by Brian Beeler

Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB Review

Crucial currently wears the fastest consumer SSD crown, as seen in our recent review of the 256GB C300. Thanks to the SATA 6Gb/s interface and Marvell controller, Crucial's SSDs manage spectacular speeds. 256GB SSDs aren't for everyone though, Crucial has wisely expanded their capacity offerings to include 128GB and 64GB versions of the C300. In this review we dive into the 64GB model (CTFDDAC064MAG-1G1), highlighting the differences to the 256GB patriarch of the RealSSD C300 family.

The C300 series is known for speed. The entire line of drives sees 355MB/s read speeds (265MB/s with SATA 3Gb/s interface), with slightly declining write times as capacities shrink. The 256GB model quotes 215MB/s sequential writes while the 128GB and 64GB capacities see 140MB/s and 75MB/s respectively. There's also a small power usage decline as the drives get smaller, most notably during writes. Otherwise though the family of drives are largely identical.

Aside from the bare drive, Crucial also offers the drive with an upgrade kit for a $20 premium. The kit includes the EZ Gig II Cloning and Imaging Software for Windows, ShirtPocket’s SuperDuper! for Mac, USB to SATA cable and upgrade guide. 

Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB

64GB Crucial RealSSD C300 Specifications:

  • Unformatted Capacity 64GB
  • Formatted Capacity 59.62GB
  • RAID Support
  • Transfer Rate 6Gb/sec (compatible 3Gb/sec)
  • Command Set ATA-8 w/ TRIM
  • Average Access Time < .1 ms
  • Sequential Read 355MB/sec (SATA 6Gb/s) 265MB/sec (SATA 3Gb/s)
  • Sequential Write 75MB/sec (SATA 6Gb/s) 75MB/sec (SATA 3Gb/s)
  • Random 4k READ 60,000
  • Random 4k WRITE 15,000 IOPS
  • Dimensions (L x W x H) 100.45 x 69.85 x 9.50 mm
  • Weight 74g
  • Active Power 1.7W read, 2.4W write
  • Idle Power 0.092W idle
  • Operating Temperature 0°C to +70°C
  • Non-Operating Temperature -55°C to 95°C
  • Shock Resistance 1500G / 1.0ms
  • Vibration Resistance 2-500Hz at 3.1G
  • MTBF 1.2 Million Hours
  • Data Reliability Built-in EDC/ECC
  • Warranty Limited 3 Year Warranty
Aesthetics
 
The Crucial RealSSD C300 has an unassuming design that does little to indicate the type of speed the drive offers. The body is dark grey with a branding sticker on the top and information sticker on the bottom.
Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB bottom
 
Unlike our initial 256GB review sample, the 64GB SSD had no adhesieve problems with the label. Throughout the entire review the label stayed in place and never peeled up around the edges. It might be safe to assume the top panel on our first SSD may not have been cleaned fully and had residual oil on it that may have interfered with the sticker.
 
Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB front
 
The drive is fairly sturdy with give when squeezed between your fingers. The alloy shell does a great job of protecting the drive.
One thing we did find kind of funny was the “warranty void if removed” sticker which didn’t do much in terms of indicating if the drive had been taken apart. As you can see from the side shot, it is only attached to a spacer between the body and the top lid. This means the top cover can come off—giving you access to the circuit board—without anyone knowing.
 
Disassembly
 
The drive is made up of four components; the drive cover, spacer, drive body, and internal circuit board. The three external sections are held together with four Phillips head screws mounted flush with the top cover.
Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB disassembly
 
With the screws removed the thin top plate comes off easily, exposing the circuit board inside. The spacer was left connected to the body, as to leave the warranty sticker still intact. We can’t guarantee that all C300 models will follow the same sticker placement, but if they do there shouldn't be as much risk for curious buyers to inspect the drives internals; though it's safer and recommended to look at our photos instead. 
Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB processor
 
 
Once inside, the PCB will come out without a fight, since the four screws that hold the case together also hold the internals in place.
The heart of the Crucial RealSSD C300 is a Marvell 88SS9174-BJP2 controller with a 128MB Micron 0AD12-D9LGQ RAM buffer. The storage section is made up of sixteen Micron 00B12 MLC NAND flash modules. The layout on each side is very clean and didn’t make use of any thermal pads for heat dissipation. One interesting design element of the internal workings of this smaller capacity SSD is that uses the same number of flash modules as the larger capacity 256GB model.
Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB pcb top
 
Synthetic Benchmarks
 
To conform to our standard testing methods and still show the full performance of the Crucial RealSSD C300 we benchmarked it through two interfaces. In this review we include the performance stats of the C300 routed through an Intel ICH10R SATA 3.0Gbps chipset as well as LSI 9260 MegaRAID SATA 6.0Gbps add-on card. The ‘slower’ Intel interface allows the drives to be compared on a level playing field and give you an idea of performance levels that you might find in almost all current-generation notebooks. The LSI RAID card shows much higher speeds, but has the advantage of a healthy 512MB buffer, dedicated RAID controller, and obviously the faster 6.0Gbps interface. In this review, after much trial and error, we have tweaked the IOMeter settings when testing on the external RAID card to counteract the large buffer and give a better representation of the true speed of the SSD. We have gone back and updated the previous 256GB RealSSD C300 stats so both drives were tested in the same setting.
 
In the first IOMeter 2MB Sequential transfer test the 64GB C300 showed very high read speeds reaching 350MB/s over SATA 6.0Gbps, but those dropped to 254MB/s when interfaced over the slower SATA 3.0Gbps interface. Read speeds were consistent over both connections, measuring 68MB/s and 67MB/s over 6.0 and 3.0 respectively.
 
In the next test we look at IOMeter 2MB Sequential transfers with 4K-alignment. In this test we show both the 256GB and 64GB C300 models over the SATA 6.0 interface. The 64GB model actually showed higher read speeds measuring 366MB/s with the 256GB model measuring 345MB/s. Write speeds were a completely different story though, with the 256GB model having an average transfer speed of 215MB/s and the 64GB model with just 68MB/s.
 
Moving to a 2MB random transfer test in IOMeter the 64GB C300 measured 349MB/s read and 70MB/s write over SATA 6.0 and 253MB/s read and 65MB/s write over SATA 3.0.
 
With 4K-alignment the 64GB C300 still lead in read speed compared to the 256GB model, this time with a smaller gap of 352MB/s on the 64GB model and 350MB/s on the 256GB model. Write speeds still showed significant differences between the two models, with the 64GB version measuring 71MB/s and the 256GB model getting 230MB/s.
 
 
 
In our 4K random transfer IOMeter test with 512-byte alignment the 64GB RealSSD C300 did very well with 19MB/s read and 19MB/s write over SATA 6.0, and 17MB/s read and 6.15MB/s write over SATA 3.0.
 
With 4K-alignment the 64GB C300 over SATA 6.0 still maintained a read transfer speed of 19MB/s but the write speed increased to 57MB/s. The 256GB C300 measured 19MB/s read and 63MB/s write.
 
4K write latency on the 64GB C300 was slightly slower than on the 256GB C300, measuring 0.634ms on the 64GB model and 0.597ms on the 256GB model over the SATA 3.0 interface.
 
With 4K-alignment, speeds increased to 0.077ms on the 64GB model and 0.060ms on the 256GB model over SATA 3.0. Using the SATA 6.0 interface through our LSI RAID card the 256GB C300 maintained the same speed of 0.060ms, but the 64GB C300 speed up to 0.067ms.
 
The IOMeter Server Profile tests showed great NCQ-support, and just like previous tests when the C300 was allowed to breathe on a SATA 6.0 interface, the speeds increased.
 
 
Real-World Benchmarks
 
Our custom StorageMark 2010 traces break down drive performance by scenario, which aim to mimic common everyday situations.
 
The first real-life test is our HTPC scenario. In this test we include: playing one 720P HD movie in Media Player Classic, one 480P SD movie playing in VLC, three movies downloading simultaneously through iTunes, and one 1080i HDTV stream being recorded through Windows Media Center over a 15 minute period. Higher IOps and MB/s rates with lower latency times are preferred. In this trace we recorded 2,986MB being written to the drive and 1,924MB being read.
 
Both the 64GB and 256GB RealSSD C300s rely heavily on their faster SATA 6.0 interface. Over SATA 3.0 the 64GB C300 only mustered an average transfer speed of 75MB/s in the HTPC trace, but over SATA 6.0 it sped up to 104MB/s. Both of these scores are still much slower than what the 256GB got; 139MB/s over SATA 3.0 and 253MB/s over SATA 6.0.
 
Our second real-life test covers disk activity in a productivity scenario. For all intents and purposes this test shows drive performance under normal daily activity for most users. This test includes: a three hour period operating in an office productivity environment with 32-bit Vista running Outlook 2007 connected to an Exchange server, web browsing using Chrome and IE8, editing files within Office 2007, viewing PDFs in Adobe Reader, and an hour of local music playback with two hours of additional online music via Pandora. In this trace we recorded 4,830MB being written to the drive and 2,758MB being read.
 
In this test the performance difference between SATA 3.0 and SATA 6.0 was about double. Over the Intel ICH10R the 64GB C300 managed an average transfer speed of 63MB/s while over the LSI RAID card it jumped to 119MB/s. In this same test the 256GB C300 scored 114MB/s and 266MB/s over 3.0 and 6.0 respectively.
 
Our third real-life test covers disk activity in a gaming environment. Unlike the HTPC or Productivity trace, this one relies heavily on the read performance of a drive. To give a simple breakdown of read/write percentages, the HTPC test is 64% write, 36% read, the Productivity test is 59% write and 41% read, while the gaming trace is 6% write and 94% read. The test consists of a Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit system pre-configured with Steam, with Grand Theft Auto 4, Left 4 Dead 2, and Mass Effect 2 already downloaded and installed. The trace captures the heavy read activity of each game loading from the start, as well as textures as the game progresses. In this trace we recorded 426MB being written to the drive and 7,235MB being read.
 
Since our gaming trace is weighted heavily on read performance, both the 64GB and 256GB C300 models did exceptionally well. In SATA 3.0 mode the 64GB RealSSD C300 scored 210MB/s while the 256GB C300 got 243MB/s. Over SATA 6.0 both C300s topped the charts with the 64GB model getting 262MB/s and the 256GB model peaking at 338MB/s.
 
Power Consumption
 
Compared to the SandForce drives, both versions of the RealSSD C300 were heavy drinkers when it came to power consumption. With the reduced capacity the 64GB C300 dropped write power consumption from 4.07w on the 256GB to 1.91w. Read power consumption was also lower, dropping from 1.42w to 1.27w. Following the same trend, 4K read activity dropped from 0.87w to 0.84w and idle dropped from 0.73w to 0.72w.
 
Warranty
 
Crucial offers an industry standard 3-year warranty term on the C300, which is matched by many SSD manufacturers.
 
Conclusion
 
The Crucial RealSSD C300 relies heavily on its fast SATA 6.0Gbps interface. Without the fast data-rate the SSD has a hard time keeping up with other competing drives. In most of our real-world traces the difference between the two interfaces generally had the 3.0Gbps trace at half the performance, and right near the bottom of the charts. As soon as it was routed through a capable interface though, it rocketed past the competition.
 
The 64GB variant of the Crucial RealSSD C300 has significantly lower write speeds than the 256GB model, but this seems to be the norm when comparing smaller SSDs from within the same family (with SandForce SF-1200 drives being the exception). In our case it was partially unexpected since the 64GB model still retained the same number of flash chips, unlike some smaller SSDs which don’t retain the same number of channels. This made a huge difference between the two models, with sequential write speeds dropping from 215MB/s on the 256GB C300 to under 70MB/s on the 64GB C300.
 
Compared to other SSDs on the market the 64GB model still holds its own against larger models, but to make up its slow write speed weakness it really needs a SATA 6.0Gbps interface to shine on its tremendous 350MB/s read speeds. Without the faster interface performance is significantly reduced. Overall we were pretty impressed with the 64GB C300’s results when compared to similar capacity drives. For the sub-$150 price-point it is a very tempting, especially with the prospect of 700MB/s read speeds when two are combined over RAID 0.
 
Pros
  • Incredibly fast 350MB/s read speed (over SATA 6.0)
  • Priced under $150
  • Comes in both 2.5” and 1.8” form factors
Cons
  • Still needs a SATA 6.0 interface to really shine
  • Big speed drop compared to larger 256GB brother

Bottom Line

In the sub-64GB capacity market, the Crucial RealSSD stands out with its 350MB/s+ sequential read speeds. If you have a SATA 6Gb/s interface available, the C300 is a both a good value and a worthy performer at under $150 in both 1.8" and 2.5" form factors.

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