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Appeared on: Monday, January 29, 2018
Crucial MX500 500GB SSD review


1. Crucial MX500 - Micron's 64-layer NAND

Micron's new 64-layer NAND makes its way into the Crucial MX500 SSD, which launches with the promise to offer competitive performance and superior pricing.

The new SSD is based on Micron's second-gen TLC 3D NAND, which uses a 256Gbit die. This one is physically 30% smaller than the first generation, meaning that the memory maker could yield more die per wafer, with an apparent advantage in the overall cost. In addition, Micron says that new algorithms have been developed to improve performance by altering the way the data is distributed in the NAND cells.

The MX500 is marketed as an alternative to the Samsung 850 EVO. It comes in four capacities and two form factors. 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, which supports LDPC (Low-Density Parity-Check) error correction algorithms powerful enough for the new 64-layer 3D NAND.

Crucial MX500 SSD specifications:

The MX500 supports 560/512 MB/s sequential read/write throughput. Random performance peaks at 95,000/90,000 read/write IOPS. Obviously, these performance figures depend on the application and the usage of the SLC caching technology, which increases TLC NAND's performance.

In terms of features the MX 500 Series offer self-encrypting drive (SED) and full disk encryption (FDE). Have in mind that 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.

In order to protect your data from power failures, Micron has adjusted how it programs the upper and lower NAND pages to reduce the amount of power required to maintain signal integrity. So no extra capacitors are used, but Miron says that its approach offers similar protection to what we've seen with the MX series.

Crucial's Data Write Acceleration (DWA) uses an SLC buffer to boost the performance of the TLC SSD. While most SSDs have a fixed SLC capacity, Crucial's dynamic buffer shrinks or grows depending on the condition of the drive and the amount of data stored on the flash.

Accorrding to Micron, "the SSD firmware achieves 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."

The MX500 1TB will sell for $259.99. That's roughly $40 less than Samsung's 850 EVO 1TB.

Crucial ships the 2TB ($499.99), 1TB ($259.99), 500GB ($139.99), and 250GB ($79.99) models. The 2TB and 250GB models are much less expensive than the 850 EVO, but the 500GB model has a comparable price point and the 1TB model is roughly $40 cheaper than Samsung's 850 EVO 1TB.

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.

In the followign pafes we test the 500GB version of the Crucial MX500 SSD.


2. Unboxing

In terms of design, Crucial changed the colors slightly from previous MX-series SSD packaging. The drive's box gives us some details about the warranty and software add-ons. Crucial also includes Acronis True Image HD software for cloning drives.

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.

Under the hood, the PCB of the MX500 500GB SSD has eight NAND packages with just two die apiece. The MX500 is also the first drive in this series with an SMI controller.

Crucial is also offering an updated version of the Storage Executive software to support the MX500. The software allows you to monitor the SSD and provides tools, like secure erase, for drive maintenance. Storage Executive also features a tool to increase overprovisioning.


3. HDTach, ATTO Disk Benchmark

The HDTach software shows the potential read speed and write which you are likely to experience with the SSD. We see the average speed numbers, which tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations.

The drive's read graph is smooth and stable across its entire capacity, and its average read peeds was 446.1 MB/s. The write graph was also smooth but the drives slowed down to about 320MB/s after the 30GB mark, as you see below. Obviously, the drive slowed down as soon as the cache ran out. The overall average write speed was 326MB/s:

The ATTO Disk Benchmark measures storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. The benchmark performs file transfers ranging from 0.5 KB to 8192 KB. ATTO can be adjusted to do overlapped I/O, in a variety of queue depths. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 8MB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB and QD4. ATTO probably gives the most accurate results for compressible read and write data:

The drive's official Sequential read/write figures for the MX500 500GB SSD are up to 560MB/s & 510MB/s respectively, and the ATTO benchmark confirmed those specs. Crucial's drive was actually faster that the Samsung EVO model in the read test, finishing near the top of the stack regardless of the transfer size.

The MX500 was also very fast in the write test:

 


4. CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark utility provides throughput data based on sequential reads and writes, and random (512K/4K/4KQD32) reads and writes of various sizes. We used both the older v3.04 and the newest v6 versions of the software, under both compressible and incompressible data modes:

The sequential tests show that the Crucial MX500 500GB SSD is able to max out the SATA interface when reading and get very close when writing. This is translated to fast moving of large files in a real-world usage.

Typical inexpensive SSD series can??t pass 30MB/s random 4K read. The MX500 offers over 34MB/s what is pretty good result.

For a drive aimed at the mainstream market , the MX500 500Gb SSD performs very well dealing with small 4K files at a pretty deep queue depth.

 


5. AS SSD

We move on with the AS SSD benchmark, which contains five synthetic as well as three practical tests. The synthetic tests determine the sequential and the random read / write performance of an SSD. These tests are carried out without using the operating system's cache. The Seq-test measures how long it takes to read and write an 1GB file. Most importantly, this sequential benchmark uses incompressible data for all of its transfers.

The Crucial MX500 500GB SSD reached an overall high score of of 1213. Sequential speeds for the drive hit the 521MB/s for reads and 441MB/s write while 4K speeds reached 42MB/s for read and 100MB/s for write:

The MX500 SSD goes head to head with the Samsung 850 Pro model in the sequential read test:

The MX500 was slightly slower than the Samsung 850 EVO SSD in the 4K random read tests, although it remained very competitive. It also performed great in the 4K miltithreaded read test:

 

The performance for the MX500 500GB SSD in the sequential write test was good but not in par with the 850 EVO's result:

Both the MX500 and the 850 Evo drives had almost the same performance in the 4K random write test, but Crucial's drive showed its muscles in the 4K/64 thread write benchmark:

 

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD. This test uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive.

The Crucial MX500 SSD showed a relatively stable behavior across the board, with some brief dips in the write graph:


6. IOMeter

The IOMeter benchmark is run by using workstation and database patterns for queue depths (outstanding I/Os) representing very light and moderate loads. Iometer is both a workload generator (that is, it performs I/O operations in order to stress the system) and a measurement tool (that is, it examines and records the performance of its I/O operations and their impact on the system). The app's ability to bombard drives with an escalating number of concurrent IO requests also does a nice job of simulating the sort of demanding multi-user environments that are common in enterprise applications.

Overall, the IOPS delivered by the Crucial MX500 500GB SSD were high enough to rank the drive in the first positions in the graph below. The drive outperformed the 850 EVO in both read and write tasks, and its performance was comparable to the BX300's:

 


7. Anvil Pro

The ‘all inclusive’ Anvil Pro software tests transfer speeds as well as IOPS. The IOPS tests can be configurable with preset testing scenarios for read (Seq 4MB, 4K, 4K QD4, 4K QD16, 32K and 128K), write (Seq 4MB, 4K, 4K QD4, 4K QD16) and mixed IO.

We used the software with the Crucial BX300 SSD and tested the drive with 0-fill compression (RAW), 8% compression, 25% compression, 45% compression, 67% compression and finally 100 % (incompressible data).

As you see in the first chart below, the MX500 500GB SSD was very fast in the sequential 4MB read test:

The drive was fast in the 4K random read test, even in QD4 and QD16.

In the sequential 4MB write test, the MX500 500GB SSD was not the fastest in th stack, but still remains close to the top performers. The same applies to the random 4K writes.

 

The MX500's score in the read tests was higher than in the write tests. The drive's overall score is adequate, although not as high as the Samsung 850 EVO's in the Anvil Pro suite:

 

 


8. PCMark 8, PCMark 7

We continue with the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark, which uses traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.

We ran the storage benchmark test suite:

The Crucial MX500 scored 4985 points and remained overall competitive, although the Samsung 850 EVO had a better performance in the PCMark 8 test:

The older PCMark 7 Secondary Storage benchmark module offers a real-world application measurement approach to testing. The benchmark offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing, these tests illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in a consumer PC usage model.

The MX500 500GB SSD scored 5592, leaving most other SSDs behind:


9. Summary

Testing the new Crucial MX500 500GB SSD showed that the evolution of the TLC-based MX series is a worthy option to consider in case you are seeking to buy a new SATA SSD.

Crucial has managed to refine their new 3D TLC NAND technology and fine-tune SMI controllers in order to take the most out of the new type of memory, while also leaving the write slowing issues met in some TLC SSDs behind.

The MX500 500GB SSD is offering a solid performance in the 400/500MB write ranges, matching the figures we had previously measured with the BX300 1TB model, and leaving - in some cases - the Samsung 850 EVO SSD behind. However, Samsung has refined both their controller and their NAND, and we expect the 860 EVO to improve over the 850 EVO in both performance and power consumption, posing a good competitor to the MX500.

In addition, the drive comes with decent write endurance levels, and the warranty matches Samsung's SSDs.

Everything is relative to pricing, and the MX500 500GB offers a value at it's best. It is priced to beat all the other SATA SSDs using 64L 3D NAND, and it more or less matches the older and slower models that are still available. The MX500 is one of the cheapest SSDs on the market, and it offers real-world performance very close to the Samsung 850 EVO. The drive has a lot to offer in terms of performance, features, package and reliability, if you are still looking for a SATA SSD for your next upgrade.



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