Crucial MX500 SSD Review — Tom’s Hardware
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Tom’s Hardware Verdict
Given the choice we would opt for the 1TB MX500 as our go-to SSD, but the 500GB looks really good at just $139.99. This is the model we would target as the entry-point for a high-performance gaming system.
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Long endurance rating
Excellent software package
Host power failure protection
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Update 11/18/2019: Even after nearly two years since we published this review in March 2018, the Crucial MX500 remains one of the Best SSDs you can buy thanks to its excellent combination of value and performance. We particularly like the value of the 1TB model, which currently goes for under $110, and the 2TB capacity, which sells for just over $200.
The SSD industry has been in a race to the bottom of the barrel, but due to the NAND shortage, we’ve often been given the bottom without the price drops to match. Micron’s new 64-layer NAND, which makes its way into the Crucial MX500, promises to tip the scales in the other direction with competitive performance and superior pricing.
- Crucial MX500 1TB at Best Buy for $61.99
For years, we’ve overlooked the Crucial brand for our enthusiast recommendations. We’ve felt let down by the company that introduced us to the C300, which was the world’s first SATA 6Gbps SSD. Since then, Crucial’s consumer SSDs have trailed the competition, and the performance gap between Crucial and other tier-one manufacturers has grown. Some of Crucial’s products even have similar performance to SSDs coming from tier-two and tier-three manufacturers. It isn’t just the performance that links Crucial SSDs to products from companies you most likely have never heard of; in some cases, the components inside the drives are identical.
But now Micron, Crucial’s parent company, has a revamped leadership team, many of which led SanDisk before it was sold to Western Digital. Familiar names are popping up in press releases, LinkedIn profiles have changed, and with the new blood comes a new spirit. Micron’s conservative past is far from over, but suddenly there is an enthusiasm that we haven’t seen in some time.
Micron’s new 64-layer 3D NAND powers the MX500, and it’s a needed upgrade. The previous-gen 384Gbit die presented challenges. Some SSD vendors populated fewer channels on the SSD controllers so the drives would adhere to “normal” capacity points. The problem, which stemmed from the unconventional die capacity, cropped up with numerous NVMe SSDs armed with the SMI SM2260 controller. Those controllers provide eight channels to the flash, but the odd die capacity forced companies to use just six. That led to reduced performance.
In early 2016, we learned that Micron’s second-gen 3D NAND would use a 768Gbit die. The company pulled that goal back in favor of a more traditional 256Gbit capacity that vendors can use to populate all the channels on commodity SSD controllers fully. That should help to boost performance. The company also has a massive 512Gbit die coming in the future.
Micron made other changes to the new 64-layer memory that improves both performance and cost. The new second-gen die is physically 30% smaller than the first generation. That allows the company to yield more die per wafer, which reduces cost. The engineering teams have also developed new algorithms that improve performance by altering the way the data is distributed in the NAND cells.
The MX500 is Crucial’s first consumer SSD to come armed with Micron’s newest NAND, and it has the 850 EVO squarely in its sights. Today, we’ll see if Crucial hit the target with a true Samsung 850 EVO competitor.
Crucial MX500 (250GB)
Crucial MX500 (500GB)
Crucial MX500 (1TB)
The Crucial MX500 will eventually come in four capacities and two form factors, but only the 1TB model will be available at launch. The 2TB model will only ship in the 2.5″ form factor while the 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB models will come in both 2.5″ and single-sided M.2 2280.
The MX500 uses the SMI SM2258 controller. We wrote a detailed preview of the SM2258’s capabilities back in August of 2016. The controller is an older model, but Crucial says its LDPC (Low-Density Parity-Check) error correction algorithms are powerful enough for the new 64-layer 3D NAND.
We’ve tested several products with the SM2258 controller paired with various types of NAND, but they weren’t that impressive. We’ve also tested Micron’s first-gen 32-layer 3D NAND paired with several different controllers over the last year, but it was very difficult to recommend any of the SSDs. The same controllers often deliver better performance with Toshiba flash. Micron’s new 64-layer 3D NAND is the key component that should improve the picture on both fronts.
All four capacities feature the same performance specifications. The MX500’s 560/512 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput is common for high-performance SATA SSDs. Random performance peaks at 95,000/90,000 read/write IOPS. Crucial lists the write performance as «up to,» but that’s also common in this era where advanced caching technology increases TLC NAND’s performance with an SLC buffer.
The MX series debuted back in 2014, and many of the core features carry over from the early models. The drives feature self-encrypting drive (SED) and full disk encryption (FDE). Encryption always runs in the background, but you have to enable TCG/Opal or the ATA Security command via the system BIOS to take full advantage of the AES-256 encryption engine.
Crucial still protects data at rest during a power fail event, but the new technique doesn’t require surface-mounted capacitors on the PCB. Micron has adjusted how it programs the upper and lower NAND pages to reduce the amount of power required to maintain signal integrity. This is a new technique for Micron’s NAND, but it provides similar protection to what we’ve seen with the MX series for many years.
Crucial’s Data Write Acceleration (DWA) feature uses an SLC buffer to boost the performance of the TLC SSD. Most SDDs utilize some type of SLC buffer, which is a designated portion of the NAND that runs in SLC mode (one bit per cell) to increase performance. The secret sauce changes from one company to the next, but the underlying algorithms are closely guarded. Most SSDs have a fixed SLC capacity, but Crucial’s dynamic buffer shrinks or grows depending on the condition of the drive and the amount of data stored on the flash.
Capacity for accelerated performance is derived from the adaptive usage of the SSD’s native NAND array without sacrificing user-addressable storage. Recent advances in Micron NAND technology enable the SSD firmware to achieve acceleration through on-the-fly switching between SLC and TLC modes to create a high-speed SLC pool that changes in size and location with usage conditions.During periods of idle time between write bursts, the drive may free additional capacity for accelerated write performance. The amount of accelerated capacity recovered during idle time depends on the portion of logical addresses that contain user data and other runtime parameters. In applications that do not provide sufficient idle time, the device may need to perform SLC-to-TLC data migration during host activity.
Pricing, Warranty & Endurance
Crucial will only ship the 1TB model at launch, but it released pricing and specifications for all four capacities. The MX500 1TB will sell for $259.99. That’s roughly $40 less than Samsung’s 850 EVO 1TB.
Crucial will ship the 2TB ($499.99), 500GB ($139.99), and 250GB ($79.99) models soon. The 2TB and 250GB models are much less expensive than the 850 EVO, but the 500GB model has a comparable price point.
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|Crucial MX500 — TBW (Terabytes Written)
|Samsung EVO — TBW (Terabytes Written)
Crucial matched the EVO’s five-year warranty period, but the MX500 has a much higher endurance rating. You can write 700TB to the 2TB MX500 before exhausting the warranty, which is more than twice the 2TB EVO’s endurance. The 1TB models follow the same formula, but the lead shortens in the smaller capacities. In either case, Crucial leads across the board.
Accessories & Software Package
Crucial is updating its Storage Executive software to support the MX500. The software allows you to monitor the SSD and provides a few standard tools, like secure erase, for drive maintenance. Storage Executive also features a useful tool to increase overprovisioning. That increases performance and endurance by providing the controller with more spare area for background operations.
Crucial’s Momentum Cache uses a small amount of system memory to cache write data before it reaches the SSD. Random write data flows into the system DRAM at high speeds and flushes to the SSD as less damaging sequential data. We’ve measured explosive write performance with Momentum Cache, but it also increases power consumption. We’ve included further testing on the following page.
Crucial also includes Acronis True Image HD software for cloning drives. Crucial doesn’t include the software in the box, so you have to download it from the company’s website.
Image 1 of 2
Crucial changed the colors slightly from previous MX-series SSD packaging, but the style remains the same. Crucial doesn’t list performance specifications on the box. It does give us some details about the warranty and software add-ons.
A Closer Look
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The packaging is slightly different, but the drive is almost identical. The label on the back with the model number is the only real difference. The MX500 uses a slim 7mm case design that’s commonly used in thin notebooks. Crucial includes a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter bracket for use in drive sleds that require the thicker profile.
Image 1 of 5
We found sixteen NAND packages with just two die apiece. This is very different from the MX300 that featured eight packages on the circuit board. The MX500 is also the first drive in this series with an SMI controller. Micron has used Marvell controllers for the MX series since it debuted in 2014. The MX300 came with a Marvell «Dean» controller.
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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom’s Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.
The Crucial MX500 1TB SSD Review: Breaking The SATA Mold
by Billy Tallison December 19, 2017 8:00 AM EST
- Posted in
- Silicon Motion
- 3D NAND
- 3D TLC
IntroductionAnandTech Storage Bench — HeavyAnandTech Storage Bench — LightRandom PerformanceSequential PerformanceMixed Read/Write PerformancePower ManagementConclusion
The Crucial MX500 is the next generation SATA SSD from Micron’s consumer division. As the latest MX series drive, the MX500 is positioned to be a mainstream product with solid performance but without much of a premium over entry-level SSDs. Since Micron has not yet released a consumer NVMe SSD, the Crucial MX500 will also serve as their flagship consumer drive and the showcase for their new 64-layer 3D NAND flash memory.
Micron is one of several NAND flash manufacturers to introduce 64L 3D NAND this year. They’re a bit late to the party considering that their NAND manufacturing partner Intel introduced started shipping their 64L 3D TLC in a retail drive six months ago, but Micron hasn’t missed their chance. All of the major NAND flash manufacturers except SK Hynix are still in the early phases of rolling out their 64L 3D NAND. In a major change from the state of the industry for the past several years, there’s no clear leader: Intel and Micron, Toshiba and Western Digital/SanDisk, and Samsung are all putting out products with competitive performance and pricing. The market is up for grabs, and the SATA segment that still makes up the bulk of consumer SSD sales is where the competition is fiercest.
To prepare for this next round of competition, the Crucial MX500 brings major hardware changes to what has been a slowly evolving product line stretching back to the first 6Gbps SATA SSD.
Crucial’s SSD Family
Micron has struggled a bit in recent years to come up with a clear strategy for their retail Crucial-branded SSDs. Their MX series originally hit the market with the MX100 budget drive that had high enough performance to have very broad appeal. The MX200 tried to move upmarket with increased performance, and the BX series was introduced beneath it as the entry-level alternative. Micron was unable to match the performance of the top SATA SSDs with their Crucial MX200, leaving it very close to the BX100 in price and performance, and their BX200 was a serious disappointment. As the high end of the SSD market has shifted from SATA to NVMe drives, it has become harder to make a case for maintaining two tiers of consumer SATA SSD products.
The MX300 has been a solid choice for many use cases and budgets, but it hasn’t been able to effectively serve the entire range of the SATA SSD market. Earlier this year, Micron introduced the Crucial BX300 as more of a niche product, specializing in performance at smaller capacities through the use of 3D MLC at surprisingly low prices. Today, Micron is skipping over the MX400 name entirely and introducing the MX500 with major changes under the hood that may allow it to be a solid replacement for both the MX300 and BX300 as they are phased out.
The 32L Intel/Micron 3D TLC used in drives like the Crucial MX300 was cheap and low-power, but didn’t perform as well as Samsung’s 3D NAND so it largely displaced planar TLC products and left Samsung’s 850 EVO and 850 PRO almost unchallenged for performance. Our testing of the Intel 545s revealed that their second generation 3D NAND had improved on many fronts, but one model doesn’t move the market all that much. The arrival of Micron’s 64L NAND in the MX500 means many other companies will soon be using that NAND in their own drives.
Micron’s launch strategy for the MX500 is similar to their launch of the MX300. We get one capacity today (1TB) and the rest of the lineup will be unveiled soon. The MX300 will be phased out relatively quickly as the MX500 lineup makes its way through the supply chain, but the BX300 will stick around a bit longer. Specific discontinuation dates haven’t been provided, but I expect the BX300 to remain in production for several more months at least. Micron hasn’t disclosed any plans for a BX400 or BX500 and instead they will probably let the BX line drop again until another niche opportunity comes along like the MX300’s weakness at lower capacities.
Buy Crucial MX500 1TB on Amazon.com
The NAND flash isn’t the only significant hardware change the MX500 brings. Micron has broken the trend of using Marvell SSD controllers in the MX series and instead chosen the Silicon Motion SM2258. Silicon Motion controllers have been used in all of the BX series drives and even beyond Micron’s products, SMI controllers tend to be more popular for budget products while Marvell’s controllers are usually found in more expensive and higher-performing SSDs. Silicon Motion has been working to improve their controllers and move toward the high end, but the MX500 isn’t even adopting the newer SM2259 controller Intel uses in the 545s. Micron says that the improvements in the SM2259 are more relevant for enterprise SSDs and that the SM2258 is good enough, when paired with their new 3D NAND.
In spite of the completely different controller, the MX500 offers all the standard features of the MX series. TCG Opal encryption is included (making this the first SMI drive we’ve tested with full self-encrypting drive capability). Micron’s partial power loss protection feature for data at rest is preserved, but implemented in a different fashion; they’re now also branding it as «power loss immunity». The impact is still the same: you don’t get the full protection that is standard for enterprise SSDs, but data that has already been written to the flash will not be corrupted if the drive loses power while writing a second pass of more data to the same cells. This is a feature that can only exist for drives storing more than one bit per memory cell (ie. MLC or TLC, but not SLC), and not using a one-shot programming sequence like is possible with Toshiba/SanDisk 3D NAND.
Previous MX series drives have included banks of capacitors to provide power for a short while after an unexpected loss of external power supply. Micron’s 64L 3D TLC substantially reduces the need for extra capacitors by offering a much more efficient NAND programing sequence, and by providing significant capacitance within the NAND package itself. The MX500 still includes more capacitors on its PCB than most consumer drives, but they’re not as large or numerous as on previous MX series drives. This reduction in BOM suggests that we may see other users of Micron flash implement an equivalent feature in their own products.
As with the MX300 and some MX200 models, the MX500 includes SLC write caching to accelerate bursty workloads.
|Crucial MX Series Specifications
|2. 5″, M.2 2280 double-sided
|Silicon Motion SM2258
|Micron 256Gb 64-layer 3D TLC
32-layer 3D TLC
|Micron 128Gb 16nm MLC
|4KB Random Read
|4KB Random Write
|Dynamic Write Acceleration
|5. 0 W
|TCG Opal 2.0 & IEEE-1667 (eDrive)
|360 TB (~0.2 DWPD)
|220 TB (~0.2 DWPD)
|320 TB (~0.3 DWPD)
|MSRP at launch
The performance specifications for the 1TB MX500 don’t reveal any particularly interesting changes; most SATA SSDs claim something around these numbers based on unrealistic assumptions about queue depths and I/O sizes. The specs for power consumption have been reduced slightly. The MX300 was very power efficient, but it wasn’t reflected that well in its basic specifications. Endurance has increased substantially to 360 TB, above even what the MLC-based 1TB MX200 offered. The warranty period has also been extended to five years, so the drive writes per day rating is not actually any better.
The introductory price of $259.99 is a bit higher than what the MX300 debuted with, but is pretty good considering how much flash prices have increased overall since then.
Micron’s spec sheet indicates there will be a M.2 2280 version of the 1TB MX500, but it will be a double-sided drive. Most manufacturers try to make their 1TB models single-sided these days so they can fit into all the same notebooks that the smaller capacities work with, and Samsung has even managed to make their 2TB 960 PRO a single-sided drive.
Gallery: Crucial MX500 1TB
The 1TB MX500’s PCB seems a bit larger than necessary, with 16 NAND flash packages each containing two of Micron’s 256Gb 64L 3D TLC dies. With just a four-channel controller, the only reason to split the NAND across so many packages is to save on packaging costs that come from stacking the NAND higher within a package. The partial power loss protection capacitors can be seen encircling the NAND package clusters, rather than being arrayed elsewhere on the PCB.
The switch to 64L 3D NAND means Micron is back to a nominal flash die capacity that is a power of two, so the unusual capacities and overprovisioning ratios of the MX300 are gone. The MX500 1TB has the standard capacity for a 1000GB drive, and the flash can be evenly balanced across the controller’s four channels.
The competition for the Crucial MX500 will consist primarily of other SATA SSDs using 3D NAND. Now that Toshiba/SanDisk 3D NAND is also shipping, we expect most brands still using planar NAND to soon discontinue those products in favor of successors using either Micron or Toshiba NAND.
Samsung’s 850 PRO and 850 EVO are still among the top SATA SSDs and the 850 EVO has at times offered great performance for its price, but they’re no longer alone at the top. The Intel 545s uses Intel’s version of the 64L 3D TLC in the MX500, along with the Silicon Motion SM2259 controller. The Western Digital WD Blue 3D NAND and its alter-ego SanDisk Ultra 3D use SanDisk’s 64L BiCS3 3D TLC NAND along with a Marvell controller, and also threaten Samsung’s dominance in the SATA SSD market.
Toshiba’s retail SATA SSD with 64L 3D TLC is the TR200, which uses a rebranded Phison S11 DRAMless controller, making it more of an entry-level product with limited performance potential.
Amidst various hardware swaps to support other SSD testing projects and the integration of our new Quarch XLC Programmable Power Module, something got screwed up with our primary SSD testbed that is causing The Destroyer to proceed at less than half the usual pace. Since the test normally takes at least 12 hours for a SATA SSD to complete, this isn’t something easily debugged over the course of just a day or two. This issue is affecting the MX500 and the few other drives I’ve had time to attempt running The Destroyer on recently, so this review will be missing results from that test until I can get the testbed re-imaged and collect and validate new performance results. The other tests in our suite seem to be unaffected, and the MX500 results that appear to be outliers have already been double-checked.
|AnandTech 2017 SSD Testbed
|Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
|ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
|4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
|AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920×1200@60Hz
|Windows 10 x64, version 1703
|Linux kernel version 4.12, fio version 2.21
- Thanks to Intel for the Xeon E3 1240 v5 CPU
- Thanks to ASRock for the E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
- Thanks to G.