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The latest client SSD from Crucial sets the standard for low dollar per GB cost yet retains high performance and good support.

Crucial's MX500 using their 2nd Generation of 3D NAND delivers higher density and cheaper Solid State Storage, improved performance and higher endurance and warranty. We compare the MX500 to the MX300, Samsung's 850 EVO and Intel's 520 series in design, performance and price; explain what is wrong with SSD reviews in general and look at the price difference worldwide between Crucial and Samsung drives including the 860 series. Importantly we try to answer the popular question "Is Crucial as good as Samsung?"

Overall MX500 did deliver an improvement in performance over its previous generation but it is still a touch behind the 850 EVO. However given it is cheaper than both 850 EVO and 860 EVO with the 850 quickly becoming unavailable, the MX500 is our pick for now. Read on for our complete review.

Introducing the MX500 and recapping the MX300

Crucial-Micron release new Consumer/Client SSDs to the market in a regular cadence typically yearly or bi-yearly depending on the product segment they are targeting with the entry level and very budget conscious BX series and the higher performance MX series alternating between updates. Older models typically fill the gaps giving end users a bit more choice by being able to buy an older and slightly lesser performing SSD for a bit less money.

With the Crucial MX300 being the first generation of product to deliver 3D NAND in a TLC configuration (3-bit per Cell), the single 750GB product seemed to be more as a vehicle to hurry the new 3D NAND to market. Overall benchmarks trading places with its previous generation MX200. Some very picky enthusiasts and power users took offense to this trade-off but this stepping stone was extremely important. Sooner or later devices HAD to migrate to 3D NAND as the technology offers more density, endurance and improved performance. While TLC has some trade-offs, just by sheer continuous improvement a lot of those trade-offs especially performance can be worked around and we have seen this improvement with the MX500 in this review especially as it is a 2ND generation 3D NAND drive.

Intel-Micron Flash Technologies, a joint venture between the two companies settled on their own flavor of 3D NAND, their 3D structure was comprised of stacked layers of NAND Flash memory with the cells (or transistor gates) that that actually hold the electrical charge that makes up the bits that comprise your data using a proven thirty year old 'floating gate' technology design. In Comparison Samsung elected to use 'Charge Trap' Flash technology for their own competing 3D NAND technology dubbed V-NAND, V for Vertical.

NAND Flash memory can actually be setup a number of ways depending on the manufacturer with the setup of the chip fab and economics being a big driver here. The gates or cells can be setup as SLC (1-bit), MLC (2-bit), TLC (3-bit) or even QLC (4-bit). Particular generation of flash are optimized for each style. At the time of writing this review QLC flash memory is road mapped to be introduced in the near future as a ultra-high capacity solution. The 32 layer V-NAND used in the Samsung 850 series is optimized for TLC.

The goal of a manufacturer is to produce a SSD that is balanced in performance, endurance and cost. When the MX300 was first introduced, Crucial told us during our product briefings that balance was exactly the goal of the MX300 and economics of production and fab capability made it the right time to introduce 3D NAND in a TLC configuration to consumers. At the time (Mid-2016), TLC was not a new design for flash memory and had previously been used in entry level drives such as the Crucial BX200 and OCZ Trion series, first originating in the Samsung 840 model some years ago. Such was their commitment to make 3D NAND work, Crucial oddly enough introduced the MX300 as a ‘limited edition’ 750GB capacity at a market leading price of US $199 as that suited their early output of chips.

That 750GB edition of the MX300 used Eight Double Die Pack chips of 384 Gigabit 1st generation Micron 3D TLC NAND.

Let me break down what this meant for the MX300 750 GB:

  • Each physical memory chip package on the SSD circuit board contains two 384 Gigabit or 48 Gigabyte die for a total of 96 GB per package
  • Eight of these 96 GB packages give us 768 GB total
  • SSDs are typically over-provisioned, which means there’s some overhead or extra space for wear leveling so the 768 GB total physical/electrical size is given as a 750 GB marketing size

Performance wise the MX300 was here and there versus its MX200 predecessor on paper

MX200 – Marvell 88SS9189 Controller: Read/Write MBs 555/500, Read/Write IOPs 100K

MX300 – Marvell 88SS1074 Controller: Read/Write MBs 530/510, Read/Write IOPs 92K/83K

I have not personally used a MX200 so I cannot vouch for the paper marketing spec of 100K but even as of 2018, 100K is the absolute highest paper spec for most SSD controller chips out there and very few if any SSDs advertise 100K as part of their performance marketing figures, but get very close. There is always some overhead to consider.

The TLC MX300 finally made it to market late in 2016 after a delay with the MLC BX300 following later. The BX300 being MLC to address issues with the previous TLC based BX200 that had some restricted performance. That issue was not ncessarily due to the TLC FLASH used but how the drive was setup as a whole using a fixed write cache instead of a dynamic one for example. 

Once IMFT was able to ramp up production of its 1st Generation 3D NAND, larger capacities of MX300s above 750GB were introduced to market which eventually lead to the updated MX500 that supersedes it.

The 2nd Gen MX500 being announced in December 2017 for US and EU Territories and Jan 2018 for ANZ region

There is not that much to say about the MX500 that stands out really as Crucial's 8th Generation consumer/client SSD, being an evolution rather a revolution. The core features are introduction of a new controller, 2nd Generation IMFT 3D NAND, self encryption support, 'power loss immunity', increased performance, endurance and warranty numbers plus a low price for marquee capacities such as 1TB.

All bullet points we want to see but not really a wow factor yet.