Crucial BX200 SSD Review

Micron announced its 16nm TLC flash five months ago, and Crucial's BX200 is the first product to take advantage of the extra bit per cell. Is this late-comer competitive, or is it overwhelmed in a sea of superior solid-state storage?

Micron announced its 16nm TLC flash in June 2015, and it's finally ready for prime time. Crucial, a Micron subsidiary, is the first with an SSD based on the new NAND, though the company trails its most notable competition with similar technology. Just because Micron's TLC is only now showing up doesn't mean it's better, though.

For months, rumors swirled about the state of Micron's TLC. When Adata released its SP550 with SK Hynix 16nm TLC memory, we started to wonder if the whispers were true. Now we know. Crucial's BX200 can only claim 66,000 random read IOPS with the new 16nm TLC flash. Adata's 480GB SP550 (its review will go live soon) musters 75,000. And SK Hynix flash is generally slower than everyone else's. We already tested a Longsys Foresee S100 240GB with Toshiba A19 TLC and measured 75,000 random read IOPS. All three drives use the same Silicon Motion SM2256 controller that we previewed a while back. In that article, we achieved 75,000 random read IOPS with older Samsung 19nm TLC flash. Notice a pattern?

This isn't the first time Micron's ONFi-attached flash came up short compared to Toggle-mode NAND from the competition. In fact, the performance gap has grown between the two interfaces since the 2x-nanometer era (2010). But Micron's response typically leads to good results for enthusiasts. You can go back and track large price drops to two events: Black Friday, when SSDs get cheaper and stay that way, and when Micron transitions to a new manufacturing process. The company's triple-level-cell flash is still 16nm. However, 16nm TLC is smaller than an MLC-based die on the same process. I pressed Crucial for specifics, but came up short. It's safest to assume that TLC should be around one-third smaller than MLC.

Specifications

MORE: Best SSDs For The Money
MORE: Latest Storage News

MORE: Storage in the Forums

Crucial's BX series is its entry-level line; for the first time, we heard the company use it in a talk about replacing hard drives with SSDs. The BX200 will succeed the BX100, which is being phased out rapidly. The new entry-level drive will surface in three capacities, starting at 240GB. Crucial no longer feels the 128GB capacity class is realistic for upgrades, since reduced parallelization severely limits performance.

All three BX200s employ Silicon Motion's SM2256 controller. Crucial uses a custom firmware co-developed with SMI. Interestingly, performance is the same across capacities. Sequential reads are rated at 540 MB/s, while writes land at 490 MB/s. Random read IOPS are claimed to be 66,000, while writes jump to 78,000 as a result of the dynamic SLC program cache.

The BX200 supports DevSlp, an ultra-low power mode most useful in the mobile space. These drives can drop to just 10mW and then wake up quickly. Although hardware encryption is not supported, we rarely hear anyone complain about its absence outside of businesses that require it.

Price & Warranty

In our talks with Micron, we were all but guaranteed the quoted MSRPs wouldn't hold for long. The BX200s are expected to sell for prices comparable with many other well-known SSDs. Getting them to stand out will necessitate heavy cuts in time for Black Friday. As it sits now, the 960GB BX200 should go for $300. The 480GB and 240GB models cost $150 and $85, respectively.

They're all covered by a three-year limited warranty capped at 72 terabytes written. The TBW rating is less than half of what you get from Samsung's 850 EVO. 

Accessories

The BX100 didn't come with anything except a 7mm-to-9.5mm adapter. Crucial's BX200 raises the bar, including access to Acronis True Image for cloning existing drives and the company's Storage Executive software (now standard with all Crucial SSDs). 

It's hard to believe that Storage Executive exposes so many features, given its relative youth. It was just released last January and is already up to version 3.24. Somewhere along the line, Crucial updated the software with a DRAM cache function called Momentum Cache, similar to Samsung's Rapid Mode and Plextor's PlexTurbo. This is what Crucial says about the feature:

Micron's Momentum Cache is an intelligent software driver that dynamically leverages unused system resources to enhance burst performance on supported Micron and Crucial solid-state drives (SSDs) in Windows operating systems. Momentum Cache is not restricted by SATA bus throughput limitations; instead, it uses additional DRAM bandwidth to achieve increased burst performance.

A new feature for version 3.24 lets you configure over-provisioning for enhanced endurance and performance. With more space reserved, random write performance increases. Endurance improves as well due to better flash management. Latency may even drop under the right conditions.

This thread is closed for comments
16 comments
    Your comment
  • SylentVyper
    These drives better come in a decent amount under the suggested price. The 850 Evo is constantly hitting those price points (or less) and prices have only been dropping. The 850 Evo is slightly faster on the sequential side, but far better with random read/write IOPS. You also get a better warranty, too.
  • mapesdhs
    Atm I don't see any reason to buy anything other than the 850 EVO atm in that budget range, they are priced so well. Bought a 250GB this week for my brother, it was only 63 UKP total from Amazon. Bought two 500GB units for myself for 117 each. Other vendors will have to move a lot in order to compete even on price, never mind performance & warranty.
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Did you duplicate the latency histogram pie charts for the BX200 960GB and the BX100 500GB? They're exactly the same.

    Thanks
  • flyflinger
    Wow, what a dog.... woof woof.
  • daglesj
    I love it when a manufacturer replaces a older model with a model that performs far worse. Time to snap up those excellent BX100's on clearance sales! How do companies screw up like this? Doesn't anyone do product testing and benchmarking before release anymore?
  • nforce4max
    I for once I almost no interest in current generation SSDs as I do not like TLC nand and not impressed with the performance in general. Just something to avoid when buying SSDs especially when it comes to the cheaper low capacity models for my projects. Last thing that I need is having to re-write everything every few months or suffer spinner level or worse performance (problem with planar TLC nand).

    For those who have been out of the loop or haven't bough their first SSD yet just avoid SSDs that use TLC unless it is 3D (stacked) and just pay a little more for MLC.
  • Chris Droste
    Kinda Ridiculous when you can get the MX100 512GB w/ MLC NAND for $149. unless they're planning on making the 480gig a sub-$100 drive by the holidays this is a non-starter.
  • CRamseyer
    Quote:
    Did you duplicate the latency histogram pie charts for the BX200 960GB and the BX100 500GB? They're exactly the same. Thanks


    It's not a duplicate. The latency distribution is just the same for both. I'm working on fine tuning those charts a bit.

    Also, you will notice that the bars on the side are different sizes even though it's still 0%. Data has fallen into those buckets but not more than 1%.
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Thanks Chris.
  • George Phillips
    Crucial's products are usually good, pretty fast, and very reliable. This one is an exception.
  • Anders235
    This looks like a step backwards for Crucial - strange move.
  • Nuckles_56
    I love how you compared it with their first SATA III drive, that was really interesting, but I'm very sad at how badly this driver performed
  • blazorthon
    I'm willing to bet this is just as reliable as most of Crucial's other offerings (which is very good), but performance like this is just sad. I wouldn't recommend this drive pretty much completely regardless of how cheap it gets.

    Granted this is an exaggerated example, things like this are why I don't get TLC drives. The only TLC drives I would consider are Samsung's TLC drives because they seem to do a decent job of it, but TLC's weakness is still considerable there if you push it too hard. It's too easy for a company to gimp TLC more than is acceptable and the BX200 series demonstrates that to an extreme.
  • zodiacfml
    This type of TLC is for USB. Sad.
  • Sakkura
    Crucial is not a subsidiary of Micron. It's simply a brand Micron uses.
  • ron baker
    These will prolly be sold in vast qtys to oems and bulk buyers to put in pre built systems, so that they can then trumpet all ovef the ads supfast ssd.. No savvy buyer will go fot these, pcworld advent systems etc. Maybe, ..Shame samsung arent rocking the price boat eg 500gb for 70gbp