The m4 uses the same PCB and controller as C300 SSDs, but with revised firmware and 25nm NAND chips.
We caught up with storage and memory specialist Crucial at CES 2011 last week, and were pleased to find out about the imminent release of its second-generation SATA 6Gbps SSD, the Crucial m4.
Building on the success of the C300 range of SSDs that have impressed us over the last twelve months, Crucial’s parent company Micron has decided to portion off the C300 branding for its OEM products, while Crucial's consumer line-up of SSDs has been renamed with a decidedly BMW-esque brand. We wonder if there's a luxury M6 version with leather heated seats coming?
Despite the new naming, though, the C300 and m4 series are surprisingly similar. The same Marvell 9174 dual-core ARM controller chip will be used for the new line-ups of SSDs, but with a more aggressive firmware version to push up the read and write speeds.
At present, Crucial is quoting sequential read speeds of 415MB/sec across the range, and maximum write speeds of 260MB/sec for the 512GB model. As with the C300 line-up, though, write speeds will depend on the capacity of the drive and the accompanying NAND density. The m4 will also benefit from an enlarged DRAM cache, which has been increased from 128MB to 256MB on all but the 64GB model, which retains the original 128MB DRAM cache.
Interestingly, though, Corsair’s Performance 3
series of SATA 6GBps SSDs, also announced at CES 2011 and based on the same Marvell controller, will be shipping with notably higher sequential speeds of 480MB/sec read and 320MB/sec write. This is due to the firmware of Marvell 9174 based drives being the sole responsibility of the drive partner, rather than Marvell, so there’s still potential for Crucial to knock the m4 up a notch before it ships.
Most importantly. though, the m4 series of SSDs will be the first drives to boast 25nm NAND flash chips, thanks to Micron’s co-operation with Intel
in developing the new fabrication process. This not only gives Crucial access to higher capacities of NAND, enabling the m4 to cap out at 512GB, but will also hopefully result in lower prices, bringing SSDs closer to mass market adoption.
Could we finally see a £1/GB high-performance SSD? We certainly hope so. The M4 will also be the first drive to market supporting ONFI (Open NAND Flash Interface) 2.2 certification, offering additional commands and greater controller support.
Excited about the second generation of SATA 6Gbps devices? Just bought a C300 and feel burned? Perhaps you're still a hard drive die-hard? Let us know in the forums