Crucial RealSSD C300: Speediest SSD Yet?

As of September 2010, the Crucial SSD C300 Solid State Drive is still one of the fastest consumer drives that money can buy in terms of read speed – at least if you can tap into its SATA 3.0, 6Gbps support. They’re definitely not cheap, but considering the performance gain many power users will consider one of these little miracles a bargain. Micron announced its RealSSD C300 solid-state drive late last year, and already back then we heard rumors of staggering 355MB/s sequential reads. Now it’s been released via Micron’s consumer brand Crucial.

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Available in 256GB, 128GB and 64GB capacities.

The Crucial RealSSD C300 indeed reaches read speeds of almost 355MB/s and write speeds of just over 215MB/s. Even if it writes at slightly more modest rates, this is performance that makes most competitors shake in their boots. Even reading and writing small 4KB files – usually the Achilles heel of SSDs – yields exceptional results in synthetic benchmarks.Micron/Crucial have had some problems with its TRIM implementation and thus performance would deteriorate over time. They notably failed to address the issue with an intermittent firmware update, but the latest version seems to be doing fine. When looking purely at the sheer performace of the C300, it crushes the competition in some benchmarks. For now, the RealSSD C300 seems almost unbeatable as an enthusiast drive for consumers, and even for professionals provided the firmware issues are completely resolved.

With SATA 6Gbps the RealSSD easily outperforms the otherwise excellent 2nd-generation Intel X25-M – especially in write performance, and it also handily outpaces the Indilinx-based OCZ Vertex. Looking at the overall scores from PCMark Vantage the differences even out, but the C300 is still ahead:

The Intel performs admirably and reliably in the PCMark Vantage benchmark, which mimics real-world applications and data transfers. It only falls behind the RealSSD C300 marginally with 38,554 points for the Intel SSD compared to the C300’s 40,352. Surprisingly, the Vertex gets a mere 24,893 in this test – by all means not a poor result compared to some other drives, but well behind the two top models.

The Crucial C300 supports Trim and comes in two capacities – 128GB and 256GB with an MSRP of $499 and $799 respectively.  It’s not cheap, but if you want the word’s fastest SSD this is the one. Since the other manufacturers are taking their time with 6Gbps SATA support, it looks like the RealSSD C300 will stay on top at least until late 2010.

Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB | Amazon Marketplace
Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB | Amazon Marketplace Amazon UK

[xrr rating=4.5/5]

Site founder and storage enthusiast.

  1. I pulled the trigger on the 128 gig version and so far I’m really happy with the performance.

  2. it’s considerably faster in SATA-2 as well, but so are the Sandforce drives. the x25-m is getting old 😉

  3. Thanks for the info! I’ve been trying to compare various SSDs and ended up with the Intel X25, but now I’m not so sure… The RealSSD looks a whole lot faster, but I can’t use it with SATA3 as I’m putting it in my VAIO laptop. Probably faster anyway?

  4. Wheres the comparison to the Intel x25-e?

  5. JJ,
    Good point. First of all, I haven’t gotten my hands on an x25-e unit yet 🙁 On the other hand, the x25-e is explicitly a server/enterprise drive based on SLC NAND, so it wouldn’t be a fair apples-to-apples comparison.

  6. I dropped $1270 on 2 of the 256gb jewels. I have them in my Dell Precision M6400 Quad core Mobile workstation. They are configured in a raid 0 with a 128k stripe. I believe it to be some of the best money I have spent. They are Fast, FAST, and did I mention they’re Really fast. I have Win7 x64 and it boots in under 1 minute. I have ubuntu 10.4 on the other boot. Its up in 20 secs. My throughput is avg. around 320-375 mb/sec. I am a CAD designer I do lots of solid models and the like. I can animate and render without even the slightest hiccup. If you can spend the money you won’t be sorry. Just make sure you have the latest firmware update.

  7. Thanks a lot for the interesting info, Richard! Sounds like a great setup. Those stripe sizes are always an interesting experiment, but most users seem to get the best results when skipping the small sizes and choosing 128k or larger with SSDs (although i have no idea what usually works best for CAD).

  8. “the x25-e is explicitly a server/enterprise drive based on SLC NAND, so it wouldn’t be a fair apples-to-apples comparison.”
    There is no much difference when it comes to performance, as SLC just means more erase cycles and will last (much) longer. Despite the high read/write speed under heavy load any MLC SSD won’t last very long. That is the main difference, not the “enterprise” word. Most MLC drives despite their high price can’t compete with lifetime of usual cheap HDDs under heavy load. Their speed and shock resistance is the only advantage.
    Under constant 24/7 write load this model would last for just 3-4 months, while the same capacity SLC drive with same wear leveling would last for over 5 years.

  9. vt: Thanks for yout input and sorry that you got stuck in moderation. That issue should be fixed now. I agree with your views on the “enterprise” moniker and there’s no doubt that HDDs are the cheaper alternative even if you build a failsafe RAID 1+0 array vs. no RAID for the SSD. As for effective lifetime, MLC drives are rarely if ever used in constant 24/7 write load environments, but even then a 3-4 month lifespan is extremely pessimistic considering the average MTBF values of today’s drives.

  10. It is actually A VERY OPTIMISTIC value for modern MLC drives under heavy load. MTBF has nothing to do with the actual lifespan, it is just a value specifying the number of failures in a huge array of drive within some time from their initial use. After that time the number of the drives failed will drastically increase.
    Those “hours” are not calculated for a single drive, it is for the whole array of drives for some SHORT TIME of their initial use. To put it simple, If we have 1000 drives and test them for 1 year, and 3 drives fail, the value would be 1000/3 * 1 year ~ 2920000 MTBF, but IF we test them for 7 years, and 90% drives fail (900), the calculated MTBS would be 1000/900 * 7 years ~ 2839 hours (JUST “SO MUCH”, 1000x less). If we test them further, the value would eventually go close to zero. Also, for SSD drives there is some SPECIFIC load assumed, assuring that they would easily fail under actual heavy LOAD, and their actual lifetime has NOTHING TO DO with their declared MTBF.
    To clarify the things, i can describe the calculations for 256 GB MLC drives. MLC has a maximum of 5000 erase cycles (almost all modern chips). Therefore it can endure ONLY 256 * 5000 = 1,28 PB information written (in the MOST OPTIMISTIC SCENARIO, actually it would rarely last even half of that without huge degradation or becoming inoperative). If we put it under constant load of 100 MB/sec, we are going to use up its all write endurance in less than 149 days (almost 5 months), but actually it won’t last even half of that due to limitations of the hardware and “imperfect” wear algorithm. Therefore 3-4 months lifetime estimation under constant load is a VERY OPTIMISTIC value.

  11. Also, their read cycles are ACTUALLY not unlimited. The number is somewhat over 1000000 read cycles, but if you test it by reading some small file over and over for some prolonged time without caching, the block will be moved by the drive hardware and the old block would be marked as “BAD”. That is 1 “BAD” block in less than a hour.

  12. That is the reason for serious applications SLC memory is used – MLC just won’t be a reliable solution even for a few months (as under constant load their MTBF could fall even way below 1000 MTBF). Performance-wise there is actually no much difference, and it is pointless to compare their speed. Their lifetime is the actual difference.

    And even the best SLC drives under heavy load could lose to enterprise-class (it mostly means reliability) HDDs when it comes to their lifetime.

    Therefore, MLC drives are nothing more than a fast, expensive, but short-lived toy.

  13. […] hard drives in nearly all situations. For example, one of the fastest drives right now, the Crucial RealSSD C300, reads data at up to 355 megabytes per second, which is more than four times as fast as a regular […]

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