Crucial MX500 Arrives With 64-Layer 3D TLC NAND

When the Crucial MX300 series came out back in June 2016 it was a big deal as it was their first drive with Micron 3D TLC NAND Flash memory. We reviewed the 750GB and 1TB capacities last year and found them to be pretty solid drives. Crucial has since released the successor to that series with the new MX500 SSD lineup. The Crucial MX500 series is the first mainstream consumer product to use Micron's latest 64-layer 3D TLC NAND. This drive series is offered in both 2.5-inch and M.2 SATA form factors in capacities ranging from 250GB to 2TB. When it comes to performance, this series offers sequential reads and writes of up to 560 MB/s and 510 MB/s with Random reads and writes of up to 95,000 IOPS and 90,000 IOPS. Like the other MX series drives before, the MX500 offers hardware-based encryption and integrated power loss prevention for when the power goes out unexpectedly. The 3D TLD NAND on the MX500 series is based on Micron's 2nd generation of 3D NAND technology. Micron is using a stackable 64-layer, 256 gigabit die on this series to come up with a 64GB part that is said to offer good density and solid performance with exceptional longevity. Crucial MX500 SATA SSDs The drives that we will be taking a look at today are the Crucial MX500 500GB  that is sold under part number CT500MX500SSD1 for $134.95 shipped ($0.27 per GB) and the Crucial MX500 1TB that is available under part number CT1000MX500SSD1 for $259.99 shipped ($0.26 per GB). Both of these drives should be the most appealing to our readers due to their price points and capacities. The 500GB model with its 180 TBW rating can handle 99.6GB of drive writes per day over the 5-year warranty period whereas the 1TB model can handle 197.3GB of drive writes per day. Any of these drives will likely last longer than that as the average consumer isn't writing that much data to the NAND Flash every single day. Crucial MX500 SATA SSD Series Specifications:  Crucial MX500 SSD From the outside the Crucial MX500 series looks pretty much like any other Crucial MX series drive as the front label hasn't changed in years. The back of this 2.5" 7mm z-height drive has the usual label, so nothing new to report here. If you want to open this drive there are four Philips screws on the side that can be removed. Crucial MX500 1TB SSD Inside Inside we see start to see some of the changes that Crucial made with this drive series. For the first time on the MX series we see that Crucial went with a Silicon Motion SM2258 controller, which just happens to be the same one used on the Crucial BX series with its 3D MLC NAND. Notice that the row of capacitors that Crucial usually has on the PCB for power loss protection is no longer present. This is because Crucial has replaced their usual power loss protection feature with something called power loss immunity. The new Micron 64-layer 3D TLC NAND paired with the latest firmware refinements allows for the data needing to be written to complete in a power loss situation without the need of external capacitors. Crucial MX500 1TB SSD PCB Other than that you can see the MX500 1TB drive shown has 16 NAND packages that are 64GB in capacity each that are based on Micron's latest 64-layer 3D TLC NAND technology. You also have two Micron DRAM chips that make up this drives 1GB of cache and then of course the Silicon Motion 2258 controller. crucial storage executive The Crucial MX300 series is fully compatible with the Crucial Storage Executive Tool for easy drive maintenance. This utility will allow you to monitor the drive, check the S.M.A.R.T. attributes, secure erase the drive, update the firmware as well as enabling advanced features like over provisioning, FlexCap, or momentum cache (only use if you have a battery backup). Let's take a look at some benchmarks of this drive!

The SSD Benchmark Test System & TRIM Support

Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1709 build 16299) and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. This means windows defender, windows update, disk fragmentation and everything else that would interfere with testing was disabled. Windows 10 also had the power option set to high performance and we also disabled c-states and Turbo mode on the Intel Core i5-8400 to ensure our numbers are spot on and repeatable. ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-F GAMING Motherboard The Intel Z370 platform that we used to test the storage drives was based around the ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-F Gaming motherboard with BIOS 0606 that came out on January 4th, 2018. We used Intel Chipset Driver v10.1.1.45, Intel Management Engine Interface v11.7.0.1045 and Intel RST v15.9.0.1015 drivers. This is important to point out as they include some of the fixes for Meltdown and Spectre design flaws that have recently rocked the PC Market. The Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 16GB 3200MHz memory kit was run with CL15 memory timings and a Samsung SSD 850 PRO 512GB SATA SSD was used as the primary drive.

Intel Z370 Test Bench

Intel LGA 1151 Test Platform
Component Brand/Model Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core i5-8400

Motherboard

ASUS STRIX Z370-F Gaming

Memory

Corsair Vengeange LPX 3200MHz 16GB

OS Drive

Samsung 850 PRO 512GB

Power Supply

Corsair RM850x

Operating System

Windows 10 64-Bit

CrystalDiskInfo 7.5.1 Readout:

The readout on CrystalDiskInfo 7.5.1 shows that the Crucial MX500 series supports S.M.A.R.T., APM, NCQ, TRIM and DevSleep. The drive we received had firmware version M3CR010 installed and that is the version that we used for general testing and benchmarking. The overall capacity shows up as 931 TB on the MX500 1TB model and 466GB on the MX500 500GB drive in Windows 10 version 1709. Please remember that 1GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes. A certain portion of capacity may be used for system file and maintenance use, thus the actual available capacity may differ from the labeled total capacity. Does The Crucial MX500 SATA III SSD Series Support Trim?  Most SSDs today support the TRIM command, but we still run a quick test to ensure that the command is being properly passed through to the SSD and being done. A great free utility called TRIMCheck can be run to ensure that TRIM is functioning properly. 1TB TRIM Command According to TRIMCheck v0.7, these two drives do execute the TRIM command correctly! Let's have a look at the performance!

Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities 1.1.0

Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 1, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.

Anvil SSD Benchmark with 100% Compression (incompressible data):

Benchmark Results: The Anvil SSD Benchmark showed that with 100% compression (incompressible data) the Crucial MX500 500GB drive was able to achieve a score of 4,886 points and the 1TB drive came in slightly behind that with 4,813 points. Basically the same performance and that is what we expected from the same drive series. 

Anvil SSD Applications Benchmark at 46% Compression:

Benchmark Results: With the compression at 46% to help mimic real world applications better we found the overall score improved to roughly 4,900 points. Benchmark Results: We used Anvil to check the 4K Random Read performance and found we topped out at around 99,000 IOPS using the 46% compression preset that best matches typical applications.  Crucial specifications show this drive as having a maximum 4K Random Read IOPS of up to 95K at QD32, so we are right where we should be in terms of performance. Low queue depth performance was exception with the second highest QD1 speeds we've seen from any SATA drive series.  Benchmark Results: When it came to 4K Random Write performance, the Crucial MX500 drives topped out at around 88,000 IOPS at QD32 and that is close enough for us to the drives 90K rating.  The QD1 thru QD3 4K Random Write Performance was on par with other big name drives although the QD4 performance did take a little performance hit. 

ATTO & CrystalDiskMark

ATTO v3.05

ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 64MB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.

ATTO - Crucial MX500 500GB:

ATTO - Crucial MX500 1TB:

Benchmark Results: ATTO showed both Crucial MX drives reaching speeds of up to 564 MB/s read and 524 MB/s write on the 500GB drive and 519 MB/s on the 1TB drive in the standard overlapped I/O benchmark. This drive is rated at up to 560 MB/s max sequential read and 510 MB/s max sequential write, so we exceeded both of those scores on our Intel Z370 based test platform.  Benchmark Results: Compared to some other SATA III SSDs we can quickly see that there isn't much difference with regards to sequential read performance. The Crucial MX500 drives has solid performance compared to the other brands and series.   

CrystalDiskMark 6.0.0 x64

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) and shows the highest score of five runs.

CystalDiskmark - Crucial MX500 500GB:

CystalDiskmark - Crucial MX500 1TB:

Benchmark Results: The Crucial MX500 500GB reached 563 MB/s read and 522 MB/s write in the standard sequential write test. Random 4K QD1 performance was 43 MB/s read and 105 MB/s write. Those 4K random performance numbers improved up to 223 MB/s read and 205 MB/s write at a queue depth of 32. The Crucial MX500 1TB benchmarked just slightly slower than the 500GB drive, but was still well within rated speeds. Let's look at some other benchmarks!

AS SSD Benchmark

AS-SSD (2.0.6485.19676) Benchmark:

We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from all three of them.

AS SSD - Crucial MX500 500GB:

AS SSD - Crucial MX500 1TB:

Benchmark Results: On AS SSD, the Crucial MX500 drives had an overall score of just over 1,200 points with sequential read speeds of nearly 530 MB/s and just over 480 MB/s write. The 4K random results were down at 39 MB/s read and 90 MB/s write. 

AS SSD  Copy - Crucial MX500 500GB:

AS SSD  Copy - Crucial MX500 1TB:

Benchmark Results: The copy benchmark test results were on par with what one expects from a SATA III SSD with speeds ranging from 482.5 MB/s in the Program to 526 MB/s in the Game benchmark. These are impressive results for a budget friendly SATA SSD!   

AS SSD  Compression - Crucial MX500 500GB:

AS SSD  Compression - Crucial MX500 1TB:

Benchmark Results: For this benchmark chart you would ideally want to see a straight line as you don’t want any compression performance loss as the test goes from 0% compressible to 100% compressible data during the benchmark test period. The WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB had virtually no dips on the read side and just one around the 50% mark on the write side. 

Linear Write and Real World File Transfer Testing

AIDA64 Disk Benchmark

Over the years many people have asked for AIDA64 linear write tests to be done, so we fired that utility up to see what would happen to these SATA SSDs. When you take a look at extended sustained write performance you'll see that the performance starts out at around 490 MB/s and then significantly dropped off to roughly 390 MB/s before recovering for a brief period. After the recovery period the drive performance dropped off again and had some brief recovery period. Overall the performance was not terrible for a 3D TLC NAND based drive, but not all drives have this. Overall the average speed for writing over 256GB of data to the drive without a break was 443 MB/s.

Real World File Transfer

Before we wrap things up we wanted to see how real-world was when writing a movie folder containing seven 1080P movies over to the SSD. For this test, we are going to simply stress write performance by transferring over a 30.6GB folder of movies off of a PCIe NVMe SSD to the drive being tested to see how performance looks. When it comes to writing large amounts of real world data to the Crucial MX500 drive we found an average speed of 486 MB/s on the 500GB drive and 479 MB/s on the 1TB model. These numbers are better than the AIDA64 linear write test averages, so we are happy with that. Crucial clearly still has room for improvement in heavy workloads like this, but it's significantly better than their value oriented BX300 series. We'll talk more about that in the conclusion on the next page.

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

Crucial has two consumer SATA SSD series that you have to pick from. You have the entry-level BX series and then the mainstream MX series and both have been revamped in recent months. Both series feature the same exact Silicon Motion SM2285 controller, but differ in the capacities that they are available in and use totally different NAND Flash memory. The entry-level BX300 series is only available in 120GB, 240GB and 480GB capacities whereas the mainstream MX500 is available in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities. That alone right there should narrow down what series you need to purchase. Crucial MX500 2.5-inch SATA SSDs The mainstream MX series that we looked at here today utilizes 64-layer 3D TLC NAND with a 5-year warranty and full hardware data encryption. The Crucial BX300 series does not offer data encryption and has a shorter 3-year warranty, so that might be a deal breaker for some. The Crucial BX300 series features 32-layer 3D MLC NAND Flash though and that might be appealing to some, but the performance numbers are better on the MX500 series with 63-layer 3D TLC NAND. Things get really interesting when you look at pricing as the MX500 500GB drive costs about $10 less than the BX300 480GB drive. The Crucial MX500 series is priced lower and has better performance, a longer warranty, higher endurance ratings and the ability to do full hardware encryption. Crucial BX300 3D NAND SATA SSD Pricing 

Crucial MX500 2.5-inch SATA SSD Pricing 

Compared to the older Crucial MX300 series, the new Crucial MX500 is easily be better choice between the two. That said, those with a MX300 series drive that are might be looking to upgrade to the equivalent MX500 series drive will notice that the capacities are different. This is because the MX300 series used 384Gbit dies and the new MX500 series uses 256Gbit dies. Not a bit deal unless you are trying to clone or migrate full drives. Some might be forced to shrink volumes to get them to fit on the newer drives, which can be done at the expense of more time. The Crucial MX500 series is a solid product offering for 2018 and handles itself just fine against rival drives. We can safely recommend this drive to those looking for a solid mainstream product with robust features. LR Recommended Award Legit Bottom Line: The WD Blue 3D NAND and SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD don't suffer performance degradation with long file writes and are priced right!