Crucial P1 solid-state drives bring NVMe closer to Joe Sixpack

NVMe drives used to be bits of kit reserved for the elite, but over the last couple years, we've seen the introduction of multiple entrants in the space promising speeds far higher than those attainable by SATA devices, yet priced competitively enough so that even Aunt Ginny can have one for her Facebork-and-Instacat machine. Crucial, Micron's consumer brand, just released its P1 solid-state drives aimed exactly at this market. Let's dig in.

The P1 drives come in 500-GB, 1-TB, and 2-TB capacities and use a PCIe x4 interface. The sequential read and write speeds of 2000 MB/s for reads and 1700 MB/s for writes (for the 1-TB model) won't give the Samsung 970 Pro pause, but they're still good enough to lap any SATA drive several times over. According to Anandtech, the 1-TB P1 can run random read operations at up to 170K IOPS and manages 240K IOPS when writing.

The site also notes that the Crucial P1 employs a Silicon Motion SM2263 controller and Micron's four-bit 3D QLC NAND. That makes it almost a carbon copy of Intel's 660p. The P1 uses a variable-size SLC cache in a bid to keep speeds up. The endurance figures aren't particularly high at 100 TB written for the 500-GB drive, 200 TB for the 1-TB model, and 400 TB for the biggest unit. Nevertheless, as our testing showed, SSDs' actual endurance tends to be far higher than listed, and the amount of data actually written to the vast majority of drives in consumer scenarios just isn't that high.

The Crucial P1 rings in at $110 for the 500-GB model and $220 for the 1-TB unit. While at first sight those prices would immediately place the P1 as an also-ran considering the lower amounts that Intel's 660p currently commands, it's worth considering that street prices for Crucial's drives are often way lower than MSRP. As an example, the Crucial MX500 500-GB SSD is currently going for around $85, even though it originally listed for $140.

Once the P1 drives start selling in earnest, we wager they may well become a no-brainer choice for entry-level NVMe storage. Crucial offers five-year warranty coverage and throws in a copy of Acronis TrueImage in the box.

Comments closed
    • sconesy
    • 4 years ago

    Weell that pretty much answers my question – nothing that I use on my home PC. Guess I’m sticking with SATA over NVMe for now.

    • MOSFET
    • 4 years ago

    I doubt they slow down over time. One day they either slowly accrue errors, and you notice via corrupted files or instability; or one day they just don’t work. This is my semi-educated opinion along with some experience. I have a couple of Intel 535’s that show less than 50% life remaining via Intel SSD Toolbox, and they’re only about 2 years old. Performance is like day one though.

    • James296
    • 4 years ago

    Been thinking about on the next build I do as a boot drive. Probably a 500 gb one

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    HDD are actually more expensive to make in raw materials then soild-state media due to their reliance on Neodymium-based magnets. The magnetic coating on the ceramic platters isn’t exactly cheap by gram either.

    • demani
    • 4 years ago

    When did HDD and Solid-state reach price parity? Even raw silicon costs aren’t in price parity with HDDs.

    • demani
    • 4 years ago

    Overkill? Sort of. But startup times on machines have dropped so precipitously on machines with fast storage that a reboot is no longer time to get a cup of coffee, and sometimes its not even time to check my phone. Everyone including my grandma can appreciate that (I mean, she doesn’t have all the time in the world anymore-less waiting is important)

    And at this cost a machine with 8GB of RAM will be better able to take advantage of VM than one with a SATA drive as OS and application bloat set in down the road.

    No, as a retrofit for most machines with a SATA SSD it won’t make sense. But if you are moving from a spinning platter and your cost is nearly the same for this or a SATA SSD?

    • Chrispy_
    • 4 years ago

    Pfft. If M.2 drives run in laptops with near-zero cooling, I’m sure they’re good in a desktop PC.

    Either way, the ‘worst case’ scenario for an NVMe controller is probably that it does throttle and loses half its performance under sustained loads, making it still faster than a SATA drive.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    Hardware RAID is pretty much dead in the enterprise/SMB world. It is moved to software-based solutions which offer far more advantages that easily outweigh the drawbacks (CPU overhead is a joke on modern chips). Modern HBAs are just “dumb” controllers with a fancy interface (SAS/Fibre). Funny that you have mentioned VMs which is spot where hardware RAID HBAs are actually a nightmare to deal with due to potential cross-platform compatibility issues.

    There’s a reason why HBA vendors have pretty much move away from dedicated hardware-based solutions and shifted into software-based solutions.

    • psuedonymous
    • 4 years ago

    The majority of 3xx and 2xx series boards, a good number of 1xx series boards, and some of ASRock’s Z9x and Z7x boards (with ask-ASRock-support-for-it BIOSes) support PCIe bifurcation now. Not sure what the state of support on the AMD side is.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    Cheap and mainstream stuff still use SD media because it is dirt cheap. Margins be demanded. Cheapo Smartphones still use SD media as well.

    It is the same reason why HDDs continue to persist on mainstream platforms despite the fact that solid-state media reached price parity years ago. OEMs see SSD media and M.2 interfaces as premium options they can easily mark-up for.

    • ptsant
    • 4 years ago

    In addition, when you have N drives and the associated cables, removing clutter is a bonus. Plugging the drive on the MB is a bit more elegant and worth a small $$ premium.

    • curtisb
    • 4 years ago

    Again, you’re living inside your own little bubble. Just because you don’t have a need for it doesn’t mean no one else does either. Those cards aren’t even hardware RAID, anyway. In fact, you can’t boot from some of those m.2 cards because you can’t create the array outside of an operating system.

    At any rate, hardware RAID is nowhere near obsolete. There are multiple applications where it’s still necessary . For example, you don’t want the CPUs of VM hosts or database servers processing those transactions. Even the NICs for servers are designed to offload processing network traffic from the system CPUs. And software RAID absolutely does not offer better fault tolerance to a good hardware RAID controller. A good hardware RAID controller will actually remove a failing drive from an array before it fails, preventing it from becoming a potentially catastrophic situation.

    • curtisb
    • 4 years ago

    They are not using SD cards. SD is horribly slow. You might find that for addon storage, but not for primary. Not even smartphones use SD cards for primary storage.

    The m.2 interface is in the chipset. The cost to put the header on the motherboard is minimal. They’re already saving by not putting SATA headers on those systems. It would actually cost more to implement SD because they’d also have to include a controller.

    • morphine
    • 4 years ago

    FTFA:
    [quote<]Crucial offers five-year warranty coverage[/quote<]

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    You don’t need need M.2 RAID cards anymore though. Hardware RAID is practically obsolete (CPUs are simply too powerful and have tons of cores/threads to spare). We aren’t running single-core Pentium III and Athlons anymore.

    Modern RAIDs are entirely done in software/firmware(better fault tolerance, flexibility and cross-platform compatibility). RAID only makes sense for servers and mission critical systems.

    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    Less than $110 for a 500GB QLC NVMe? Hmm.

    Just a question though: won’t these drives become slower and slower as you write more data and approach the write endurance rating? And what about the warranty? I’m sure it’s just 1 year.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    They are using SD cards and it variants not M.2 devices/interface for those ultra-portable platforms.

    They will end-up using SATA for the controller side because of platform costs. M.2 will be a premium option only for higher-end ultraportable SKUs.

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    2.5″ SATA drive bays are disappearing from laptops, though. I’ve bought 2 laptops in the past 3 years, and none of them has a 2.5″ bay. One uses a B-key SATA M.2, and the other a NVMe M.2.

    EDIT: You can get a 2.5″ caddy for a (SATA) M.2 or a mSATA drive, but doing it the other way is physically impossible.

    • stdRaichu
    • 4 years ago

    I guess it depends on everyone’s individual requirements, but most boards come with maybe one or two NVMe slots… my workstation board has 2xNVMe slots and 8xSATA ports, of which 1xNVMe and 6xSATA ports are permanently in use. All but two of those are used for SSDs where, as long as I can get >30k IOPS, I’m good – I’m CPU limited past that, so SAS or SATA SSDs are where it’s at for me and the premium of NVMe is mostly worthless.

    When motherboards start coming with half a dozen U2 or M2 ports and CPUs start coming with enough PCIe lanes to feed them, then it’s another story but until then I’ll be buying those “cheap” slow SATA SSDs.

    I do have a NAS for bulk storage using platter-based HDDs with an SSD cache, but it’s only used for bulk media for the most part as it’s still painfully slow for data processing.

    • curtisb
    • 4 years ago

    Careful with the m.2 RAID cards. Most of them require that your motherboard supports [url=https://www.google.com/search?q=pcie+bifurcation<]PCIe Bifurcation[/url<]. This usually requires that you have a workstation-level motherboard/chipset. I think Supermicro makes one that doesn't require it.

    • curtisb
    • 4 years ago

    You’re only looking inside your own little bubble. The mainstream usage isn’t going to be in desktops/workstations. Consumers have very much demonstrated that they want the ever thinner and lighter laptop/2-in-1. That’s not happening by sticking with a 2.5″ drive form factor. And 1.8″ drives were pretty much DOA.

    That leaves that options at soldering the storage on, or use m.2 and market that the device is upgradeable/user serviceble. Dell has a Surface Pro clone that is [i<]nearly[/i<] identical in looks. It's [i<]slightly[/i<] thicker, but it's also user serviceable where the Surface Pro isn't.

    • dragontamer5788
    • 4 years ago

    Maybe no singular killer application. But there’s a lot of various applications that benefit.

    1. Save-states of VMs. 8GB of RAM takes a while to read/write to a disk normally. Useful for debugging programs (sure, debuggers usually have a ‘step back’, but you can save-state the entire kernel and File I/O operations).

    2. Video production: Magix Vegas / Adobe Premier appreciate faster disks, especially if you have a lossless codec like [url=https://www.magicyuv.com/<]MagicYUV[/url<]. 3. Swap Space: Various programs can have temporary files save off partial work. Alternatively, you can use portions of your SSD as RAM in both Linux and Windows. Whether or not this is beneficial is specific to any particular application, but NVMe drives do give you the option. 4. Analysis: Excel is weak, but there are various cases of Dozens+ GB level data analysis for various fields. SPSS, R, ArcGIS, etc. etc.

    • christos_thski
    • 4 years ago

    You’re correct, so far as there are free pci express slots. But it’s a no go on older laptops. The practically universal compatibility of SATA is beyond contest.

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    PCIE adapters for NVMe drives can be had for under $20, I’ve seen some for under $15.

    • christos_thski
    • 4 years ago

    That’s perfectly correct.

    In the end, for most of us, the sheer sum of nvme advantages is boiled down to “case looks purtier without those sata cables hanging”, and that comes at the expense of hand-me-down-ability (not all motherboards support m2, and certainly not all mobos you would hand down an ssd to).

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    For a dedicated hobbyist it would be a good idea, but the masses simply care don’t enough for it.

    They aren’t making long, lossless videos on a frequent to semi-frequent basis. Granny’s so-called “4K videos” are just 15-30 seconds long because there isn’t enough space on their camera/smartphone to store it.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    VR is not mainstream either and it is limited by the USB interface on low-end headsets.

    • alan242
    • 4 years ago

    >There’s still no killer mainstream application that makes HDDs and SATA SSDs woefully inadequate.

    Virtual Reality. There’s nothing worse than staring at grid waiting to load up. It also avoids any SATA bottlenecks if the application needs to load additional resources while in progress.

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    Are you saying big files take longer to load than little files?

    That’s exactly why I think NVMe drives for 4K video might be a good idea.

    • DPete27
    • 4 years ago

    Then I agree with you. Unless I’m replacing my SATA SSD for larger capacity, nothing short of an [b<]affordable[/b<] Optane SSD will prompt me to upgrade. It's the latency and low QD improvements I'm after.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    She isn’t care enough about download times either when doing it on her [b<]USB 2.0[/b<]/3.0 interface via the camera. See the problem?

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    If Grandma’s iPhone records video at 4K, she will be importing 4K videos of little Bobbie into iMovie/WMM, whether she realizes it or not.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    It is more about cooling concerns if anything else. M.2 drives do run a bit toasty when loaded and some motherboards have M.2 slot in rather poor spots for ventilation with some chassis.

    • Chrispy_
    • 4 years ago

    I’m buying them now over SATA drives because the price premium has shrunk to the point that I don’t care any more.

    If a high end machine costs a couple of thousand bucks these days, saving $25 on the SSD seems like an unncessary corner-cutting exercise.

    Yeah, Joe average won’t notice the different between it and a SATA drive today, but maybe it’ll differentiate itself with changes in software before he throws it out in a few years time.

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    If you are building a new system or have a system that has M.2 slots available then it does make sense.

    • K-L-Waster
    • 4 years ago

    ^^ This

    It’s one thing to say “I don’t need it and it costs too much.” But when the cost is effectively a wash, why would you say no?

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    That’s not mainstream application or usage patterns that is purely hobbyist/prosumer-tier stuff. They would also be shooting for something far more than this low-end PCIe NVMe M.2 drive (capacity is more of a concern then bandwidth, 512GiB-1TiB doesn’t cut it).

    • davidbowser
    • 4 years ago

    On my most recent build, I opted for a spare SSD to install the OS rather than spring for an NVMe. The $100 price point is where I want this to max out, so this is a great option. I also ended up getting a RAID card and a bunch of the cheap 2TB Micron 1100 drives.

    If I really wanted to crank up my [s<]pr0n[/s<] nature photos and games, I may now consider getting one of the NYMe RAID cards. Like [url=http://www.thessdreview.com/daily-news/latest-buzz/highpoint-ssd7101a-1-nvme-raid-controller-review-samsung-toshiba-m-2-ssds-tested<]this beast[/url<]. Per Krogoth, you don't really need this today (barring workstation use cases) but I might spring for a cheap one if I was building again, just to eliminate the SATA and power cables.

    • Voldenuit
    • 4 years ago

    > There’s no still killer mainstream application that makes HDD and SATA SSD woefully inadequate.

    4K video editing with multiple streams?

    With consumer cameras, GoPros and even smartphones shooting 4K video these days, they’re pretty mainstream. I will say I have not tested whether editing video is faster on my 970 Evo or my 1 TB SATA SSD, but it might be an interesting test.

    • DPete27
    • 4 years ago

    But since now they’re getting very close to SATA SSD price/GB, why not get NVMe instead?

    • Krogoth
    • 4 years ago

    NVMe M.2 drives are still massive overkill for non-workstation/server roles. The overwhelming majority of mainstream applications are CPU-bound with load time under a modest SATA SSD drive.

    There’s still no killer mainstream application that makes HDDs and SATA SSDs woefully inadequate.

    This guy will end-up being used as a scratch disk on the cheap for ultra-high I/O bandwidth operations.

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