Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
July 23, 2010
Manufacturer
Crucial
Product Page
RealSSD C300 256GB
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103869
Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1
The Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB drive is the fastest drive to cross our test bench, so far. What more do you need to know?

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Page 1
Introduction

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HardwareLogic is no stranger to SSDs. We've reviewed many different brands in the past and have found that there are choices to be made when buying a SSD. One of the most important choices is the performance per dollar. There comes a point when someone just wants the fastest drive possible. Enter the Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB drive. It boasts sequential read speeds of 355MB/s and writes of 215MB/s and 6Gb/s Serial ATA support.

About Crucial

Quote

Crucial is a key brand in the Lexar Media family of products. As the Memory Experts, we're the only DRAM supplier that's part of a major memory manufacturer.

A wholly owned subsidiary of Micron Technology, Inc., Lexar Media, Inc. boasts one of the most comprehensive offerings of memory product lines in the industry. We deliver high-quality, award-winning products in every memory category: USB flash drives, all popular form factors of memory cards and card readers, DRAM computer memory for PCs and Mac systems, and solid state drives (SSD). We back our products with outstanding customer support and industry-leading warranties, and we strive to expand our offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers [*]customers just like you.

The Lexar brand has long been synonymous with reliable, high-performance products, which is reflected in the award-winning memory products and USB flash drives sold under the Lexar name.

Our Crucial brand reflects our status as the only consumer memory upgrade supplier that's part of a major DRAM manufacturer. We sell high-quality memory that has been qualified and approved by most major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The Crucial.com website features innovative online tools and an intuitive design that makes it easy to find compatible memory and recommended upgrades. And because we carry over 250,000 upgrades for more than 40,000 systems, we've got options for nearly every system out there.

Lexar Media has more than 10 years experience in the memory industry. Our strong retail brands, along with our direct online and OEM presence, make Lexar Media a global player in every major customer channel, including value-added resellers, system builders, and e-commerce. And we've built a name synonymous with quality, innovation, and customer service.

http://www.crucial.com/company/index.aspx
Page 2
Packaging

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Crucial packages the C300 series in a gold box with black accents. This is reminiscent of the original Ballistix line of gold color RAM heatsinks. Gold means the best and the fastest for this packaging. It is a RealSSD, of course.

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The back of the box contains the various technical specifications and such. It also says it is for PC and Mac. No word on Linux support. Linux supports TRIM as of kernel 2.6.33. Ubuntu 10.04 comes with 2.6.32. If you want TRIM, you'll have to compile your own kernel, use a TRIM aware version of hdparm, wait till Ubuntu 10.10, or let the drive perform garbage collection on its own.
Page 3
Specifications

  • Model: CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1
  • 2.5-inch form factor
  • SATA 6Gb/s system interface
  • 4.3W / 94mW average power (active/standby)
  • Up to 355 MB/s sustained sequential read speed
  • Up to 215 MB/s sustained sequential write speed
  • 1500 G/1ms shock and 2Hz to 500Hz at 3.1G vibration
  • 0°C to +70°C temperature range
  • 75g weight
  • Native Command Queuing support with 32 command slot support
  • ATA-8 command set compliant
  • ATA security feature command set and password login support
  • Secure erase (data page) command set: fast and secure erase (clear, sanitize)
  • Self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology (SMART) command set
  • 3-year warranty
  • Static and dynamic wear leveling
  • Field-upgradeable firmware
  • Uncorrectable bit error rate (UBER): <1 sector per 1015 bits read
  • Newegg Link, Amazon Link


Interestingly enough, there is no MTBF given. The Mean Time Before Failure is a generic number that tells on how long something will last, on average. This is important to note that it is an average. If you see a MTBF of 1,000,000 hours, it doesn't mean it will last that long. It means that, on average, a sampling of drives should last that long. A product could die within 5 seconds of running and another 2,000,000 hours. MTBF? 1,000,000 hours.

Marketing Summary

Quote

The need for speed
If you're looking for unhindered speed, Crucial's RealSSD™ C300 is here! The new 2.5-inch Crucial RealSSD C300 drive offers mobile and desktop users scorching-fast read speeds of up to 355MB/s. And because it has no moving parts, you will also enjoy a quieter, cooler, and more durable storage solution — and a better alternative to a traditional notebook hard drive.

Improved data transfers
Designed with high-speed synchronous MLC NAND, advanced controller technology, optimized NAND management, and the new SATA 6Gb/s interface, these drives dramatically improve data transfers for bandwidth-demanding applications like audio and video.

Push your performance
The improvement in boot time and application load times push performance to new levels at the desktop too. You will experience improvement across a variety of common tasks such as viewing and editing photos, video, music and other media, gaming, communications, productivity and security.

Memory Experts
The Crucial brand of memory has long been synonymous with reliability and high-performance. Our expertise in NAND process technology enables us to optimize the performance and durability of Crucial solid-state drives.

Guaranteed compatible
Crucial RealSSD C300 series employ a standard hard drive interface and dimensions, so it is an easy storage upgrade for most notebooks.

http://www.crucial.com/store/partspecs.aspx?IMODULE=CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1


Package Contents

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For a very expensive product, Crucial doesn't even give you a Serial ATA cable with the drive. While most motherboards come with ample cabling, it would be nice to see Crucial adding a Serial ATA cable. You do get some documentation along with the drive.
Page 4
RealSSD C300

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While we have seen many SSDs pass through our test bench at HardwareLogic, this is one of the fastest spec'd drives we have to date. It is also one of the most expensive. Hopefully, you get what you pay for. The RealSSD C300 is bathed in gold with black trim and comes in the standard gray casing with normal philips screws. It is really strange to see manufacturers moving to philips over Torx for screws in devices like this.

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The bottom of the drive contains the various labeling and other information. To the left are the Serial ATA data and power connections. This is a standard 2.5" drive and will fit in any desktop or laptop that accommodate that size for Serial ATA. Even though this is a 6Gb/s Serial ATA product, it will be able to work in any Serial ATA port. As you can see from the sticker, this drive is loaded with the 2nd firmware revision. This new revision fixes a few issues that were present in some specific use cases and should make the drive perform better over the course of time. As is customary with SSDs, performance usually dies off after the drive becomes "dirty" with its flash becoming used up. TRIM and garbage collection are here to mitigate this. It doesn't always work like the theory says, though. This is why drive controllers are constantly being updated.

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Taking off the four screws allows you to see the guts of the unit. Here we have a single PCB with chips mounted on both sides. There is no heatsink or thermal material present in the case. We're pretty sure it isn't needed, anyway.

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On the bottom side of the C300 contains 8 NAND flash chips, the Marvell controller, and some support electronics. The Serial ATA connections are to the right in this shot.
Page 5
RealSSD C300 cont'd

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Flip the drive over to see another set of 8 NAND flash chips along with a single, huge, 256MB DDR3 cache. We'll go into more detail about the chips on the C300.

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Disregard the bit of screw gunk that made it into the shot. This is the flash memory (OGB12 NW275) module present on the C300. It is standard NAND and has a Micron part number of MT29F128G08CKCBBH2-12Q:B. It's a 128Gb (16GB) 3.3V NAND built on a 34nm process and is ONFI 2.1 compliant. ONFI standard for Open NAND Flash Interface. Having open standards is very important in computing and it is good to see Micron supporting this. ONFI ensures a standard pinout, a way for the NAND to let the controller know what they can do, standard commands, and timing requirements among other things. There are 16 chips in total. Each chip can pump out 166MB/s. This is MLC based flash.

cache.jpg


Next is the DRAM cache chip. It is a standard DDR3 chip with a Micron part number of MT41J128M16HA-15E:D. It is a 2Gb (256MB) 1.5V DDR3-1333 x16 DRAM built on a 50 nm process. Most controllers are paired with a cache size of half this amount. Crucial probably wanted to use some good Micron technology to boost the performance of the drive. Crucial is owned by Micron.

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The brain of the C300 is the Marvell controller. It has a part number of 88SS9174-BJP2. This is one special chip as it contains two individual ARM9 processors that operate in parallel. The ARM9 is a fast RISC CPU and putting two of them on this drive allows the C300 to reach the speeds that it does. Interestingly, the dual ARM9 CPUs do allow the drive to saturate the bandwidth of 3Gb/s Serial ATA. We'll have an additional article soon to see if 6Gb/s Serial ATA is worth the premium right now. This is one of the only drives that can actually use the bandwidth. The controller supports TRIM, garbage collection, and SMART among other things.
Page 6
Installation

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Like any standard Serial ATA drive, installation of the C300 was without issue. The drive was installed and partitioned as shown above. The C300 gives about 238.5GB of usable space. This means that the rest is saved for wear leveling and bad sector replacement. While it is normal to lose space when partitioning and formating, it would nice to see the usable space in the specifications of the drive to know how much you will be getting. This is not just a problem with Crucial's SSDs, though.

As is customary for any SSD that we setup on Linux, the root partition was mounted with noatime. This means that the OS will not update the file access time when retrieving a file. This will cut down on unneeded writes. We did this with the magnetic control drive as well. One of the easiest ways to make it easier to change your distribution is to place the /home directory on a separate partition. This is something we do all the time.

Testing

Asus P6T Deluxe
Intel Core i7 920
»4GB Crucial Ballistix Tracer Red
»Sapphire Radeon 4670
Ubuntu 10.040 x86 (32-bit)
Phoronix Test Suite 2.6.1

Our thoughts of benchmarking a SSD are different than a majority of sites. We're more interested in how the drive performs in a computer to you. This "perceived" speed can be measured by boot up time, login time, and other metrics. We do use a magnetic drive for a control in the benchmarks. In addition, the Ubuntu 10.04 disk utility has a benchmark to show how fast the drive is and what the access times are on the entire drive space. To benchmark, the drive must be blank.

It is also important to note that we run the benchmarks over for three times. The first time is brand new after the OS is installed. The second and third runs take place after the drive has been "dirted" with data. The last run takes place after we dump a load of data (taking /dev/urandom and cat it to a file) to make sure the entire drive is used. We then run the last set. Ubuntu 10.04 comes with kernel 2.6.32. This version does not support TRIM, so the drive had to rely on its own garbage collection algorithm. We are going to do a follow up article with a later kernel and other options to see the support in action.

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This is the benchmark built into the disk utility control of Ubuntu 10.04. To measure read and write speeds, it needs the drive to be blank. We did this after about a week of use and other benchmarks. This is a good example of the drive in a "used" state. Unfortunately, we didn't have a 6Gb/s Serial ATA card installed so the drive easily maxed out the 3Gb/s Serial ATA on the motherboard. It was pegged at 285MB/s. This is the maximum speed you'll get from Serial ATA Gen 2. The write are equally as impressive, though. The minimum write speed was 210MB/s. This is very good after being used. Still, we will be performing additional testing and will report results in another article about 6Gb/s performance and making sure the drive is really "dirty" with data.

The graphics below show performance over time. The 320GB magnetic drive is a Seagate 7200.10. This is just a control, we're more interested in how the drive performs over time.

Drive Performance (Higher is better unless noted)

Name
Value
Percentage
SQLite 3.6.19 12,500 INSERTs Time (Lower is better)
C300 Run 1 
186.46
 
C300 Run 2 
188.43
 
C300 Run 3 
185.40
 
320GB 
750.58
 
PostgreSQL pgbench 8.4.0 TPC-B Transactions per second
C300 Run 1 
954.76
 
C300 Run 2 
943.79
 
C300 Run 3 
946.56
 
320GB 
219.56
 
IOzone 3.323 Size: 4GB - Disk Test: Write Performance MB/s
C300 Run 1 
228.14
 
C300 Run 2 
224.77
 
C300 Run 3 
216.03
 
320GB 
79.68
 
IOzone 3.323 Size: 4GB - Disk Test: Read Performance MB/s
C300 Run 1 
266.11
 
C300 Run 2 
266.22
 
C300 Run 3 
265.73
 
320GB 
75.61
 
Dbench 4.0 12 Clients MB/s
C300 Run 1 
194.39
 
C300 Run 2 
188.48
 
C300 Run 3 
191.12
 
320GB 
45.73
 
PostMark 1.51 Disk Transaction Performance Transaction/s
C300 Run 1 
1785
 
C300 Run 2 
1803
 
C300 Run 3 
1690
 
320GB 
295
 
Unpacking The Linux Kernel Time (Lower is better)
C300 Run 1 
14.70
 
C300 Run 2 
14.22
 
C300 Run 3 
14.33
 
320GB 
15.41
 


What you can take away from these runs are that the C300 manages to keep its performance. We only had the C300 for a couple of weeks and ran a bunch more benchmarks than we posted. We'll have a follow up after we have some more time to really get the drive full of data over and over. The drive is certainly the fastest we've seen in these tests.

In addition to that, we performed perceptual testing on how the SSD performed over a standard magnetic hard drive. The magnetic storage took 28.5 seconds to reach the login prompt from boot. The RealSSD C300 took a scant 13 seconds. The extra read speeds of this drive and the tiny random access times are a huge benefit for boot up times. From login to ready state, the system hung for both drive for about 20 seconds or so. This was probably due to some proprietary drivers (like the ATI fglrx). The magnetic storage took 35 seconds to reach the ready state and the SSD took 27. Improvements to program loading speeds and perceived speeds of the entire computer were noticeable, even from other SSDs.
Page 7
Conclusion

Wow. Maxing out a Gen2 Serial ATA controller? Granted, the drive is very expensive (retail is hitting $600-700, Newegg Link, Amazon Link). If money is no option and speed is everything, this is the drive for you. Crucial has done something very unique. They bought the controller and wrote their own firmware. When you buy this Crucial product, the firmware will come from them directly. If you buy a competing product, chances are the company you purchased from isn't writing their own firmware and can't support it like Crucial can.

That also creates a minus. Crucial's firmware is only used on their drive. Unlike Sandforce or other controllers, Crucial's sample size in the field will probably be smaller. While we have no doubt that firmware bugs will get quashed, hopefully the QA that goes into it will be top notch as it usually is with Crucial products. Still, it is nice to be able to go to the manufacturer for all the support.

Like we said, if you need the fastest drive on the market, the RealSSD C300 256GB is it. Period. It is very expensive, but you do get what you pay for. There are other SSDs that offer a better price, but the performance will be lowered. It is up to you to make the decision if you need the fastest, or can you live with a slightly slower drive that may be much cheaper. Crucial is offering this drive at $600 right now. This is $100 lower than a few days ago. At this price you get the top performance at $2.52/GB. This is fairly good price and if you're looking to buy it now, Crucial has it for you.

HardwareLogic would like to thank Crucial for making this review possible.
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