could install one of these.

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