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  • Robbster - 960GB is BEST combination of Capacity, Speed, Security and Price for TB-class SSD! - Updated: OPAL SUPER HIGH SECURITY works!

    This review is for the 960GB version of the M500. This drive represents a great combination of capacity, speed and cost, by far the best combination if you need the 1TB size as I do.

    I've owned many SSDs over recent years, using them both as primary drives in laptops and desktops, as well as a few for archive storage. Most have been 512GB in size, as my laptop usage involves LOTS of video and other large file size work. For several years I've felt the pinch of the 512GB limit in SSD drive size. Yes, you could spend a couple grand or more on some specialty drives that were TB class, but I could not justify the cost. So, I've been hungry for a drive just like the Crucial M500, and was very excited to see it come to market. Pro's and Con's below.

    Pro's
    +Only "affordable" TB class SSD. Outstanding value given size and speed!
    +Fast in the absolute, and faster than expected for size (see benchmarks, below).
    +7mm thickness means fits in many more current laptops
    +General reputation for reliability from Crucial and the Micron/Intel joint venture that produces the NAND chips used as storage in Crucial drives.
    +960 GB configuration is an optimum size for the Marvel controller, meaning this size drive (and perhaps the 480GB) will provide the highest speeds within the M500 series of drives. Smaller drives will drop off a bit in speed due to lower degree of parallel processing for the combination of controller channels and number of NAND chips used.
    +Encryption and ATA Password security features work well. Many other security features for other scenarios (e.g., works with Windows 8 and BitLocker to enable fast hardware based encryption, though I did not test the latter).

    Con's
    -Lower write cycle life for 20nm NAND chips. This generation of SSD NAND chips is from 20nm fab process, meaning *rated* write cycles are down vs. older, lower resolution fab processes (rating from Crucial is 72 total TB written, which they translate to 40GB/day for 5 years, or more importantly as an absolute measure, 75 write cycles per NAND byte). Practically, this may mean nothing to a specific user, who will outgrow the drive before exceeding the write life of the memory, but worth noting if you have some application that is going to write many 100's of GB/day to the drive.

    Benchmark in my HP Elitebook 2760p (QM67 chipset, 6 GB/s SATA3 connection to HD)

    Crucial M500 960GB SSD
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
    Crystal Dew World :
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

    Sequential Read : 455.903 MB/s
    Sequential Write : 425.904 MB/s
    Random Read 512KB : 403.298 MB/s
    Random Write 512KB : 403.500 MB/s
    Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 19.397 MB/s [ 4735.6 IOPS]
    Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 49.204 MB/s [ 12012.7 IOPS]
    Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 250.442 MB/s [ 61143.1 IOPS]
    Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 254.621 MB/s [ 62163.3 IOPS]

    Test : 1000 MB [C: 47.1% (421.3/894.0 GB)] (x5)
    Date : 2013/06/19 14:35:06
    OS : Windows 7 Enterprise Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    For comparison, here are the results for the excellent Samsung 830 512GB SSD that was replaced by the M500

    Samsung 830 512GB SSD
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
    Crystal Dew World :
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

    Sequential Read : 357.185 MB/s
    Sequential Write : 394.004 MB/s
    Random Read 512KB : 278.830 MB/s
    Random Write 512KB : 327.789 MB/s
    Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 16.308 MB/s [ 3981.4 IOPS]
    Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 36.488 MB/s [ 8908.1 IOPS]
    Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 288.206 MB/s [ 70362.9 IOPS]
    Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 142.322 MB/s [ 34746.6 IOPS]

    Test : 1000 MB [C: 83.8% (395.3/471.6 GB)] (x5)
    Date : 2012/04/16 9:28:01
    OS : Windows 7 Enterprise Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Net, HIGHLY recommended for everyday use!

    ****************** September 5, 2013 update - Implementing HIGHEST Level of Data Security - M500 is OPAL compliant, and WinMagic SecureDoc Works well with M500! ****************

    I recently installed WinMagic's SecureDoc Stand-Alone edition to implement a higher level of data security on this drive, and it works great!

    Details...

    What it is:
    WinMagic's SecureDoc is software that works with the OPAL security features of the Crucial M500 as a Self-Encrypting Drive (SED) to provide very fast and secure full disk encryption (FDE).

    Why you might want it:
    When you combine SecureDoc SED management software with M500 hardware encryption, every bit of data on your drive is encrypted, and the security is VERY hard to break. Further, there is zero performance penalty (see DiskMark data below). I had been using an ATA password (as described in my earlier update, below), but discovered that this had been defeated on some drives with relative ease, and that there was even inexpensive software available(A-FF) to help disable an ATA password without knowing the password AND without wiping the data! While I was NOT able to confirm that the M500's ATA password could be defeated with these tools/hacks, I decided that it was time for a more state of the art approach. Research led me to 1) the Trusted Computing Group standards body 2) the OPAL standard for self-encrypting drives, which the M500 meets! 3) the way SED management software works to enable OPAL and very robust security 4) the theory behind why this was much more secure than ATA passwords, meeting many government security requirements and finally, 5) finding software that an INDIVIDUAL could buy to implement Opal (many of the software tools for Opal are enterprise level and not even available to individuals). It came down to Microsoft's BitLocker, and WinMagic's SecureDoc. A point of confusion with all of the SED management software I researched is that they provide their own SOFTWARE based encryption option (which I did NOT want, too slow, less secure), but will also work with the HARDWARE encryption of SED drives and BYPASS their own SOFTWARE encryption, a much more recent development that has big benefits in speed, security, and reliability). In the end, I liked the simplicity and flexibility of SecureDoc most, they had a stand alone version for individual use, and the price was reasonable at about 100 bucks, so that is the way I went.

    Setup:
    Bought, downloaded and installed SecureDoc Stand-alone edition for Windows, followed the wizards to set up encryption keys, password, and to create rescue media in case of any future problems. Took under 10 minutes, and, most importantly to me, uses the HARDWARE encryption built into the M500 so that there is NO performance hit, and NO lengthy first encryption as when you use SOFTWARE based encryption (e.g., BitLocker's software based encryption, or TrueCrypt). Note that I had to remove Acronis disk imaging software and turn ATA password security off on the drive in order for SecureDoc to work, but this was easily worth it to me for the greatly enhanced data security provided the SecureDoc/M500 combination.

    How it works:
    SecureDoc creates a pre-boot environment (pre-Windows 7 - 64bit in my case) that appears each time you boot your computer and BEFORE the operating system loads. Here is where you enter the SecureDoc password you created (the Access Key or AK password in OPAL terms). When you do, SecureDoc works with the M500 to enable the encrypted data on the M500 to be read. If you do NOT enter your AK password in the pre-boot environment, NO data can be read from the drive nor will your computer boot. Anyone who gets hold of your drive can attempt to defeat your SecureDoc AK password (so, if you take this approach, set a strong and memorable password), though SecureDoc lets you set how many attempts are allowed before the drive is blocked (default is 15 attempts, then you'd need to use your rescue media to unblock the drive). No data can be read from the drive without passing this initial step, nor can they retrieve either your AK password or the actual Drive Encryption Keys, which are never stored as clear text. Google Opal and the Trusted Computing Group for more, in some cases very nerdy, info :-).

    Performance impact:
    In theory, NONE! Because our beautiful M500 drives have AES256 bit encryption running on every byte of data all the time anyway! However, to put this to the test, I re-ran Crystal DiskMark on my M500 after installing SecureDoc. See results below, for comparison with values I posted in my original review. You'll see that read times are not really affected, sequential writes are down a bit, but random 4k reads and writes actually increased! Remember that Crystal DiskMark runs inside Windows, so the drive is not isolated from other use while the benchmark is running, hence you always get some variability in results from run to run. In normal use, I notice NO impact from SecureDoc.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
    Crystal Dew World :
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

    Sequential Read : 447.663 MB/s
    Sequential Write : 350.968 MB/s
    Random Read 512KB : 410.729 MB/s
    Random Write 512KB : 347.786 MB/s
    Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 20.093 MB/s [ 4905.5 IOPS]
    Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 43.262 MB/s [ 10562.0 IOPS]
    Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 337.454 MB/s [ 82386.3 IOPS]
    Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 288.963 MB/s [ 70547.7 IOPS]

    Test : 1000 MB [C: 72.0% (643.3/894.0 GB)] (x5)
    Date : 2013/09/05 1:15:24
    OS : Windows 7 Enterprise Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)

    Net, if you want the HIGHEST level of data security to protect a lost or stolen drive/laptop, the M500, combined with SED management software like SecureDoc, is highly recommended! For a lower level of protection, but at no cost, you can use the ATA password approach outlined in the June update, below.

    ****************** June 22, 2013 update - ATA Security/Self-Encryption features work well ****************

    Using the M500 Hardware Encryption feature via an ATA Password (aka, Hard Drive or Drive Lock)

    Just enabled an ATA hard drive password to take advantage of the Self Encrypting Drive and AES256 Hardware Encryption security features of the M500 to provide additional data protection should the laptop be lost or stolen. Worked flawlessly on my laptop, the HP2760p with latest BIOS. Now my data is considerably safer.

    The M500 encrypts and decrypts all data all the time, however, *unless you set a password on the drive* or use BitLocker or similar software, the data on the drive can still be read by anyone, because the drive uses encryption keys that decode the drive *automatically* UNLESS the keys are reset and encrypted using security software or the drives' security features. I chose the ATA Password approach to require a hard drive password each time I boot my laptop (ATA passwords are on the drive electronics, and the prompt comes up before you enter the operating system, i.e., during BIOS initiation). If the ATA password is not entered, no boot, and no one can read the data off the drive in your machine, or on another computer, without specialized hardware/software.

    ATA Passwords are enabled and the values set in a computer's BIOS. For my HP 2760p, I simply entered the BIOS, turned on the "Drive Lock" feature, which is HP's name for ATA Passwords, set the master and user passwords for the drive to something strong, and rebooted. Instant additional protection. Setting the ATA password reset the encryption keys on the drive to new values, and the encryption keys are now only decrypted and accessible to read the drive if the ATA password is input at boot time. Also, there is NO impact on drive read/write speed with this approach for the obvious reason that all data on the M500 passes through the encryption/decryption hardware all the time anyway!

    Should you desire to use this feature, suggest careful research to ensure that your computer and BIOS fully support the ATA password standards. Further, if you lose or forget your passwords, no drive access until a secure drive reset is done, which wipes your data, so take robust steps to never lose your hard drive password. The ATA password field is full of opinions about how well this actually protects your data. The info I found indicated that ATA security features of the M500 and my lappy are pretty strong, so seems likely that this is a meaningful additional layer of protection. I don't expect any data protection scheme to be 100% foolproof, and I did eventually find both hacks and software that claimed to defeat ATA passwords without wiping data on the drive, but I'm comfortable that this helps, and am glad the M500 has a robust set of security features that I can use with such ease and no incremental cost.

    ****************** August 7, 2013 update - Cloning software/info ****************

    Thought a little drive cloning detail may be helpful. I was cloning an Win7 drive and used Acronis TrueImage 2013. I also use Acronis to do hard drive image backups on a regular schedule, so already owned it.

    Acronis is very full featured, but can be fussy. For this drive cloning, I created an image of my hard drive on a larger external drive, then restored the image to the new Crucial M500 on a desktop machine by connecting both the drive with the image and the M500 to the desktop machine. Once restoration was complete, I just put the drive back in my lappy and fired it up, worked great. I find restoring an image to a new drive using a different computer works more reliably of late than cloning in place (on the same machine) with Acronis (tsk tsk, Acronis), but the process I used is fine for me. Back in the day I used to use Norton Ghost, but it's been many years. I really like cloning software I can kick off in Windows.

    I can also highly recommend the IcyDock Ext 2.5" Single Bay Sata/usb or it's USB3 sibling as cases to hold the M500 during the cloning process, they are very well built and, via eSATA or USB3, very fast ways to clone your drive. Personally, since I own cloning software and good 2.5" drive enclosures, I'm glad the drive case and cloning software were not bundled with the M500, so I did not have to pay for unneeded items.

  • C. Cronk - Great tablet for adults... and kids!!!

    If you are considering getting your child a tablet, please consider a Kindle Fire HD. They have a program called "Kindle Free Time." We had already experienced that dreaded feeling you get when you think you've locked down your tablet really well before you let your kid play Angry Birds, and they end up on YouTube. Whoops. With Free Time, you choose exactly what apps, movies, and books they have access too (that you download yourself), or they have a HUGE HUGE HUGE selection of kid safe tv and movie programs, books and educational/fun apps, all age appropriate. When in the Free Time app, kids are locked out of internet surfing, purchasing paid material... completely safe from all the things you wouldn't want them to get at. You have to enter a password to exit Free Time. We looked at a bunch of the "kid" tablets and none of them matched the Kindle Fire.

    I should mention that Free Time is $2.99 a month (with Prime membership), but considering that the average paid app/show/book is between $1-4, I have no problem spending that because my son gets new material all the time.

    Also, Amazon has great customer service - we had an issue with the unit freezing and then not starting up and they sent out a new one, before we even had sent the defective unit back. Amazing.

    Only problem is... now I kind of want one!!!

  • J Martin - hits the mark

    A very good eye view from a " grunts " point of view. Written in the vernacular of the times. Almost puts one on the battlefield.
    I've been to Gettysburg 5 or 6 times and while very beautiful, you only get a true view by seeing pictures taken right after the conflict. The horror of the battle is then appreciated.
    No matter which side you may lean towards,the unbridled courage and heroism of the soldiers on both sides of this battle must be recognized.
    Peters presents this view well.