Looking at the Crucial Adrenaline m4 50GB cache drive by itself, Windows shows 59.6GB (actually GiB) available to the user. With 64GB of NAND on board, there’s 7% overprovisioning to assist with drive maintenance activities which the Marvell controller handles without intervention from the user.
Let’s start our recap with a look at what you get with the 50GB drive. First and most importantly, you get a serial key to download the Dataplex software which makes the cache operation possible. Once set up, it’s fire and forget as it requires no further action from the user to do its thing. Secondly, you get a 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapter plate complete with screws and a matching blue SATA cable. Installation is easy enough for even the most newbie of users, especially with Crucial’s how to video we displayed on the first page of the article.
In terms of performance, it’s a mixed bag. Most operations like boot, frequently used file/application loads, etc are dramatically enhanced with times rivaling some of the top SSDs. However, the Dataplex software must first prioritize this data which can take a few iterations before it really hits its stride. Basically this means performance can feel uneven depending on your computing habits. Anyone not using Windows 7 is out of luck because currently that is the only OS the software supports. Most laptop users are excluded as well since they have no second drive bay to install the cache drive. All of these things aren’t unique to the Adrenaline drive but having an onboard cache solution (i.e. Z68 boards) or even an mSATA slot (i.e. Z77 boards) forgo the need for an extra drive bay. We don’t have the raw number specifications from Crucial but the SATA 6Gbps interfaced Adrenaline drive should be in line with their m4 64GB drive which is 500MB/s & 95MB/s read/writes. The writes may appear to be low but the reads are where the performance will be evident to the user.
As far as value goes, it’s an attractive option. We all know that SSDs are one of the easiest and best solutions for speeding up your computer, so for $100 ($1.66/per usable GB) you get a solution that doesn’t require a lot of capital or time investment to get it up and running. Crucial has a great track record and since this is based of of their existing m4 line of drives, we know what to expect. For your peace of mind, they offer a three year warranty to cover all drive defects. We expect the cache drives to continue to grow in popularity until the larger SSDs (256GB+) become affordable to the masses which will effectively diminish if not outright eliminate the need for a cache solution. Until then, we’ll continue to see similar drive hit the market as well as mSATA based cache drives which could really do well in the notebook realm.
Legit Bottom Line: With the Crucial Adrenaline m4 50GB SSD cache drive, you can seamlessly integrate an SSD into your existing Windows 7 install to boost your overall system speed. For $100, this is one of the best bang-for-your-buck upgrades you can buy.