Why I bought a Crucial M4 SSD

(Disclaimer: This is not a completely scientific analysis. My conclusions are based solely on the user reviews on various retail sites. Do not blame me if you Crucial M4 dies. Yes, that is still a possibility just as it is with any SSD, Hard Drive, or any other piece of hardware.)

So far I've owned an 80 GB Intel X25-M and I currently own an 115 GB OCZ Vertex 2. Both drives treated me well, but I was looking for more. More space, that is.

Why do I need an SSD?

I wont go into the nitty-gritty detail, but here's my take:

My sole machine is a laptop, so I don't have the luxury of multiple drives and virtually unlimited RAM. I'm limited to one storage drive, and 8 GB of RAM. You may be lucky and have a laptop that has an extra drive bay instead of a CD drive, or one that supports more RAM, but that's not me, and that's definitely not everyone. Take a look at the excerpt from the Steam Hardware & Software Survey below (from March 2012). It's specific to gamers, but even gamers don't have the best machines! In my situation, I don't feel that 8 GB is enough, and an SSD can help relieve the pain.

Another bonus for laptop users is durability. Apparently these drives can withstand up to 1500 G's worth of shock. I'm not sure if that is specific to the memory in the drive, or the electronics as well. Either way, the lack of moving parts should make SSD's significantly more reliable than a spinning disks in the event of a bump, drop, or mischievous 2-year-old. Baby Smash anyone?

What about desktop users who can jam 24 GB of RAM into their machine? Good for you!!! You probably don't need an SSD with all that RAM. Once you're machine is up and running and everything is loaded into RAM, you should be good to go. But what about that first load? An SSD would probably help with that, but the cost/benefit ratio is probably not as good.

But don't take my word (opinion) for it, take a look at the articles below. Note that they're not super recent, but most of the reasoning for buying an SSD should still be relevant:

Coding Horror (Jeff Atwood):

Hanselminutes (Scott Hanselman):

More:

So why a Crucial M4 and not a [Insert Model] [Insert Brand]?

There are many other SSD manufacturer's out there. Some of the most well-known include:

  • OCZ
  • Intel
  • Samsung
  • Kingston
  • Corsair

Here are the factors that landed the Crucial M4 in my shopping cart, and subsequently, my laptop:

  • Reliability
  • Reliability
  • Reliability

The perceived reliability of the Crucial M4 blows away any other brand/series on the market today, at least from my perspective. Here are the customer rating stats from my 2 favorite online stores:

Amazon - 4.5/5 average rating from 448 reviews NewEgg - 5/5 average rating from 145 reviews.

None of the other drives on the market today come close to having the same number of reviews and average rating. Here are some similar 256 Gb drives I looked at:

(Reviews are from Newegg.com at the time of writing. Note that some drives are listed multiple times, probably for different firmware revisions. I only grabbed the ones that had at least 14 reviews.) Name/Average Rating/Votes

  • 5/5, 71 reviews, Samsung 830 Series
  • 5/5, 45 reviews, Corsair Force Series GT
  • 5/5, 31 reviews, Samsung 830 Series
  • 5/5, 30 reviews, Plextor M3 Series
  • 5/5, 20 reviews, Corsair Performance Pro Series
  • 5/5, 15 reviews, Kingston HyperX
  • 4/5, 115 reviews, OCZ Agility 3
  • 4/5, 54 reviews, Mushkin Enhanced Chronos
  • 4/5, 47 reviews, Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe
  • 4/5, 42 reviews, Intel 510 Series Elm Crest
  • 4/5, 39 Reviews, OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 Series
  • 4/5, 38 reviews, Mushkin Enhanced Callisto Deluxe
  • 4/5, 27 reviews, OCZ Vertex 3
  • 4/5, 21 reviews, Kingston HyperX
  • 4/5, 19 reviews, Intel 520 Series Cherryville
  • 3/5, 92 reviews, OCZ Vertex 3
  • 3/5, 32 reviews, Corsair Force Series 3
  • 3/5, 23 reviews, Patriot Wildfire
  • 3/5, 23 reviews, OCZ RevoDrive 3 Series
  • 3/5, 14 reviews, OCZ Vertex 2

What about performance?

According to online benchmarks the Crucial M4 isn't the fastest kid on the block, but it's fast enough. It's much faster than any other spinning disk drive out there, and if you compare it to other SSD's the difference probably wont be noticeable in real-world scenarios. Check out the reviews if you want to see an in-depth anlysis:

What about price?

Money is money, but time is money too! - me

How much is your time worth? Sure, you can save as much as $100, but the cost of owning an SSD isn't limited to it's purchase price. Below I've listed some factors that can increase the cost of ownership of your SSD. YMMV (Your mileage may vary), but if your drive dies, any or all of them can come into play:

Shipping time

Best case you're probably looking at 2 day shipping both ways. That's 4 days that you're working with your old slow hard drive, or someone else's old busted computer. Or worse yet, you're not working at all. Not to mention the...

Shipping costs

It depends on what brand you buy, where you buy it, and when the drive dies, but those are 3 different factors that can result in shipping charges.

Customer support headaches (figuratively and literally)

I wont name names, but take a look at some of the reviews for other SSD's. A lot of customers complain about drives dying, but some are more frustrated by poor customer service. Stress is a killer#Stress_responses).

(Re-)Setup time

It takes time to install your OS, apps, and games, and then restore your data and configuration. Each one of these things can be quick on their own. Windows 7 has a snappy install process, I mostly use free apps, all my games are on Steam, and my data is mostly in the cloud (along with various config files). So what's the big deal? If you have a good cloud backup strategy you're probably fine. But what if you don't? Hunting for your OS and game disks, downloading apps, and rummaging through external hard drives isn't my idea of fun. God forbid you don't have a good backup strategy which results in...

Lost data

Even if you saved/pushed your documents and code an hour ago, that's still an hour's worth of work that's now gone. Worst case is that you didn't push it today, or this week. If you don't backup at all you may as well throw your computer out the window and save yourself from all the waiting.

Multiple failures

OK, so you RMA'd your broken drive for another... unreliable drive! Sweet! Now you get to go back to the top of the list and re-read this entire section!

So the Crucial M4's are perfect?

I can't tell you that your drive wont fail. I just bought my Crucial M4, so only time will tell how mine fairs. But as I said in my disclaimer at the top of this post, nothing is immune to failure, SSD's included. However, I firmly believe the benefits outweigh the risks. If you do choose to go with a historically less reliable series/brand you're taking your time and money into your own hands.

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