DRAMeXchange> Weekly Research> SSD Competition to Intensify in 2H 2014: Crucial M550 mSATA 256GB Shows Res...

【Performance Test】SSD Competition to Intensify in 2H 2014: Crucial M550 mSATA 256GB Shows Respectable Performance

Published Jun.17 2014,05:46 AM (GMT+8)

During 2013, Crucial used its M500 SSD series to tackle the Serial ATA 6.0 Gb/s market, touting the products’ high efficiency as well as endurance; a year later, the company released a relatively more enhanced version of the series known as M550. We take a closer look at the difference between the two series below, and assess whether a mSATA M550 (the version we received) can actually perform as well as a 2.5 inch SSD.

Difference in Specs

M500 and M550 Comparison


M500 240GB

M550 256GB


Marvell 88SS9187

Marvell 88SS9189

Flash Memory

Micron 128Gb 20nm MLC

Micron 128Gb 20nm MLC


Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s

Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s

Seq Read



Seq Write



Random Read 4K



Random Write 4K



Usable Capacity



* The above data is based on figures provided by Crucial’s official website as well as the performances of the products following installation


The difference between M550 and M500 should not be hard to spot in the table above, as they are essentially two different types of products. Below, we have listed out the three main highlights that are worth noting about Marvell 88SS9189, the upgraded controller used by M550.


1. LPDDR Memory Support
Marvell’s Controllers have always been known for their impressive ECC capability and emphasis on memory performance. Compared with the previous versions, Marvell’s updated controller enables M550 to consume significantly less power when performing high performance tasks.

2. Enhanced Power Management during Sleep Mode
During 2012, SATA-IO suggested a proposition requiring all storage systems to include a “sleeping” mode that uses less than 5mW of power and resumes operations within 20 minutes. The M550 uses only 3mW of power during sleep mode, and is thus highly important to Mobile platforms when it comes to preserving their power.

3.Capacity and Flash Memory Enhancements
Although enhancements to storage and flash memory capacity can technically be carried out using proper firmware on the controller components, this appears to only be possible with the 88SS9189 rather than 88SS9187. For the 256GB SSD models, only the M550 allows for use of up to 238GB. The M500, on the other hand, allows for a maximum of roughly 221GB. The extra 7% memory appears to be the result of the 88SS9189’s efficient allocation of data towards other areas when performing certain read/write functions. This allows more flash memory to be preserved and, in turn, gives users more space to use.


Assessing Crucial M550 through Various Test Methods

Without further ado, let us get to the actual testing of M550. Below are the different benchmark testing platforms that we used as well as their corresponding results.

Processor:INTEL i7-4770

Motherboard:MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming


Operating system:Microsoft Windows 8.1

Test software: AS-SSD Benchmark 1.7.473

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2f

                IOmeter 1.1.0-rc1

                ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.47

  1. ASS SSD

The numbers from this test confirm Crucial’s generally impressive reputation with its memory products, with the 4KB-64Thrd IOPS receiving a relatively high score when performing read/write tasks under NCQ mode. For a mSATA product, M550 is arguably as good as any 2.5 inch SSD.

During the linear read/write tests, M550 was able to maintain its reading and writing speeds at 520MB/s and 480MB/s, respectively.

As shown by the above diagram, when performing linear tests Crucial M550’s performance was relatively stable, showing little obvious changes or fluctuations.


  1. ATTO

ATTO’s capacity and performance-related tests reveal M500 to be capable of performing at full speed when handling files over 64KB.


  1. CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3

    During the CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 benchmark test, the scores for the linear-type tests were better than expected, and the 4K QD32 numbers managed to rise above 300MB/s.
  2. IOMeter

    M550 displayed a respectable performance for both reading and writing tasks when subject to the intensive tests from IOMeter.


Can mSATA only be used as a Cache?

Despite a 256GB mSATA being almost as good as a 2.5 inch SSD storage device, whether the former can actually be used as a system disk for products such as Notebooks depends on their hardware settings. The smallest density for the retail version of M550 is currently 128 GB. While good enough for basic operating systems and software, this isn’t likely to satisfy the standards of the slightly more “picky” manufacturers. If mSATA is to ever to be used as more than just a cache, it may need to start making a bigger impact in the tech industry, beginning with the PC end.

The Crucial M550 is arguably a highly impressive product when it comes to performance and endurance, as the testing scores demonstrate. The product, moreover, features AES 256 <IEEE-1667> encryption, ensures proper temperature control, possesses great power management, and protects systems from power loss. Function-wise, M550 is hardly different from any high-end 2.5 inch SSDs. Whether future consumers will be able to open up to M550 and put their faith in such a product remains to be seen.