Reviewed: Crucial’s P3 Plus NVMe SSD

Verdict: Great writing performance, reasonable read performance. Good perf/$

Today we’ll be looking at the Crucial P3 Plus SSD. Crucial is a brand of Micron Technology, which is one of the oldest and most well known names in the storage sector – it was founded 43 years ago in 1978 and is based out of Boise, Idaho, USA. Crucial’s lineup currently includes SATA & NVMe SSDs as well as DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 RAM for desktops, laptops, and servers.

Technical Specifications

Unit ModelCrucial P3 Plus 1TB
Form FactorM.2 2280
InterfacePCIe 4.0 x4/NVMe 1.4
Rated Sequential Read/Write5000/3600 MB/s
Memory TypeQLC
ControllerPhison PS5021-E21T
SecurityTCG OPAL2.0/Pyrite, AES256, SHA512, RSA4096
Endurance220 TB
Warranty5 years

Overview & Features

The Crucial P3 Plus is designed for mainstream consumers looking for a good performing drive that doesn’t break the bank. It is built using Phison’s PS5012-E21T, a quad-channel controller powered by a ARM Cortex-R5 CPU and manufactured using TSMC’s 12nm process node. This controller fully supports Microsoft’s DirectStorage technology.

For the actual storage itself, the P3 Plus utilizes QLC built using Micron’s 176-layer QLC 3D NAND. Micron claims that it’s 176-layer 3D NAND is ~25% faster than it’s previous 128-layer 3D NAND. This drive utilizes a DRAM-less design which utilizes system memory for primary caching. For secondary caching, the Phison controller will utilize up to 20% of the free space available in SLC mode.

As this is a QLC drive it isn’t as fast as higher end TLC drives, but what it lacks in top speeds it makes up with an attractive price tag – it is currently available for $95 from Best Buy, NewEgg, and Amazon.

Storage Executive Software

Crucial offers it’s Storage Executive software available free of charge on it’s website. They advertise the following features

  • Enable the Momentum Cache feature and make many SSD operations up to 10x faster
  • Download the latest firmware
  • See how much storage you’ve used
  • Monitor your SSD’s operating temperature and overall health
  • Reset your SSD’s encryption password
  • Verify your SSD’s model number for warranty claims
  • Clear all data stored on the drive

If there are system configuration issues preventing optimal performance, the Storage Executive software will alert you to them.

Source: Storage Executive User Guide

One feature in particular I was interested in is the Over Provisioning feature, which allows you to allocate unused free space to the controller – improving both performance and endurance. Unfortunately this feature isn’t currently enabled for the P3 Plus drive. Fortunately, the write performance of the P3 Plus is very good even without tinkering with over provisioning.

If you absolutely need the best write performance possible there is another feature which will also improve performance – Momentum Cache. Enabling this feature will allow the drive to use a larger portion of system RAM to be used a cache for writing operations.

One can also perform various other functions using the Storage Executive software, such as updating the drive firmware or sanitizing the NAND (completely and fully erasing the unit).

For more information on Storage Executive, please see Crucial’s website or the YouTube video embedded below

Packaging

The P3 Plus comes in a small, light cardboard box, protected by sealed plastic. Included in the box are the NVMe SSD, a M.2 screw, and a guide which covers warranty information and directs users to the Crucial website for other information and software tools.

Comparison Drives & Test Setup

To ensure that thermal bottlenecking did not negatively influence the results of my testing, I ordered QIVYNSRY m.2 SSD heatsinks to use with the SSDs I tested.

SSDs tested1tb Crucial P3 Plus (PCI-e 4.0)
1TB MSI Spatium M480 (PCI-e 4.0)
1TB Kingston Fury Renegade (PCI-e 4.0)
500 Sabrent Rocket 4.0 (PCI-e 4.0)
1.5 TB Intel Optane 905p (PCI-e 3.0)
MotherboardMSI z690 A PRO DDR4
CPUIntel i5-12600K

How I tested

I’ve been thinking of different ways to show the differences between storage drives for a while. For this review I tested the drives with a few “synthetic” benchmarks such as PerformanceTest and CrystalDiskMark. For a “real life” benchmark, I used Final Fantasy’s loading time benchmark. Lastly, I also ran 3 tests – a DiskMark test with 10,000 iterations, HD Tune’s Error Scan, and HD Tune’s Zero Fill. Each benchmark was run at least 5 times to ensure consistency.

I’m currently looking at better ways to benchmark game loading times, as of right now I believe the best way to do this would be using a capture card. To that end I plan on setting up a 2nd PC for video capture in order to be able to accurately capture the loading times of various applications.

Final Fantasy – Game Loading Times

In this game loading benchmark, the Crucial P3 Plus was ~2.5 seconds slower than the Sabrent & MSI drives.

Crystal Disk Mark

Looking at the “synthetic” results here, The P3 Plus performs better than the Sabrent Rocket 4.0 – but worse than MSI’s Spatium M480 on average. Things get a little bit more interesting once we switch the testing to the “Real World” profile….

The “Real World” profile tells a different story – showing the P3 Plus to perform similarly to, and sometimes better than, MSI’s Spatium M480. This is not something I was expecting from a budget drive!

HD Tune Error Scan

I choose the Error Scan & Zero Fill options in HD Tune to test complete reads and writes of the drives. I only tested the Crucial, MSI, and Kingston drives in this test as I felt the results from these tests with the other drives would not be comparable due to size differences.

When running the error scan, the higher end MSI & Kingston drives completed the test in a reasonable amount of time – under 13 minutes. You’ll notice I didn’t include the results of the P3 Plus on the graph – that’s because it took over 2 hours to complete. Put another way, it took the P3 10x as long in comparison to Kingston and MSI drives tested here.

However, when running the Zero Fill test the Crucial P3 Plus performed exceptionally quick – completing this workload in less than half the time that the other drives took to complete this workload.

PerformanceTest – Disk Mark

The results from Performance Test were a bit curious. In the Sequential reading test, the P3 Plus performed rather poorly. For sequential writing performance, the P3 Plus was slower than the MSI M480 – but faster than the Sabrent Rocket 4. The IOPS numbers were quite interesting, however, with the P3 Plus leading the other tested PCI-e 4 SSDs in the worst case scenarios – but falling behind them in more typical scenarios.

DiskMark

For DiskMark, I used 10k iterations with 128 IOs/8MB per Iteration. The results from this test were rather curious. When testing reading times, the Crucial P3 Plus performed worse than the other PCI-e 4 drives tested. Writing times, however, were the exact opposite – Crucial’s P3 Plus was ~25% faster than it’s closest competitor in this test.

Conclusion

Crucial’s P3 Plus is a solid budget NVMe drive which will satisfy the needs of most users. It has exceptionally strong writing performance and it’s price of only $95 USD makes it an attractive budget option.

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