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Crucial MX100 512GB SSD Review

Crucial MX100 512GB SSD Review

Crucial unleashes new 16nm MLC flash to combat Samsung's 3-bit MLC in price and performance. Today Chris tells us all about the new MX100 512GB SSD.

@ChrisRamseyer
Chris Ramseyer
Published Thu, Aug 7 2014 9:05 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Crucial

Introduction & Specifications, Pricing and Availability

For years, we've talked about price versus performance with SSDs. Performance was always the major metric to compare per dollar, because when grouped, a larger SSD didn't fit into other capacity brackets on a per dollar basis. Things are changing though, and mainstream, or value SSDs, whatever you want to call them, have drastically changed the market.

If you plan to spend $200 to $250 on a new SSD, then you have a few options. On the performance side, Samsung's 850 Pro and SanDisk's Extreme PRO ding your credit card for $199.99 in 256GB class capacity sizes. Intel's 730 240GB SSD comes in at $231.98. Then there is the Crucial MX100 512GB, which is double the capacity size, but comes in at a friendly $214.99. To be fair though, even Crucial's flagship M550 512GB, the "Pro" model in Crucial's line up, fits our $250 limit. Newegg has the M550 512GB listed for just $244.99 at the time of writing.

Today we're focusing on the Crucial MX100 512GB. Just a week ago, we tested the MX100 256GB, and we found it to be a solid performer for most non-heavy users. The 512GB is also a value based SSD, but we suspect this capacity size fits the sweet spot for most gamers.

Since a lot of you guys are getting ready to head back to college, and have a pocket full of scholarship or grant money, this is a good time to tell you about Crucial's best capacity per dollar offering.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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The MX100 series ships in three capacity sizes, 128GB, 256GB, and the large 512GB model we're testing today. All three capacity sizes are rated for 72TB of data writes, or equal to 40GB per day for five years. The 512GB model is the fastest of the lot; it's able to write sequential data at 500 MB/s -up from the 150 MB/s, and 33 MB/s on the smaller capacity models. The sequential read speed is same across the board, 550 MB/s, which is close to the limits of SATA III.

Inside, Crucial used a Marvell 88SS9189 controller with Micron developed firmware. The controller is paired with Micron's new 16nm lithography NAND flash. The combination delivers very high random read (85,000) and random write (90,000) 4K IOPS; this type of performance is much more than the price would suggest.

The MX100 also uses the same controller Crucial used on the flagship M550. All of the advanced features trickled down to the MX100. Hardware encryption from an AES-256 engine supports both TCG Opal 2.0, and Microsoft's eDrive. Other advanced features also made the list as well.

The MX100 series hit the market in the middle of June 2014, and the prices have leveled off from the MSRPs. The MX100 512GB we're looking at today now costs just $211.99 at Amazon, which is less than 50 cents per GB; a nice place for gamers looking for high capacity in a low price, but high quality build.

PRICING: You can find the Crucial MX100 SSD for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Crucial MX100 128GB SSD retails for $73.99 at Amazon, the Crucial MX100 256GB SSD retails for $109.99 at Amazon, and the Crucial MX100 512GB SSD retails for $211.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Crucial MX100 128GB SSD retails for CDN$79.99 at Amazon Canada, the Crucial MX100 256GB SSD retails for CDN$180.34 at Amazon Canada, and the Crucial MX100 512GB SSD retails for CDN$224.99 at Amazon Canada.

Crucial MX100 256GB SSD

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Crucial's retail package hasn't changed much over the years. The MX100 ships in a slim box with most of the useful information on the back.

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The retail package includes a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter, and an activation key for Acronis True Image HD.

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Crucial puts the "pretty" label on the bottom of the drive.

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The data label is on what we would normally call the top of the drive. The label lists the model, serial and part numbers, as well as the firmware shipped on the drive.

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The MX100 uses a 7mm z-height case, so it fits in many new Ultrabooks that require ultra-thin drives.

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Inside we found a Marvell controller, Micron DRAM, and Micron NAND flash.

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The controller is a Marvell 88SS9189-BLD2 that Crucial built the firmware for.

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The flash used on the 256GB and 512GB MX100 SSDs is somewhat special. This is the new Micron 16nm flash, and it is IMFT's latest creation. In total, there are 16 flash packages; there are eight on each side of the PCB.

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Micron also makes DRAM, which is a vital component for Marvell SSD controllers. Here we also see some of the capacitors used to power the DRAM if a power failure event occurs. The capacitors allow the DRAM to flush page, and table data back to the flash, before losing the data forever.

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Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Desktop Test System

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Lenovo W530 - Mobile Workstation

We use two systems for SSD testing. The desktop runs a majority of the tests, and the Lenovo W530 runs the notebook power tests, as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.

ATTO - Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

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Using ATTO to get a baseline for performance, we see the MX100 512GB delivers 561 MB/s sequential read performance, and just a hair over 500 MB/s sequential write performance. The numbers are solid, especially for a model in this price range.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

HD Tune Pro - Sequential Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.55

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Reading 100% of the user LBAs in 64KB blocks gives us an average score of 443.9 MB/s with the MX100 512GB. This is a little slower than the M500, M550, and many of the other drives on the chart. However, that doesn't mean the MX100 is slow by any means.

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Moving over to the sequential write test, the MX100 does better than the M500, and is nearly as fast as the M550 flagship. These days, when you pay more for a SSD, you are buying higher write performance, and more consistent performance under a heavy load. The MX100 is a big step up from the M500 it replaces.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0.4.0

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After preconditioning the drive with sequential and random writes, we get to see the sequential performance in a consumer steady state. The MX100 does well here, scoring much better than the M500, and several other value-class SSDs on the market.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: RC6

So, what is Anvil Storage Utilities? Anvil Storage Utilities is a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs, where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test, or just the read or the write test, or you can run a single test (i.e. 4k QD16).

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet, but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. Anvil has been updating the software steadily on several international forums, and is adding new features every couple of months.

We can use Anvil several different ways to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data, and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

0-Fill Compressible Data

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Incompressible Data

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Compressible and incompressible write performance is the same on the MX100, so you won't notice a slowdown when working with pictures, audio, and other highly compressed files.

Low Queue Depth Read IOPS

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Most consumers only use the read queue depths in this chart (QD1 through QD4). SSDs are so fast that it's actually very difficult to read beyond QD4. The MX100 actually does better in these random read tests than both the M500 it replaces, and the flagship M550.

High Queue Depth Read IOPS

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The high queue depth tests reveal the MX100 512GB is again performing a little better than the M550.

Low Queue Depth Write IOPS

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It's easier to get into higher queue depths when writing data to the operating system drive, since many of the writes take longer due to dirty block latency.

High Queue Depth Write IOPS

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We were surprised to find the MX100 performing so well here, since this is an area where value-class SSDs tend to lose some of their luster.

Benchmarks - Mixed Read / Write Workloads

Mixed Read / Write Workloads

In this series of tests, we measure mixed workload performance. We start with 100% read, and then add data writes to the mix in 10% increments until we get to 100% writes. We believe this will be the next major area SSD manufacturers will address, after performance consistency.

Mixed Workload Bandwidth

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We don't have many 512GB capacity drives that have gone through our new test yet, but I scrambled to get a couple of premium drives, and another value-class drive for our review today. The MX100 512GB fared better than the 256GB model. Still, the mixed workload sequential test proved to be difficult for this drive.

80% Read / 20% Write Bandwidth

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For most consumer applications, the 80% read / 20% write test should be your focus. The MX100 512GB outperformed the Corsair Force LX 512GB by a small margin, but as you can see, the value drives lose quite a bit of performance to the premium drives from SanDisk and Intel.

Mixed Workload Response Time

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One application where a 50/50 split, or close to it, comes into play, is editing videos. Using software such as Sony's Vegas or Adobe's Premier means reading and writing data at the same time, usually to the same target device, your SSD.

With OpenCL and CUDA technology, the processing power is now fast enough to make your storage the bottleneck. That's why it's important to use fast storage in professional consumer applications.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.228

Heavy Usage Model:

Futuremark's PCMark 8 allows us to wear the test drive down to a reasonable consumer steady state, and then watch the drive recover on its own through garbage collection. To do that, the drive gets pushed down to steady state with random writes, and then idle time between a number of tests allows the drive to recover.

Precondition Phase:

1. Write to the drive sequentially through to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation Phase:

1. Run writes of random sizes between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for ten minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat steps one and two, eight times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by five minutes.

Steady state Phase:

1. Run writes of random sizes between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat steps one and two, five times.

Recovery Phase:

1. Idle for five minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat steps one and two, five times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance. Here we see the three states of performance for the select SSDs, which are light use, consumer steady state, and worst case.

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Performance consistency is the current feature every SSD company is trying to check off a box on, but Crucial seems to be behind the competition with all three drives on the chart. The value-class drives fall well short of the two current hyper-class drives on the market, 850 Pro, and Extreme PRO. There are ways to keep your system running fast though, even after heavy use.

The easiest way is to keep your PC on, so the drive can run cleanup operations. Another method is to set the TRIM command in Windows 8 (called optimize in the OS, like disk defragment for a HDD) on an aggressive schedule, like once every three days.

Storage Bandwidth All Tests

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The MX100 delivers much better performance under heavy use than the M500 it replaces. With the drive in a clean state, it's actually the fastest SATA based SSD we've recorded scores for. The performance does drop off rapidly though.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test - Continued

Total Access Time

The access time test measures the total latency across all 18 tests. This is one of, if not the most important test we run at this time for consumer SSDs. When your latency is low, your computer feels fast; it's just that simple.

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Most users won't notice applications taking a little longer to complete, but they will notice any delay in the application load time. This is a measurement of latency. When applications start quickly, everyone is happy, but when you see a spinning wheel, your hair is on fire. On the bottom of this chart we see the drives with consistent low latency; at the top we see the poor performers. The MX100 falls in the middle area.

Disk Busy Time

In the final test, we measure the amount of time the drive worked to read and write the data to complete the test. When a drive is active, it uses more power, so the faster it can complete the tasks, the faster it can fall into a low-power state.

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The longer a drive is active, the more power it consumes to complete a task. Here we see how hard the drives had to work to complete the assigned tasks. The MX100 again falls in the middle of the group.

Benchmarks - Power Testing

Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation, and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously to show how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.

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The Crucial MX100 512GB performed very well in our Notebook Battery Life Test, coming in at just over 272 minutes. The notebook used does not take advantage of DEVSLP though, a low-power state introduced with Intel's new Haswell processor, paired with the 8-Series chipset.

Power Limited Performance

In a notebook running on battery power, several system buses are reduced in speed to save power. This reduced-power state affects every component, from the processor, GPU, and chipset, to the lanes connecting them together. The SSD connects to the chipset through a bus, and the chipset connects to the CPU through another bus; both are limited by the power management system under batter power.

This is a performance test under crippling conditions, and it shows the efficiency of the SSD in a reduced-power state for the system.

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Like many of the other performance tests, the MX100 does well, but not spectacular when looking at performance on its own. This is when take the time to consider the price again, and at that point, the smile returns to our faces.

Final Thoughts

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There are times when we go overboard on the technology, and the performance benchmarks. When it comes to the MX100 512GB, I don't think the benchmarks are as important as some of the other key factors. On the technology side, I don't think many users really care about AES 256-bit encryption, RAIN, or even the new 16nm flash. When it comes to the MX100, most users looking at this drive care about the price, the reliability, and to a degree, the performance, but mainly in a "good enough" sort of way.

With that in mind: where does the MX100 fall? Looking over the list, the drive is less than 50 cents per GB. Unless you are waiting to see one quarter per gig, or something truly ridiculous, then this is a really good spot till until Flash Forward (Toshiba / SanDisk) delivers TLC NAND. Even then, it's hard to imagine prices getting better than this in 2014.

The MX100 is also reliable, and comes from a company with a long history of making solid SSDs. Crucial ranks up there with Intel and SanDisk in that department. Every SSD manufacturer has stumbled at one time or another, but it's been awhile since Crucial had to scramble to fix an issue.

Last on the list of what I think most buyers in the value category are looking for, is performance. This is somewhat tricky, since SSDs have always been about being the best and the fastest. In the value category, you don't need to run at Ferrari speeds, you only need to beat a Yugo by a sizable margin. It doesn't take much for flash to outperform a mechanical disk drive. Flash latencies are nearly instant, and are measured in microseconds, while HDDs spend more time positioning to get the data than a SSD takes to deliver it. It was called "flash" for a reason; the data is accessible in a flash.

I think Crucial hit all of the marks for the true value side of the market with the MX100, but I also think they did a little better than that with the 512GB MX100 model. Given the size of games these days, adding large capacity drives in pairs to increase performance and capacity is always a good option. If you want to use more than two drives, then you have to consider performance consistency, since latency is multiplied.

However, two MX100s in RAID 0 on an Intel chipset is a very nice way to get over 1,000 MB/s sequential performance for stating games, and it delivers 1TB of capacity. Games are getting into the 30+ gigabyte area now, and they aren't using that much space to just fill up your drive. That data has to be read back to start, or while playing the game. The MX100 512GB has such an attractive price point that enthusiasts can consider RAID 0 with two drives as an option. Add in Crucial's reliability, and we can recommend the MX100 to go into your high performance PC just as easily as we can recommend it for your mom's daily status updater.

PRICING: You can find the Crucial MX100 SSD for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Crucial MX100 128GB SSD retails for $73.99 at Amazon, the Crucial MX100 256GB SSD retails for $109.99 at Amazon, and the Crucial MX100 512GB SSD retails for $211.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Crucial MX100 128GB SSD retails for CDN$79.99 at Amazon Canada, the Crucial MX100 256GB SSD retails for CDN$180.34 at Amazon Canada, and the Crucial MX100 512GB SSD retails for CDN$224.99 at Amazon Canada.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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