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Appeared on: Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Crucial RealSSD 128GB 1.8-inch SSD


1. About the Crucial C300 1.8-inch 128GB SSD

Today we have in our labs a Crucial RealSSD C300 1.8" SATA solid-state drive. Crucial has shrunk the C300 series into a 1.8" format, especially designed for small notebooks that support 1.8" storage devices. Judging from the results we have already experienced with the C300 2.5" 64GB and 128GB models we should expect another interesting SSD solution here.

The Crucial RealSSD C300 product line is being completed with the 1.8" profile, which is approximately 40% smaller than the standard 2.5" drive, providing a great solid-state storage option for the most portable products such as ultra-thin laptops, netbooks, and tablet PCs - without sacrificing capacity.

Based upon the Micron RealSSD product design and technology, the Crucial RealSSD C300 1.8" drive utilizes (multi-level cell) MLC NAND, controller technology, and optimized NAND management, which together improve boot up and application load times and enhance overall system performance. No moving parts provides for quieter, cooler, and more durable solutions compared to traditional hard disk drives.

We have in our labs the 128GB version of the Crucial RealSSD C300 1.8" SATA SSD (part number CTFDDAA128MAG-1G1), which features an impressive read speed of up to 355MB/s and a write speed up to 215MB/s, natively supports SATA 6Gb/s, and is backwards compatible with the SATA 3Gb/s interface. The RealSSD C300 1.8" is available in three capacity points: 64GB, 128GB and 256GB.. All come backed with a limited three-year warranty.

Crucial is using a Marvell controller for this SSD. Marvell’s controller uses a pair of ARM9 CPUs. The one core handles SATA requests while the other handles NAND requests. In addition, the 128GB version of the drive has 8 34nm MLC NAND chips manufactured by Micron.

The 6Gbps SATA interface offers significantly faster speeds than the 3Gbps controllers found on all other SSDs.

The drive's firmware has been designed by Crucial’s engineers. Provided that the ARM9 CPUs of the Marvell controller are fast enough, the firmware should be adequately architected in order for the drive to work at its full potential. But we'll see more on the drive's performance later on this article.

- Features

Specifications:


2. The package

Crucial send us the 128GB version of the Crucial RealSSD 1.8-inch series (CTFDDAA128MAG-1G1), which retails for about ~ $300. That's a $2.5 per GB, provided that the actual capacity of the drive after formatting is about 119.2GB. Crucial’s C300 is priced competitively with the market, considering that not many other companies offer 1.8" SSD drives.

The SSD retails in the same yellow package you may have already seen in other products of the RealSSD C300 family of SSDs. The small cardboard box has the size of the 1.8" drive and features a sticker at the front side with the indicating the product's capacity. The specifications of the drive is also available at the rear side of the package:

The SSD is securely placed into an anti static package. Basic information about the drive s also provided in the included manual:

The Crucial RealSSD 128GB has the typical 1.8" dimensions and its weight is ~45grams. The external dimensions are 7.8 x 5.40 cm with an height of 0.50cm.

The label on the bottom side of the SSD has information about the drive as well its serial number and the installed firmware revision (0002):

The product is compatible with SATA 6GB, 3GB and 1.5GB/s interfaces. The certified 355MB/sec is only achieved when you have connected the SSD to a 6GB port, which is only found at the latest motherboards. Of course, you can also use a PCI-e slot card. Note that the mSATA (aka micro-SATA) interface is not compatible with older notebooks. So unless your notebook is brand new, you should buy a special adapter that costs ~ 25$. We would prefer Crucial to bundle such an adapter with the drive.


3. Benchmarks

Here is our testbed:

The SSD was not used as a boot drive, so we did not perform any kind of optimizations for the operating system. The "enable advanced performance" option was selected under the device's properties (OS). For the tests, we used the following software leaving their settings to defaults:

Unfortunately the motherboard we have in our labs has a 3GB/sec SATA 2 interface and this will not allow the SSD to reach its maximum reading speed of 355MB/sec. If you are not having a SATA2 6GB/sec mobo or notebook, it is advised to use a PCI card (SATA2 6GB/sec) such as the Highpoint Rocket 620 LF or the Asus U3S6 PCI . In addition, it is advised to switch the SATA mode from IDE to AHCI through the BIOS of your system.

Here is some information about our drive using the CrystalDiskInfo software. The SSD came with firmware Ver. 0002 installed:

Crucial has already released the newer firmware Ver.0006, which we installed and used in our tests:

We start the tests with the HDTachRW software. HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices. The software measures the sequential read speed (at various points on the device), the random access speed and sequential write speed. We selected the full benchmark.

With the Ver. 0002 firmware installed, the software reported an average sequential read speed of 223.3MB/sec, which was clearly limited by the 3GB/sec SATA 2 interface of our test PC. Writing was almost linear at 131.8 MB/s on average, which is very close to the drive's nominal writing speed:

With the latest firmware Ver. 0006 installed, the average sequential reading and writing speed were not changed; we got a 222 MB/s and 131.9MB/s for reading and writing , respectively:

The HD Tune Pro software is also a utility we used to measure the drive's reading performance. Although not necessarily representative of real-world workloads, HD Tune's targeted tests give us a glimpse of each drive's raw capabilities. This time we got a 220.4MB/sec speed for sequential read for firmware Ver. 0002 and a 210.9MB/S with the firmware Ver. 0006 installed:

The next benchmark is the CrystalDiskMark. The software provides throughput data based on sequential reads and writes, and random (512K/4K/4KQD32) reads and writes. We've used the default 1,000MB file-size for the tests.

The software reported 262.1 MB/s for sequential read and 135.3 MB/s for write (firmware Ver. 0002) . We also got 512K results of 258.3 MB/s read and 138.0 MB/s write performance. 4K tests produced 27.53MB/s read and just 5.16MB/s write performance. 4KB queue depth 32 IOPS is one area where the SSD performed pretty well:

Installing the latest firmware Ver. 0006 did not change the performance figures very much, although the sequential and the 512K writing tasks were somehow negatively affected:

The AS SSD Benchmark also provides sequential and random read/write tests, as well as other useful information about the drive's access times.

The next software we used was the ATTO Disk Benchmark. The tool measures storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. The benchmark performs file transfers ranging from 0.5 KB to 8192 KB.

Once again our SATA 2 controller (SATA 3Gbps) did not allow the drive to reach very high reading speeds. However, it reached a decent 262 MB/s in the reading test and the 141 MB/s in the writing task.

Finally, we proceed to the most important benchmark of the test, the IOMeter. Iometer is run by using workstation and database patterns for queue depths (outstanding I/Os) of two and 32, representing very light and moderate loads. Iometer is both a workload generator (that is, it performs I/O operations in order to stress the system) and a measurement tool (that is, it examines and records the performance of its I/O operations and their impact on the system). The app's ability to bombard drives with an escalating number of concurrent IO requests also does a nice job of simulating the sort of demanding multi-user environments that are common in enterprise applications. It can be used for measurement of the performance of an SSD. We run the IOMeter tests using the Xtreme Benchmark template . Here are the results:

The C300 offered a great random read performance, although it was operating on a 3Gbps SATA controller. On the other hand, the drive is slower than SandForce-based SSDs of the same capacity in the random writing tests.

The latest Ver. 006 firmware gave the drive slightly higher total I/Operations per second and a reduced maximum I/O response time. Compared to the 2.5" RealSSD, the 1.8" SSD gave less total IOs, but this should be attributed to a different test platform we used for these tests.


4. Final words

The 1.8-inch 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300 solid-state drive is a great storage solutions for everyone who needs a fast storage medium with a small footprint. The drive performed pretty well in most of our tests, although it cannot fully match the performance of the SF-1200 SSD controller based SSDs of the same capacity. On the other hand, the drive has a 6Gbps SATA interface that will be natively supported by most upcoming motherboards.

The drive is made for use under the Windows 7 operating system since it natively supports TRIM without any extra TRIM utility needed. This means that poor byte aligned performance and clear degradation over time with heavy random writes is not an option for the drive.

Though we didn't have the chance to test the drive connected to a 6Gbps SATA controller, it still showed great potential in the reading tasks taking advantage of the available SATA bandwidth and maxing out at 220MB/sec. In order to enjoy the maximum supported 355MB/sec reading speed you 'll have to install the drive in a SATA 6GB/sec port. However, most users are not having this this option in their notebooks, at least for now. Using an external PCI controller for enjoying 6GB/s SATA speeds is still an option, although these are not always performing as expected to.

In the writing part, the drive reached a decent 140 MB/s.

We generally found the drive to be snappy for everyday use, carrying all the positives of the RealSSD series and the latest firmware Ver. 006 seems to slightly improve the overall performance, although we measured some lower writing speeds in specific tests.

.The 1.8-inch 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300 retails for about $300, which is slightly more than other 2.5" 128GB SSDs. And of course, in case you have an older laptop, you'll have to get an extra mSATA to SATA adaptor to have your SSD work.

The Crucial RealSSD 1.8" 128GB SSD drive is a good deal if you really need a fast 1.8" SSD for your new PC or laptop. As a new product, it will perform faster than many other currently available SSDs and will not let you down in terms of stability. If only Crucial offered a 5-year warranty for the drive.

Positive

+ Very high reading up to 355MB/sec when used with SATA2 6GB/sec port
+ Writing is up to 140MB/sec, at least for the 128GB model
+ Drive worked great during our benchmark
+ Supports TRIM command
+ 3 years of warranty
+ Active forum community

Negative

- Competitors offers more years of warranty
- Retail price might be found high for some users
- Adapter is needed for using this drive with majority of currently available laptops



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