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Crucial V4 256GB SSD Review

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
NON-TRIM Environment Testing

NON-TRIM Environment Testing


In many ways, a SF2281 should be severely handicapped in an environment that doesn’t support TRIM. To recreate this, we first modified our testbed so that it would not pass on the necessary cleaning commands. Meanwhile, to artificially induce a degrade state we ran eight hours of IOMeter set to 100% random, 100% write, 4k chunks of data at a 64 queue depth across the entire array’s capacity. At the end of this test, the IOMeter file is deleted and the drive was then tested. This will replicate drive performance after extended heavy usage prior to any self maintenance routines kicking in and is indicated by the “Dirty” results below.

In order to allow each drive’s self-maintenance routines to kick in, we then wait 30 minutes (Dirty + 30 results) with the system at idle and rerun the tests.


Real World Results


For a real world application we have opted for our standard Vista load time test.

no_trim_boot.jpg


While the V4 does indeed take a noticeable dip in performance immediately after being hammered with large amounts of data, it does fight its way back awfully quick. In fact, we have a sneaking suspicion that - much like some Marvell based models we have looked at in the past - the NAND inside the V4 is actually in better shape than these results would lead you to believe. Rather than a true degraded state being the culprit the more likely answer is that processor cycles are being taken away from immediate IO demands to continue to clean the drive via extremely aggressive “background” garbage collection routines.

This would make sense as not all of the intended customer base will be running in TRIM environments. Unfortunately, unlike the Marvell controller the M series is based on, the Phison controller in this V series is not overly powerful and does not have excess cycles to spare on aggressive background garbage collection. With that being said, this drive is still a good solution for non-trim scenarios.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing if a solid state drive will behave differently when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity.

Synthetic Test Results


For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.

pcm7_data.jpg


Real World Results


For a real world application we have opted for our standard Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance test.

boot_data.jpg


Even though the Crucial V4 only has eight NAND ICs it only suffers a moderate performance penalty in these tests. The only problem is this drive does not have performance to burn and any loss is too large when compared to more modern designs. However, once again these results are still better than what even a nearly empty hard drive can accomplish so the results are still going to be seen as a nice boost by the V4 256GB’s intended consumer.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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SATA 2 Performance

SATA 2 Performance


In a perfect world everyone investing in a new solid state drive would have access to a SATA 6GB/s controller which could pass on the TRIM command. In reality not everyone has this and for many the decision comes down either giving up TRIM – never a good idea with most controllers – and running it off a secondary controller; or taking a performance hit and running in SATA 2.0 mode.

These tests will consist of some of our real world and synthetic benchmarks run on our standard 1155 test-bed; but the drive will be attached to an SATA 2 port.

For synthetic we have opted for the newcomer to our charts: Anvil Storage Utilities Pro. For real world we have opted for our Adobe test. These two tests should give you a very good idea of the level of performance impact you can expect from running a modern SATA 6 drive in compatibility mode.



s2_anvil_r.jpg


s2_anvil_w.jpg


s2_adobe.jpg

Since this is by default a SATA 3Gb/s SSD and most recently released SSD’s are SATA 6Gb/s drives, these tests do give a perfect apples to apples comparison. Unfortunately, even with all the various drives on the same playing field the V4 256GB is still unable to break out of the lower portion of the charts.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Conclusion

Conclusion


Many reading this review will likely scoff at the performance of Crucial’s V4 256GB. In many ways, its performance hearkens back to yesteryear rather than meeting our expectations of a product that’s being released in the latter half of 2012. Much of the V4’s limitations rest on the shoulders of Crucial’s chosen controller but that’s beside the point. In order to truly appreciate the benefits which this drive brings to the table, one has to be within its intended (and rather large) market niche.

Regardless of the V4’s lackluster –by modern standards at least- benchmark numbers, in many ways, Crucial has hit the nail on the head since many users with older systems crave better system response time and they don’t want to spend a fortune to get it. Retaining storage capacity is also a must since no one wants to sacrifice years’ worth of data to attain slightly quicker boot sequences and faster program loads. Luckily, not many older systems came with an excessive amount of hard drive space and Crucial has kept the V4’s pricing within highly accessible territory. With this drive alongside an inexpensive memory upgrade, that outdated system you’ve been holding onto will likely get a new lease on life. Alternately, this drive will allow any pre-SSD notebook to veritably fly.

Even though they do offer significantly more capacity, current hard drives can’t compete from a performance standpoint regardless of how much is spent. Hybrid solutions may be the best possible alternative to the Crucial V4 but they typically go for $150 or more and don’t represent the efficiency increase notebook users crave. Their benefits –and those of cache drives- are also limited due to acceleration being focused upon a few applications rather than every program.

The issue here comes down to a choice of sacrifices. Is someone willing to push aside some of their performance expectations in order to get an affordable SSD upgrade that can benefit an entire system’s perception? Or are they willing to spend several hundred dollars more and get a higher end product with less capacity? We have a feeling that customers will likely fall onto either side of the fence due to one simple fact: while the V4 is faster than spindle-based drives could ever be, most other current generation SSDs offer significantly more performance.

The Crucial V4 256GB is certainly an interesting blend of positive and negative attributes but it is the kind of drive we actually love to see entering the fray. True value solid state drives like the V4 are changing the industry more than the bleeding edge ‘high performance’ products ever will. These types of accessible, value engineered drives are pushing prices ever downwards. The V4 and its ilk will be the ones to introduce more customers to SSDs than those high performance drives ever will. It may just take some time for consumers to unwrap their minds from the “faster is better” mentality that currently permeates the industry.


Pros:

- Excellent Price
- 3 year warranty backed by Crucial’s legendary service
- Uses ONFi 2 NAND
- Can help extend the life an older system
- Increased capacity compared to the competition in its price bracket
- Custom firmware benefits wear leveling and overall performance


Cons:

- Relies upon an on older controller
- Performance is mediocre a best
- Uses only 8 NAND flash modules even though there is technically room for 16
- No 2.5” to 3.5” adapter included
 
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