Manufacturing DRAMless SSDs make a lot of sense for some companies. Intel, Toshiba, and SanDisk/Western Digital all lack the ability to build DRAM. Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron are the only three fabs with both NAND and DRAM manufacturing. The reason why these companies build and sell SSDs is to move the components they manufacturer, and in this case, it's NAND and DRAM. Why is Micron/Crucial selling a DRAMless SSD?
I don't think Crucial had much of a choice in the matter. The BX series has always been an entry-level SSD with fewer features than the mainstream MX series. The MX500, for as good as it is, lost some long-standing features like hardware host power-loss protection (an array of capacitors). In addition, the MX500 entered the market with an aggressive price point that has only shrunk since the release.
There really isn't a lot of wiggle room left for Crucial to play with features to reduce component costs to squeeze the BX500 in the market under the MX500, without 4-bit per cell (QLC) or moving the BX500 to a DRAMless design. Our report on IMFT QLC production yields take QLC off the table for SSDs that start close to $25, so that leaves DRAMless and Silicon Motion, Inc's SM2258XT controller right in the middle.
The SM2258XT has shipped in competitor's SSDs for over a year and has a reputation for reliability. Crucial paired the controller with the latest 64-layer TLC, a combination we've yet to test. The other products with this controller utilized first generation (32-layer) Micron TLC.
We don't expect earth-shaking performance from the BX500, but with prices this low, anything above instant meltdown are positive.
Crucial doesn't think performance is the key selling factor for the BX500 series. This is the first consumer SSD from the company to omit any random performance details. You can look high and low, we did, and the random read and write performance isn't published anywhere. We really hope this doesn't start a trend and hopefully, no other manufacturer reads this review and gets any bright ideas. We're only letting this side once and we do it with a displeased frown.
Sequential performance looks great at 540 MB/s read and 500 MB/s write speeds. The performance is the same across the capacity range but write speeds comes from the higher SLC buffer and not the lower native TLC speed.
The BX500 is a basic SSD without user mode encryption, a feature most of us don't use even when available. The drive is simply an entry-level SSD used to accelerate your system performance over what's physically possible with a hard disk drive.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
The price backs that assessment. The BX500 120GB starts the price at just $28.79. That's not even a teenager's lunch money in high school these days. What has this world come too?
The middleweight 240GB sells for $47.79 at the time of writing at Amazon and that only grows to $79.99 for the full-size 480GB.
Endurance is on the low-end with just 40 terabytes written (TBW) for the 120GB. The endurance doubles to 80 TBW for the 240GB but then collapse for the 480GB that only gains an additional 40 TBW instead of doubling again. That leaves the BX500 480GB with a 120 TBW rating. All three capacities carry a three-year warranty.
A Closer Look
The BX series has been a reasonable no frills low-cost series, but Crucial took it even further with the BX500. The drives use a plastic housing that we can only call flimsy. The previous BX series used a paper-thin metal enclosure, but Crucial went third-world country this round. The material is nicer than the counterfeit Kingston drives we tested from China last year thanks to the embossed BX logo.
Inside we found the Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2258XT DRAMless controller paired with Micron 64-layer TLC flash memory on a quarter-length circuit board.
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