Someone at Crucial decided it's finally time to release a NVMe SSD. We first tested SSDs using the NVMe communication protocol more than three years ago when Intel brought the 750-Series to market. Since then, NVMe products have transitioned from ultra-high performance data crunching products worthy of workstation-level workloads, to what you should expect to find in a sub-$1000 PC at a big box store.
Crucial's conservative approach left the company out of the NVMe game when it was exciting, but the company plans to make up for it with designs using the latest technology. In this case, that means 4-bit per cell (QLC) memory.
Before we dive into the new Crucial P1 entry-level NVMe SSD, we want to discuss what that actually means.
The difference between low-cost, mainstream and premium SSDs has changed. Raw performance still plays a role, but the amount of data you can write to the drive at one time before it slows and endurance increase as you move up the pricing scale. Micron's 64-layer flash, both TLC and QLC, delivers strong random reads so general applications performance can be very similar between these classes. In some instances, as you will see today with the Crucial P1, the low-cost drive can actually be faster than products that cost more.
The low-cost drives, as a general rule, give users less endurance - the amount of data you can write to the drive before a failure. They also rely heavily on SLC cache to mask low write performance from the media. When you write more data than what the drive can cache, the performance drops off more.
The new P1 product line comes to market in three sizes starting with the 500GB. The 1TB model we're testing today, and the smaller 500GB, are the only two in the series to ship early in the release. A large 2TB model, the fastest in the series, will come later this year.
This series uses the Silicon Motion SM2263 4-channel, the cut-down version of the SM2262 8-channel controller used in a number of popular SSDs that shipped in 2018. We've tested the SM2263 controller before in the HP EX900 and Intel SSD 660p. The later, like the P1, uses 4-bit per cell "QLC" NAND flash memory.
The 1TB model we're testing today delivers up to 2,000 MB/s sequential read and 1,700 MB/s sequential write performance. Random performance clocks in at 170,000 IOPS for both reads and writes. All write performance comes from the dynamic SLC cache that shrinks in size as you put more data on the drives.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
We start with the 500GB in the pricing breakdown. This model currently sells for $109.99. That virtually doubles to $219.99 for the 1TB model, and we can only assume the 2TB drive will sell for somewhere close to $400 to $440 when it comes to market later this year. Crucial hasn't released the official price of the 2TB drive.
All three sizes carry a generous 5-year warranty but limited by written data. The industry calls this a TBW rating or terabytes written. The 500GB P1 warranty allows users to write up to 100 TBW and the rating doubles for each model to 200TBW and 400TBW as we move through the capacity range.
Crucial gives P1 owners access to Acronis TrueImage software used to clone your existing data to the new drive. The company also has a strong management software in Executive Suite that includes monitoring and firmware update capabilities. The software also has a DRAM-based cache feature that increases performance and lowers NAND flash wear when enabled.
A Closer Look
The 500GB and 1TB models feature a single-sided design while the larger 2TB model will utilize both sizes of the drive for components. If you are familiar with Crucial's SSDs, you might wonder where the host-power failure capacitors are. Crucial has reduced the hardware footprint of the capacitors by moving the advanced feature over to software.
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