The SSD market is perhaps the most dynamic and competitive of any in today’s IT industry. It can change rapidly, requiring a flexible and long-term strategy from its players. Those who fail to follow its trends may quickly find themselves outplayed. The latest price war, for example, has already been the end of several SSD makers, including some well-known brands. Notwithstanding these vagaries, this market has its long-established leaders whose positions seem to be unshakable. There are five of them (Samsung, Intel, SanDisk, Micron, Toshiba) and theirs is a combined share of two thirds of the entire market. Incidentally, all of them are also manufacturers of NAND flash memory, so they can dictate the rules to other SSD makers.
However, there are only two companies, Samsung and Micron, that play the most important role when it comes to consumer-class SSD products. Samsung is the key innovator developing, implementing and promoting perspective technologies whereas Micron is busy pushing the prices down. This summer, both have made their next moves, offering new SSDs under their respective strategies. Samsung has released the high-performance 850 Pro, the world’s first mass-produced SSD with 3D flash memory. Micron, on its part, has rolled out the rather ordinary Crucial MX100 which only differs from its predecessor in using flash memory that features a more advanced manufacturing process. We have picked this drive to be in our fastest SSD 2015 list for consumer-class.
Crucial has deemed it time to replace the popular yet aging M500 drive and have chosen to do so with the MX100 series of drives. These new Crucial MX100 SSD series features the Marvell 88SS9189 controller, a minor upgrade from the 88SS9187 that was found in the M500 drive. The MX100′s 88SS9189 is paired with 16nm MLC NAND which is a change from the 20nm MLC NAND found on the M500.
Though inexpensive, performance is a mixed bag when you look at the raw numbers. While all three capacities see sequential reads of 550MB/s, writes are heavily capacity influenced where the larger capacities have a clear performance advantage due to the 128Gbit NAND. The smaller capacities have less NAND dies working in parallel and thus are less effective. All are covered by a three year warranty and rated for roughly 65GB/day host writes for 3 years life span. Each drive features hardware encryption and on board capacitors to mitigate data loss through a loss of host power.
Diving deeper into its hardware specs show the MX100 is well equipped, using a Marvell controller with custom firmware and 8-channels of Micron NAND Flash (Micron 16nm 128Gb NAND on the 256GB and 512GB models and Micron 20nm 128Gb NAND inside the 128GB unit). Using the in-house Micron NAND gives Crucial drives an advantage in pricing and reliability compared to those without their own NAND fab. Crucial indicates that the MX100 SSDs will post decent performance numbers; all capacities are quoted to deliver sequential read speeds of 550MB/s. For write performance, the MX100 SSDs are specced to 500MB/s (512GB), 330MB/s (256GB), and 150MB/s (128GB).
Crucial is serious about data protection with the new MX100. At the NAND component level the MX100 has capacitors that provide power to protect from data loss from in the event of an unexpected power loss. For additional protection, the MX100 Crucial MX100 monitors its own thermals and dynamically adjusts activity to avoid overheating issues. The MX100 also features a redundant array of independent NAND technology which we see in the enterprise Micron drives, which increases security and protection of data to a very high level. The Crucial MX100 also supports AES 256-bit encryption for data security. The combined suite of features gives consumers perhaps the greatest possible peace of mind in an SSD in terms of data protection and reliability.
The included Acronis True Image HD data migration software packages gives users the ability to move all files, operating systems, settings, and programs from an existing hard drive to a newly installed SSD; a very handy tool for those looking to upgrade. This technology powered by Acronis’ AnyData Engine, which allows users to easily and efficiently use their new SSD as their system drive. Crucial also includes a spacer for drives that need to slot inside a 9.5mm home, another feature that makes the upgrade path easier for consumers.
Our first rating is performance, which compares how effective the Crucial MX100 SSD performs in benchmark operations against competing SATA-based solid state drive storage solutions. For reference, Micron specifications suggest 550 MB/s maximum reads and 500 MB/s write speeds from the 256/512GB Crucial MX100 SSD. In our storage benchmark tests this solid state drive performed up to and beyond this speed, producing results that compared with fastest SATA-based products previously tested and often matching those of Crucial’s M550 SSD. ATTO Disk Benchmark tests proved the 512GB Crucial MX100 SSD was good for delivering 555/514 MBps peak read/writes speeds. Linear testing with AIDA64 Disk Benchmark produced 500/462 MB/s, finishing near the very top of all results. Sequential read/write speed tests with AS-SSD Benchmark produced 503/471 MB/s.
Crucial did not reveal any advertised IOPS performance rate, however the Marvell 88SS9189 controller used in both the MX100 and M550 has previously been stated to deliver up to 95,000 random 4KB read IOPS and 85,000 random 4KB write IOPS. Using Iometer operational performance tests configured to a queue depth of 32 outstanding I/O’s per target across 100% of the drive, the benchmarks produced 68718 combined IOPS performance – not quite the highest SATA-based test results we’ve obtained but still close to the top performers. Looking at 4K 32QD test results using AS-SSD and CrystalDiskMark, the 512GB Crucial MX100 SSD performed in the top three for all SATA-based drives subjected to test.
Shortly put, the MX100’s task is to replace the M500 and it does that brilliantly. While the MX100’s main goal is to lower the price by using smaller lithography NAND, it also provides a minor increase in performance over the M500 and offers the same industry-leading set of features. Given the success of the M500, Crucial had no reason to do a major overhaul with the MX100 and to be completely honest, there isn’t really anything left to be desired. The performance and features are already present, so I really can’t see how Crucial could make the MX100 significantly better. Sure the performance isn’t record breaking but the MX100 isn’t aimed at the enthusiast and professional segment where that is a concern.
All other competing drives on the market are irrelevant in my opinion so long as you want the best bang for the buck—good performance per dollar and low cost per GB. You could look at the Samsung 840 Pro/850 Pro and Toshiba HG6 should you really need the absolute highest performance, but those drives are much more expensive and only bring small gains to the table. The only drawback of the MX100 I can think of is the lack of a 1 TB variant, which is probably due to non-availability of 512 Gbit 16 nm flash chips.
Finally, we are glad to add this drive to our best SSD of January 2015 list.