Coming from the OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid, we had reasons to remain skeptical about the viability of SSD caching. However, we are glad to report the Crucial Adrenaline is a much better product. At a third of the price, you get a more flexible option that's also a fair bit faster when paired with a quality hard drive.
For SSD caching to make sense, it must improve performance without breaking the bank and this is why the RevoDrive Hybrid completely missed the point.
The Adrenaline showed overall positive results, but it's important to understand what will be sped up and under what conditions, so let’s quickly summarize the performance as we saw it.
For copying, compressing or extracting files SSD cache technology isn’t nearly as effective as a standalone SSD. Although we found it useless for copying large files that exceed 1GB, it was very effective when working with multiple smaller files, even on the first run.
The real-world performance gains will vary a lot and the performance will likely depend on how regularly you repeat a task. In our tests, the Windows 7 boot time performance was drastically improved. However if you don’t reset for quite some time, the load time slows back down. Still, our multi-tasking performance gain was inspiring, even after the first run.
We have yet to test OCZ's competing Synapse SSD, but unlike the SandForce controllers, Crucial's m4 SSD does not suffer when working with compressed data. The only weakness is that the 64GB model provides comparatively poor write performance.
With the Crucial Adrenaline we cannot be too critical of the performance gains because $100 isn’t much to pay to improve system performance, even if it’s not across the board. When the Adrenaline is being effective it’s well worth the asking price and honestly this is a product I would happily purchase for use in my own system.
The Dataplex software (the licensing part of it) isn’t perfect but it's been improved considerably since last year. It did prevent us from switching the drive to a new system in spite of following instructions for doing so. NVELO tells us that that Crucial should be able to reset the license key in seconds, but I guess you have to get onto the right people for that, as we had to wait quite a few days.
NVELO also says that there are no benchmark optimizations going on. Rather because CrystalDiskMark is just measuring input/output performance the 64GB cache is able to take care of it entirely in-house leaving the hard drive out of the equation. They say it is the same scenario when looking at other benchmark programs such as IOMeter. Therefore we feel readers should ignore those results and focus on our File Copy Test and Real-World Applications pages. Honestly I would have been happy to leave out the synthetic benchmarks, but I anticipated many of you wanted to see them so there you have them.
Licensing issues aside, the NVELO Dataplex software does an excellent job of enhancing system performance without you knowing it’s even there. The Crucial Adrenaline is SSD cache done well and for that it gets our recommendation.
Pros: Caching works well, improves performance in many scenarios. Price is adequate for what you are getting. Can be used as a drop-in upgrade.
Cons: Software licensing should be less intrusive. A small SSD remains faster at the same price.