Crucial P1 NVMe SSD review: Fantastic value for the average user, but not for pros

It's a very good performer until it runs out of cache.

Credit: Crucial

I regularly end bargain TLC SSD reviews with the advice “Don’t buy it unless it’s a lot cheaper than the competition.” Until Crucial’s P1, no drive ever met that criteria. But the 17 cents per GB that the 1TB version will set you back is a good 8 cents cheaper than most of the competition. And, while it’s no blazing-fast Samsung 970  Pro, you don’t give up a ton of performance unless you regularly write 50GB (less with smaller capacities) or more. If you do, move along to another review.

Design and specs

The Crucial P1 is an x4 PCIE NVMe SSD that ships in the 2280 (22 mm wide, 80 mm long) form factor. The drive comes in 500GB and 1TB flavors that retail for $90 and $170 respectively. That’s a good $80 cheaper than most of the competition currently. They carry a 5-year warranty and are rated for 100TBW (TeraBytes Written) for every 500GB of capacity.

crucial p1 ssd flat image 1000gb Crucial

The P1 looks pretty much like any other 2280 NVMe/M.2 drive. It’s just cheaper.

That’s a relatively low TBW rating for an NVMe drive, but it’s no doubt part of the reason for the low price.  The scuttlebutt around the industry is that TBW ratings are worst-case scenarios that are generally exceeded but a large margin. And that’s still 54GB per day over the 5 years—more than most users are likely to write. And it is just writes—reading doesn’t affect longevity. 

Performance

Before I get to the results, please note that I tested the 1TB version of the drive. The 500MB version which I did not test, while cheaper, claims half the write performance. That’s a common phenomenon caused by having only half as many chips to spread the data across. It’s also likely to have less cache and fall prey to the slow TLC writes sooner. More on that in a paragraph or two.

crucial p1 cdm6 IDG

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The 1TB P1 actually passed all our standard tests, including the 48GB copies with flying colors, though it will never be mistaken for a Samsung 970 Pro, or even a 970 EVO. I’ve included the SATA drive to show just how much you’ll gain simply by moving to NVMe from SATA. Keep that in mind with all our NVMe reviews: Even the slowest is faster than SATA by a healthy margin.

crucial p1 no slowdown IDG

No problem for the 1TB P1 when copying less than 50GB.

It was only during the 450GB write test, which we regularly run to see how things proceed when the cache runs out, that the drive slowed down—tragically.

crucial p1 big slowdown IDG

A big problem when the 1TB P1 writes more than 50GB at a time.

By tragic, I’m talking roughly 95MBps, or more than a 1000-percent drop, as you can see in the image above. Ouch.

crucial p1 as ssd 4k IDG

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For normal everyday use, with NVMe’s stellar seek times and small file performance, the P1 remains an great bargain because of the price. But it’s not the drive for you if you regularly write large amounts of data. 

crucial p1 48gb IDG

Though hardly best-of-breed, the P1’s copy times were still reasonable, and far better than the SATA drive we included for a technology comparison.

It’s the budget drive

Price will out. The P1 is the first bargain SSD to that saves you enough money to forgive the occasional super-slow write. If you want fast sustained throughput when copying more than 50GB of data (or likely 25GB with the 500GB version), you’ll need to spend at least another $80 for WD’s Black SN750 NVMe. Your choice. 

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Jon L. Jacobi

PC World (US online)
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