Sharing the same design and interface as most of the other solid-state drives we've reviewed, the Crucial m4 stands out where it matters most: the price. It's still much more expensive than a traditional hard drive, but the m4 is the most affordable SSD on the market, especially its top-capacity 512GB version. In fact, its cost per gigabyte is low enough for us to look past its comparatively slow performance and the fact that it doesn't include a drive-bay converter to fit in a desktop computer.
If you are looking for an SSD to upgrade your system with, be it a laptop or desktop, at its street price of around $440 for 256GB (or $220 for 128GB and $800 for 512GB), the Crucial m4 will make a totally worthwhile investment.
Design and features
|Drive type||2.5-inch solid state|
|Connector options||SATA 3Gbps, SATA 6Gbps|
|Available capacities||64GB,128GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|Product dimensions||9.5mm, 2.5-inch standard|
|Capacity of test unit||256GB|
|OSes supported||Windows, Mac, Linux|
Like the rest of the SSDs we've reviewed, the Crucial m4 has the same shape, dimensions, and port design as a standard SATA 2.5-inch laptop hard drive, so it will work in any application where these hard drives would be used. We tried the drive with a few different computers and different operating systems (Mac, Windows, and Linux), and the drive worked well with all of them. For desktop computers, we were able to use the drive while leaving it unscrewed in the drive bay, as it has no moving parts and is very light. It would be better, however, if it came with a drive-bay converter, the way the OCZ Vertex 3 does.
The Crucial m4 supports RAID configurations and has an estimated mean time between failures of 1.2 million hours. This means that with normal usage the drive can easily outlast the rest of your computer's components.
Similar to other high-end SSDs and hard drives, the Crucial m4 supports the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard but also works with the popular SATA 2 (3Gbps) standard. To get the most out of it, obviously, using it with SATA 3 is recommended. When used with a computer with an SATA 2 controller, however, the drive also offered a great performance improvement in our trials.
Cost per gigabyte
The scariest thing about SSDs is the price, and the Crucial m4's is the easiest to swallow in this regard, though not really easy enough for most of us. The m4's 256GB version costs around $440, which translates into $1.72 per gigabyte. Its 512GB version is even cheaper at just $1.56 per gigabyte. For comparison, the Vertex 3 costs $2.17 and $3.76 per gigabyte for the 240GB and 480GB, respectively.
Compared with traditional hard drives, however, the Crucial m4 is still very expensive, as most hard drives cost just a few cents per gigabyte.
|Cost per GB|
We test SSDs in real-world usage, both when the reviewed drive is used as the main drive, which hosts the operating system of the test computer, and when it's used as the secondary drive, which is used only to store data. Some of our tests gauge the performance of the system as a whole and see how the drive affects its performance. Our data copy tests, however, show the drive's raw data transfer speed when used in real-world scenarios after all overheads. Our test system uses the latest chipset, RAM, and processor, and is equipped with built-in SATA 3 controllers to show the drive's top performance.
We first tested the drive as the main drive of the test system. In boot and shutdown tests, the m4, like all SSDs, helped the system take a very short time to boot up and shut down, just 28.7 and 6.8 seconds respectively. Note that the boot time includes the time the test machine takes to go through the hardware initialization, which is about 15 seconds. Compared with when the system used a hard drive as the main storage drive, the amount of time required to boot up and shut down was cut by about one-third.