Crucial's BX500 960GB is a slight departure from the smaller capacity models we tested last December. From a hardware perspective, the largest BX500 in the series uses a slightly better controller and introduces us to Micron's 96-layer 3-bit per cell flash. In the foreground, the BX500 gains a new larger capacity that meets a strong price point for budget-minded shoppers.
The BX500 series didn't gain a large following like some of the previous products in this series. The DRAMless design, new for the 500 models, doesn't deliver exceptional random performance like the MX500 that feels as fast as a strong NVMe SSD.
The biggest complaint many reviewers had with the series was capacity. It's difficult to scale DRAMless SSDs and keep the performance high due to the amount of data kept in the flash translation table. The larger the drive, the larger the map can grow to. DRAMless SSDs use a small amount of high-speed SRAM in the controller, but it's much smaller than dedicated DRAM attached to the controller.
Advanced technologies such as compression and better use of the limited SRAM available now make larger capacity DRAMless SSDs possible. In our article today, we'll see how the technology has progressed since DRAMless designs were introduced as entry-level consumer SSDs three years ago. We will also look at ways you can utilize these low-cost drives in your system today to increase performance even if you have a modern NVMe SSD installed already.
The BX500 grew to four capacities with the introduction of the 960GB model. The large capacity drive shares the same performance rating with the smaller models. Crucial specs the entire series with 540 MB/s sequential read and 500 MB/s sequential write speeds. The company doesn't list random performance specifications for the BX500, and this is the first model in the series advertised this way.
The 960GB BX500 uses a different controller than the other three sizes. Crucial moved to the Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2259XT with end-to-end data path protection and increased error correction technology compared to the SM2258XT found on the three smaller sizes.
Crucial also made a change to the memory. The 960GB BX500 uses Micron's new 96-layer 3-bit per cell (TLC) flash technology. At one point saw 96L memory as a chance for Micron to further increase performance over the exceptional 64L memory that currently powers the fastest consumer SSDs shipping today.
This was backed up by our preview article with the Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2262EN but we later learned the controller was responsible for the performance increase and less so the flash. The 96L memory does increase the number of die per wafer (the die is smaller), but we don't know how many more per wafer. What we do know is that 96L TLC will decrease the cost of flash without any negative impact to performance.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
BX500 prices have dropped slightly since the release in December. The 120GB model now sells for as low at $25. For $10 more than 240GB is a better value. The 480GB, the previous flagship for this series, sells for just $65 and the new flagship 960GB comes to market at just $119.99.
Our focus today is on the 960GB (1TB class) BX500. For the last few weeks, we've seen other 1TB class products sell for around $100 for quick bursts but nothing really consistent at that price. $100 is where we would really like to see the 960GB BX500. The 1TB MX500 currently sells for $135 on Amazon, but it's also one of the drives that gets really close to $100 on sale.
The new 960GB BX500 includes a 3-year warranty that includes 240 TBW of write endurance. Crucial's Momentum Cache software will help to decrease the number of random writes to the drive by buffering the small blocks in DRAM and passing the data to the drive as large block data. This also helps with to decrease the size of the flash transition table map. Crucial's Storage Executive software now allows you to use Momentum Cache on a secondary drive. We will cover that more at the end of the review.
A Closer Look