Introduction

The biggest reason why SSDs have not become truly mainstream (yet) is price. While prices have come down significantly over the last year, you are are still paying roughly $0.75 per GB, whereas hard drives can usually bought for less than $0.10 per GB. For an enthusiast, it shouldn’t be a problem to pay up to ten times more per GB if it yields significantly better performance, but the consumer market is much harder to convince. Most aren’t ready spend hundreds of dollars on a single component, especially if there is a cheaper alternative that is sufficient. In this case, hard drives also offer more capacity, which can make it very hard for consumers to understand the benefits of an SSD.

Besides price, there is another problem. Most SSDs sold today are SATA 6Gbps but the vast majority of computers are only compatible with older and slower SATA 1.5Gbps and 3Gbps standards. That means consumers who don’t have a SATA 6Gbps compatible computer will not be able to take advantage of the extra IO bandwidth that the SATA 6Gbps SSDs offer, and it may feel pointless to pay for something you can’t use. Of course, there are previous generation SSDs that are SATA 3Gbps but they aren’t necessarily cheaper due to the use of more expensive NAND (2Xnm vs 3Xnm).

However, almost any SSD is faster than a traditional hard drive, be that 2.5” 5400RPM, 3.5” 7200RPM or even a 10,000RPM VelcoiRaptor. Crucial sees that there is a market for low-end SSDs, which are not as fast as today’s fastest drives but offer a more affordable $/GB ratio. The v4 SSD is specifically targeted at consumers with SATA 3Gbps and due to the usage of a cheaper controller, Crucial was able to price the drive below its 6Gbps counterparts...but is it priced low enough to really sell?

Crucial v4 Specifications
Capacity 32GB 64GB 128GB 256GB
NAND Micron 25nm synchronous MLC NAND
Controller Phison PS3105
Sequential Read 200MB/s 230MB/s 230MB/s 230MB/s
Sequential Write 60MB/s 100MB/s 175MB/s 190MB/s
4K Random Read 10K IOPS 10K IOPS 10K IOPS 10K IOPS
4K Random Write 1.2K IOPS 2.4K IOPS 4K IOPS 4K IOPS

Performance wise the v4 is significantly behind SATA 6Gbps SSDs. Sequential speeds are actually fairly normal for SATA 3Gbps SSDs but random speeds are awful to get straight to the point. Even the Intel SSD 320 has three to four times higher random read/write speeds and it's a year and a half old drive, so the random performance is really not good by today's standards. We'll soon see how the random speeds impact real world performance, but the specs aren't overwhelming.

NewEgg Price Comparison (11/22/2012)
Capacity 32GB 60/64GB 120/128GB 240/256GB
Crucial v4 $50 $65 $85 $160
Crucial m4 N/A $73 $110 $200
Samsung 830 N/A $70 $104 $200
Intel SSD 330 N/A $70 $104 $140
Plextor M5S N/A $50 $110 $200
OCZ Vertex 4 N/A $80 $75 $160
OCZ Agility 4 N/A $75 $95 $165
Mushkin Enhanced Chronos N/A $65 $100 $165

As for the pricing, the v4 is cheaper compared to it's big brother m4 but there are other, faster SSDs that offer similar pricing. For example the Mushkin Enhanced Chronos is only $5-15 more expensive depending on the capacity and there are others such as Kingston SSDNow V+200 and OCZ Agility 3 that are priced equivalently. Samsung's 830 drives are also regularly on sale, and we've seen the 128GB drive go for as little as $85 with the 256GB now routinely on sale for $170 or so (or $190 for the kit). Even if you're stuck with a 3Gbps SATA connection, it's a safe bet that $5 to $10 more will get you much better performance. How much better? We'll get to that on page three....

The Drive
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  • andrejg - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    I thought the same until - I had two PC's of similar capacity with windows 8 side by side. One had Samsung SSD 830 256 and the other had Crucial v4 128.
    Difference was noticable, from start/boot to installations and other operations. They are both very good comparing to HDD, but Samsung rocks and Crucial is only faster than HDD.
    Reply
  • supercoffee - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    I'm no expert, but I thought SSD read performance was generally always higher than write performance. If this is the case, then the average read and write speed charts on the Storage bench 2011 page are wrong and should be fixed. Thanks. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    When you read data, you have to fetch it from the actual NAND. When writing, you can first cache the data and write it to NAND at a later date (works well with small IOs as they can then be combined to increase throughput). Writing to a cache is extremely fast and hence write speeds are often higher.

    Sequential read speed at bigger IO sizes is definitely higher, but most of the actual usage IOs are somewhat random and small in size. Big sequential IOs are easy to read because you get the benefit of multiple dies but the smaller the IO and queue depth, the less interleaving can be done. For example, 4KB random read at QD1 is often limited by NAND bandwidth because you can only read from one NAND die at the time, which isn't all that fast.
    Reply
  • iwod - Thursday, November 22, 2012 - link

    I mean the majority of cost for SSD goes to the NAND, there is no point trying to save a dollar or two and offer such inferior product, Those who are going to spend $100 and buy comparatively expensive HDD replacement would not have cared about the $10 dollars difference if it offer something like 5x less performance.

    Those who only owns a SATA 1 / 2 Port would have wanted a much faster SSD now for so they could get faster performance if they upgraded their MB.

    So in reality this strange line of product is aiming squarely at those who have absolutely no clue about SSD performance or OEMs builders who could simply rip more off from customers.

    The only niche i think this fits in are PATA, UATA port, where old computers could immensely benefits from SSD.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    What this review is sorely lacking is any sort of real-life experience with the drive. Does it still "feel" like an SSD in actual use? Does windows boot up fast? I'd buy a lower performing Crucial SSD over a faster OCZ drive, as long as itis "fast enough". Reply
  • toine_r - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    Unfortunately, I bought one (the 128Gb version) before this article has been published (17-11-2012).
    I strongly suggest buying another "real" SSD, because this one is not fast enough for day to day use, even for replacing a HDD.
    I replaced a 5400rpm HDD with it on a netbook running Ubuntu, and the SDD was slower than the HDD for some operations (typically, installing packages and applications took hours on the SSD).
    Experience on windows may be better, but its probably safer to buy another one.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    I love Crucial's stuff and would easily recommend the m4 personally, but...

    This has to be one of the worst products we've reviewed all year. I'm kind of in awe of how terrible it really is, the only way you could justify it compared to what else is available is to sell it at half the cost of any other SSD with comparable capacity.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, November 23, 2012 - link

    Great response Dustin - I only which I had written it. Reply
  • KAlmquist - Saturday, November 24, 2012 - link

    With a metal case (instead of plastic) and synchronous NAND (instead of asynchronous) it's like Crucial wasn't even trying to hit a price point where an SSD with the Phison controller would make sense. Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    As brutal as the review was, it was still too kind! The first budget SSD that one of the major players put out (Intel's X25-V) still manages random read/write performance that's about 3x faster! Granted that drive had abysmal sequential writes (as bad as a bad 5,400 drive), but it'd still make a better OS drive (provided you could live with 40GB!). Reply

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