I use my PC mainly for gaming (racing/simulator), photo processing, video creation, working on documents, entertainment (music and videos) and internet browsing. Before the Crucial M4, my PC configuration (based on a P55 chipset) looked something like this: Windows 7 64-bit, Processor: i5-760 (@ 2.8 Ghz), 8 GB RAM, 2xGTX 460 (in SLI), 1 TB HDD.
My choice for the HDD (spinning at 5400 rpm) wasn't the wisest and I could see how much it affected my system's overall performance. Adding a SSD-HDD was really the only way I could maximise the potential of my system.
I've been watching the evolution of the SSDs from the the past couple of years. Apart from the prices, (earlier) firmware issues kept me from investing in a SSD-HDD. However, as the performance of the SSDs had started to become more stable (compared to earlier), I thought it was the right moment to start looking for something to upgrade my system with.
Since the SSD will be used as a system drive (OS+programs and the current game that I'm playing), a 120/128 GB SSD-HDD was my target. My criteria for selection were: 1. Performance on SATA III (6 Gbps) - although my system supports only SATA II, I wanted something that was 'future-proof' 2. Performance on SATA II (3 Gbps) - this was a critical point for selection 3. Reliability - many 'performance oriented' SSDs have the reliability of a leaking boat. I wanted something that had a proven track-record for reliability 4. Performance per $ 5. Cost per GB
It took me almost two weeks to gather enough information about all the SSDs in the market and check if they met my criteria. Many SSDs failed to meet criterion #2, which shortened my list to about 5 names.
The controller on the SSDs impacts the performance and also the reliability of a SSD. Sandforce controller based SSDs show better performance, but reliability differs from SSD manufacturer to manufacturer.
I was left with 2 names in the end: Mushkin Chronos Deluxe and Crucial M4.
The ultimate winner for me was the Crucial M4 for the following reasons: 1. Performance on SATAIII may not be the best, but with the 0009 firmware update, performance levels are right amongst the top Sandforce controller based SSDs. 2. Crucial M4 SSD drives have shown the least percentage performance drop when operating on SATAII. The Sandforce controller based drives, except the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe, are hit badly. 3. In terms of reliability, only Intel, Mushkin and Crucial have shown sustained stable results. 4. Crucial M4 ranks amongst the top SSDs for performance per $. It is only bettered by its older sibling the C300. 5. Crucial's SSDs have by far the best (or almost the best) cost per GB over the entire range of SSDs offered by any manufacturer. 6. Availability of Crucial M4 drives is better than Mushkin Chronos Deluxe.
Migrating my system drive (C:) from my old HDD to the Crucial M4 with a $19.95 software made a big mess. After migration, the SSD drive was not configured for optimum performance and after 3 re-boots, my geniune Windows 7 got invalidated. This forced me to take the much preferred route of a fresh install. Doing a fresh install (or reinstall) in the past was always a daunting task taking me sometimes up to 2 days to set up my PC right - with all required programs, settings etc. This incredible drive shrunk that time to 4 hours!!! The performance after the fresh install also improved significantly. The AS-SSD score went from 365 (post-migration) to 515 (fresh-install) - not bad for a SATAII.
To summarise, metaphorically, the addition of the Crucial M4 128 GB to my system is like the BMW M5. It is one of the best 'track-day' weapons, and it also seats 5 persons! Kudos to Crucial for a great product!