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Crucial P1 review: Great-value SSD storage

James Archer
4 Mar 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
80
inc VAT

Don't be fooled by its slow sequential speeds: in normal use, the P1 is an exceptional bargain

Pros 
Outstanding value
Durable
Impressive read and write speeds
Cons 
A lower capacity option would be welcome
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Crucial has never made an NVMe SSD until now, despite a long and illustrious history with SATA drives. The simply named P1 isn’t just unusual for this reason, either: it’s also a rare instance of a consumer SSD using quad-level cell (QLC) NAND flash memory.

Just like how multi-layer cell (MLC) stores two bits of data per cell, and triple-level cell (TLC) holds three bits, QLC flash stores four bits per cell.

The main benefit of allowing for data to be stored so densely is that it allows for higher capacities without taking up as much physical space as MLC or TLC storage, although this isn’t particularly helpful on a standard 80mm M.2 drive; it’s more of a help to server rack owners. QLC is also the slowest, and has the worst endurance.

Crucial P1 review: Price and competition

Why, then, would Crucial choose QLC? For one thing, it’s cheap. Much like the firm’s BX500, the P1 is presented as a storage drive for those on tight budgets, and QLC memory helps keep the cost down. So far down, in fact, that this is the most affordable NVMe drive we’ve seen yet: the smallest 500GB model, which we’re testing here, works out at a mere 16p per gigabyte, while the 1TB model is just 15.5p.

Even next to other value-oriented SSDs such as the Adata XPG SX6000 Pro, these are some very tempting prices, as the 512GB SX6000 Pro is 20.8p per gigabyte. The older yet higher-end Samsung 970, meanwhile, has only dropped to 21.7p.

Crucial P1 review: Performance speeds

The 1TB model looks an even better deal, as the 500GB model has surprisingly lower advertised sequential speeds: 1,900MB/s read and only 950MB/s write, the latter being remarkably low by NVMe standards. The 1TB version is said to have a 2,000MB/s read and a 1,700MB/s write speed. It’s common for larger capacities to be slightly faster, but seldom by this much.

Our testing with CrystalDiskMark showed the 500GB model’s numbers to be fairly accurate, as it scored 1,909.5MB/s in the standard sequential read test and 980.6MB/s in the sequential write test.

These results, true to the type of memory being used, are slower than those of the TLC-based SX6000 Pro, and much slower than those of the MLC-based 970 Evo. However, in the random 4K test, it was a far closer contest, with the P1 managing a respectable 337.5MB/s read speed and a 257.4MB/s write speed.

The P1 was also more competitive in our file transfer tests, which – like the 4K random test – more accurately recreates real-use cases than sequential benchmarks. Not that it suddenly became blazingly fast, but the P1’s 999.7MB/s read speed and 998.6MB/s write speed in our huge files test are nipping on the SX6000 Pro’s heels.

It also kept up the pace in the tougher large files test. Here, Adata’s SSD dropped to 825.3MB/s read and 820MB/s write, but the P1 managed a very good 985.9MB/s read and 984.3MB/s write speed. That’s even getting close to the 970 Evo, which came in at 995.3MB/s read and 1,010.8MB/s write – not a lot of extra performance, for what is certainly a lot of extra cash.

The P1 even took the lead in the small files write test, with 398.7MB/s, which is about 22MB/s faster than the SX6000 Pro and 35MB/s faster than the 970 Evo. Samsung’s SSD was back on top for read speeds, scoring 373MB/s, but that’s only a little better than the P1’s 364.2MB/s.

It’s not surprising that the P1 falls so far behind on sequential jobs, but we were deeply impressed by how well it kept up with costlier drives in our more realistic file transfer benchmarks. It also demonstrates how manufacturers’ listed speeds aren’t everything.

We won’t hazard a guess as to whether or not the 1TB model would be much faster in everyday use, but considering we’ve just seen a drive with a stated 950MB/s write speed overtake the 2,500MB/s 970 Evo in the small files test, you shouldn’t feel as though you’re getting a bad deal if you opt for the smaller model.

Crucial P1 review: Durability

QLC isn’t entirely vindicated, as the P1 does have lower durability than its rivals. The 500GB model is guaranteed for 100 terabytes written (TBW), one-third of the 512GB SX6000 Pro and 500GB 970 Evo, while the 1TB model is similarly modest at 200TBW.

That said, the only way you’ll break this before the five-year warranty runs out is if you’re writing several tens of gigabytes every single day, which seems unlikely in most cases.

Crucial P1 review: Verdict

Our only gripe with the Crucial P1 is that there isn’t a smaller, even cheaper capacity available; QLC lends itself better to larger drives, of course, but a 256GB or even 128GB version could have been irresistible to budget-conscious PC builders.

Nevertheless, the P1 represents outstanding value even at 500GB, and unless you’re in a line of work (or just have a hobby) that demands the very highest speeds at all times, it’s seriously worth a look.

Key specifications
Capacity500GB
Cost per gigabyte16p
InterfaceNVMe
Claimed read1,900MB/s
Claimed write950MB/s
WarrantyFive years RTB
Price£80

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