Micron/Crucial briefed us on their new M500 line of SSDs, which upgrades the controller to the Marvell 88SS9187-BLD2 along with moving to 20nm Micron MLC NAND. Along with the NAND process shrink comes higher NAND die capacity: 128Gb per die to be specific. This in turn allows Micron to bring higher capacity SSDs down to previously unheard of prices—particularly for what should be high performance, high quality SSDs. The M500 line will launch with 120/240/480/960GB models, in 2.5”, mSATA, and M.2 (formerly NGFF) form factors. Full pricing information isn’t available yet, but Micron is promising the 960GB drives will cost under $600. We’ve basically seen the same sort of drive upgrade from Plextor already with the M5 Pro, though both Plextor and Micron of course provide their own customized firmware. Note also that both the Micron and Crucial versions will use the same M500 branding, which will hopefully alleviate any confusion this time around. Here are the core specs for the four capacities.

Micron / Crucial M500 Specifications
Controller Marvell 88SS9187
NAND Micron 20nm MLC NAND
Form Factor 2.5", mSATA, M.2 2.5", mSATA, M.2 2.5", mSATA, M.2 2.5"
Raw NAND Capacity 128GiB 256GiB 512GiB 1024GiB
User Capacity 120GB 240GB 480GB 960GB
Sequential Read 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s 500MB/s
Sequential Write 130MB/s 250MB/s 400MB/s 400MB/s
4K Random Read 62K IOPS 72K IOPS 80K IOPS 80K IOPS
4K Random Write 35K IOPS 60K IOPS 80K IOPS 80K IOPS
Warranty 3 years

There are a few key points worthy of note. One is that the M500 posts lower transfer rates and IOPS than the M5 Pro, though of course these are all paper specs so take them with a grain of salt. The other interesting item is that Micron is now going with more overprovisioning than on their previous model SSDs. We’ve seen the effect of spare area in our recent testing, so the move from 7% spare area (the difference between GiB and GB) to 14.5% spare area will improve the worst-case performance. Another item to note is that the 2.5” enclosures are now all 7mm thick, and they ship with a free 9.5mm adapter. All of the M500 line includes hardware AES 256-bit encryption, and Micron showed us an array of small capacitors on one of the M.2 form factor drives that supported flushing of all data to the NAND in the event of a power loss--not a super capacitor as seen in enterprise class SSDs, but there's no RAM cache to flush so it's just an extra precaution to ensure all of the data writes complete.

At this point, we’re now getting very close to the limits of the SATA 6Gbps interface, so some performance improvements over the previous generation M4 aren’t all that huge. Read speeds have improved from 415MB/s on the M4 series and write speeds are up from 260MB/s on the larger models; on the other hand, 4K IOPS almost double from 40K/50K read/write (again on the larger models), so random performance should be substantially better. Reliability has been quite good with Micron/Crucial drives over the past couple years, and the new drives will hopefully continue that legacy. Availability I believe should be Q2 2013 (Micron wasn't specific on this),  and we’ll have full performance reviews when we get samples.



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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Yes, they support 256-bit AES in hardware. Also have a bunch of small capacitors so in the event of power it can finish writing anything to NAND. Not a super capacitor, but they have enough to handle the internal buffers. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Thanks! That's awesome!

    Now I guess I hold off on my next notebook purchase until the m500 is actually shipping LOL. Hope it's not too long.
  • phy_lbc - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    In the table, for the 960GB capacity it doesn't include mSATA as a form factor. Do you know what the reason is for this, and does anyone have any links for further information about it?

    It was mentioned in the comments of this link (http://www.anandtech.com/show/6575/hands-on-with-p... that mSATA only supports up to four NAND packages (where can I find more proof?). Is that an inherent limitation of mSATA, or just current controllers?
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Mostly it's a matter of size...getting more than four chips into mSATA would make you too big. So 4 chips, 8 die per chip, and you're limited to 512GiB with 128Gb die. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    There is simply no physical space for more than four NAND packages, otherwise you'll end up with an SSD that does not fit in the mSATA spec. See for example this:


    The PCB is already quite full of chips. You might be able to fit six packages but that would be a real stretch.

    With four packages, the maximum capacity with 128Gb die is 512GB (4x8x16GB).
  • phy_lbc - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    What about when you get a process shrink? Doesn't the physical size reduce, therefore you might have a better chance to fit 6-8 packages on that PCB. Also if you don't have a big DRAM block, shouldn't you save some space (I can't remember if SandForce doesn't use DDR). Couldn't you use a physically smaller controller and some smart placement of NAND packages to reach higher storage space? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    The die size for 20nm NAND stayed roughly the same as the previous generation, but Micron went from 64Gb die to 128Gb die. That's why they can now do 1TB class while still using only eight packages. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Actually, IMFT has a 64Gb 20nm die as well (used in Intel SSD 335 for instance). Compared to 25nm 64Gb die, the 20nm die is around 30% smaller. I'm not sure about the size of 20nm 128Gb die but it's probably a little less than twice the size of 64Gb die (some space savings from bigger page/block size since there are less peripheral circuits between the blocks), which would make it slightly larger than the 25nm 64Gb die.

    However, the actual die size is misleading because package sizes are more or less a standard. We are usually dealing with some kind of TSOP or BGA packages and their sizes don't change. This also allows easy PCB designing because you don't have to redesign the PCB if you're moving to smaller lithography NAND.

    I guess the main reason why we haven't seen bigger mSATA SSDs is the lack of interest for them. I'm sure you could fit more NAND in mSATA form factor by investing enough on the R&D but honestly that's quite pointless due to the small market.
  • jjj - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    Are those numbers right for sub 512GB writes? It would pretty much make the drives irrelevant in consumer. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, January 10, 2013 - link

    I guess you are only looking at sequential writes. They look like Samsung 840 non-pro numbers to me, which seems to be selling quite well. And the random IOPS are what really matters for most usages. And they certainly deliver. Reply

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