Looking first at the build quality and design of the Crucial m4 we have a drive which very much builds on everything which was good about the C300. We get a sturdy casing with nice finish and inside the good first impression continues. First up is the latest version of Marvel’s SSD controller and that is connected to the latest 25nm flash, manufactured by Micron (Crucials parent company) as is the cache of the drive.
These high quality components combine to create a drive which exceeds the performance available on the older C300 in all but one of our tests. The read speeds are a particular highlight over the older model with the m4 achieving increases around 100MB/s faster than the C300 in SiSoft Sandra. The m4 was also significantly faster than our first generation SandForce based drive, the F240.
Where things get a little more complex is the comparison to the Intel 510 series and OCZ Vertex 3. Looking at the Intel model first we see that drive is particularly fast at large file transfers and that the m4 matches it at smaller files, exceeding the performance of the 510 in tasks such as application installs. This is despite some "on paper" specifications which show the write speed to be higher on Intel.
In the comparison with the Vertex 3 on pre-production firmware again there is no drive which wins every test. The Vertex 3 generally excelled in our synthetic tests, though the m4 beat it in 4k writes. Large transfers and HD editing were strong on the OCZ model then the m4 was the winner in game verify/repair and Office installation.
So where does that leave consumers when deciding which to buy? Based on the most recent firmware we would have to say that a large part of that decision could come down to pricing. We are still waiting on the final pricing from Crucial however if they can come in a little below the Intel and OCZ models the m4 becomes a very desirable product. At the same price level the Crucial m4 offers roughly 15GB more useable space than OCZ, 6GB more than Intel and highlights such as good performance with small file copy operations.
An evolution of an architecture which has proven its high performance, reliability and compatibility the m4 stretches Crucial’s performance lead over SATA 2 drives and ensures they are competitive with the latest SATA 3 models.
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