Page 2:Technical Specifications
Page 3:Pricing And Accessories
Page 4:A Closer Look at the MX200 1TB
Page 5:Sequential Read
Page 6:Sequential Write
Page 7:Random Read
Page 8:Random Write
Page 9:80% Read Sequential Mixed Workload
Page 10:80% Read Random Mixed Workload
Page 11:Sequential Steady State
Page 12:Random Write Steady State
Page 13:PCMark 8 Real-World Software
Page 14:PCMark 8 Advanced Workload
Page 15:Notebook Battery Life
Crucial is the conservative SSD manufacturer. Its RealSSD C300 was the company's only performance leader. For years, Crucial would only release one SSD around the CES time frame, and that drive would remain on the market until the following CES when its successor was announced.
That strategy worked well for Crucial when each lithography node was used for longer than eleven months. But as manufacturing accelerated, the company modified its approach and tried to introduce a second-tier product. The first time this went off without a hitch was when the M550 improved upon the M500's performance, allowing both drives to coexist. The M550 is still selling today, positioned as the upper-tier product. But the new MX200 could easily change this.
Crucial's current SSD line-up looks like alphabet soup; you have the BX100, MX100, MX200 and M550. Before the MX200, its hierarchy was simpler with the BX at the low end, the MX in the middle and the M series up top. Ideally, the MX200 would replace the MX100. However, Crucial tells us that both offerings will remain available for now. Capacity- and performance-wise, the MX200 encroaches on the M550, even facilitating better notebook battery life thanks to its 16nm flash.
A move to 16nm NAND isn't all the MX200 contributes to Crucial's portfolio. For the first time, the company is adding an SLC cache mode to its client SSDs. The MX200 series uses Dynamic Write Acceleration on the 2.5" 250GB model. The 500GB mSATA and M.2 drives also get the feature. Unlike Samsung's TurboWrite and SanDisk's nCache, which use fixed sizes for the SLC-like layers, Crucial's technology employs a dynamic volume that expands and contracts depending on the SSD's free space. Sadly, the 1TB model we're testing today doesn't benefit from Dynamic Write Acceleration. We'll have to wait for the M.2-based MX200 review to talk more about it.
As mentioned, the only 2.5" model equipped with Dynamic Write Acceleration is the 250GB MX200. Crucial doesn't specify random I/O performance at low queue depths, but in our testing, the 250GB model produces just over 35,000 random write IOPS at a queue depth of one. The 1TB version scores just over 39,000 random write IOPS in the same test with Anvil's Storage Utilities. Crucial tells us that the 500GB and 1TB models don't need its SLC cache scheme to achieve excellent random write results, and our testing confirms that.
The MX200's other notable feature, again, is its 16nm MLC flash. The new lithography node allows Micron, Crucial's parent company, to manufacture more dies per wafer. This lowers cost, and the savings trickle down to the final retail product. After all, NAND flash is an SSD's most expensive component. Micron chose to shrink the 20nm node down to 16nm and remain at two bits per cell to compete with three-bit-per-cell flash from other vendors. MLC is widely considered superior in both sustained write performance and endurance.
The 250GB MX200 has a 80TB Total Bytes Written (TBW) rating. That figure doubles with each step up in capacity. The 500GB model enjoys a 160TB rating and the 1TB drive is specified at 320TB TBW. For the 1TB model, that's 175GB per day for five years.
The MX200 checks several important feature boxes, and it's a real upgrade over the BX series if you find yourself needing the extras. Full hardware disk encryption is supported through TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 (Microsoft eDrive). The MX200 uses a capacitor array to protect data at rest in the event of a power failure. And older Crucial protection schemes like RAIN are also included.
Pricing And Accessories
The 250GB MX200 sells for less than $110 at the time of writing. Crucial's 500GB is available just under $200, while the 1TB implementation is offered at under $430. The 1TB BX100 we recently reviewed currently sells for $375, so there's a fairly wide gap between Crucial's hard drive replacement BX family and the high-end MX200. Crucial didn't release a 1TB-class MX100.
When Crucial announced the BX100 and MX200 SSDs at CES 2015, it also released its first software toolbox. Storage Executive lets you update your SSD's firmware, monitor SMART, secure erase the drive and even reset the PSID.
Crucial also includes Acronis' cloning software with its 2.5" MX200s. Customers receive an installation key in the box and can download the utility from crucial.com. You also get a 7 to 9.5mm adapter in the retail box, should you need it.
A Closer Look at the MX200 1TB
The box lists the package contents and some very general information, but lacks performance data and warranty length.
The MX200 uses a different chassis than the MX100 and M550. Crucial's newer design resembles what we saw from the BX100, though there are subtle differences in the way the PCB sits inside.
Crucial finally figured out that the pretty label goes up on top, while the information label (with the model, part and serial numbers) belongs on the bottom of the drive.
Like most modern client-oriented SSDs, the MX200 fits into a 7mm-tall form factor for compatibility with Ultrabooks requiring the thinner z-height.
Crucial uses sixteen NAND flash packages in total, with eight on each side of the PCB. A row of capacitors helps keep data at rest secure in the event of a host power failure.
A Marvell 88SS9289 eight-channel controller is responsible for processing information. This is the same controller that Crucial uses on its MX100 and M550.
As mentioned, Crucial employs 128Gb dies of Micron's 16nm MLC flash.
The MX200 uses two 512MB DRAM packages to cache table data. One is located next to the Marvell controller and the other, pictured here, is on the reverse side of the PCB.
The table below contains the comparison units for today's review:
The MX200's sequential read performance follows the same profile as Crucial's M550. The MX200 and M550 share the same controller, so this really doesn't surprise us. In its 1TB form, the MX200 doesn't benefit from an SLC cache layer. Thus, the main difference between both Crucial drives is their flash. One uses 20nm NAND and the other comes with flash manufactured at 16nm.
The MX200 is a little faster than the M550 in sequential writes at a queue depth of one. But by the time we stack 32 commands, both SSDs perform nearly identically.
The MX200's random read performance lands in the middle of today's most popular 1TB SSDs. It's very fast, but can't break into the 10,000 IOPS range at a queue depth of one. That's a nice separator between the highest-end drives and the next tier below.
Even without an SLC cache layer to buffer random writes, the MX200 performs well at low queue depths. It slides further back at high queue depths, though most of us will never get into this range in the real world. If you compare the top five SSDs, the difference in high queue depth random write performance is trivial at best.
80% Read Sequential Mixed Workload
The 1TB MX200 tops our sequential mixed workload chart. The M550 follows closely behind. Frankly, seeing two Crucial products at the top surprised us, given the results from previous tests with individual workloads.
80% Read Random Mixed Workload
The MX200 also scores well in our random mixed workload test. There, the drive delivers the second-best performance at a queue depth of two, just behind Samsung's 850 Pro 1TB.
Sequential Steady State
Very few client SSDs stand out in steady state testing. Our sequential metric is one that few companies optimize for, and an SLC-like cache doesn't positively affect the results since it's either full or not buffering data.
The MX200 shows up amongst the second tier of products. Surprisingly, Crucial's BX100, with half as many channels to the controller, fares better in this test. Silicon Motion builds that drive's firmware and does a really good job focusing on sequential performance.
Random Write Steady State
The MX200 behaves better than we thought it might in this test. The performance is consistent, with very little deviation from the highest to lowest points once steady state is achieved. These are the numbers we'd expect from flagship products and not mid-tier products like the MX family.
PCMark 8 Real-World Software
For details on our real-world software performance testing, please click here.
The MX200's high mixed workload and sequential performance translates to similarly impressive scores in our real-world software tests. Crucial's drive consistently lands in the upper tier with daily use software.
Looking at the total throughput of the same tests, combined, the 1TB MX200 falls slightly behind Samsung's 850 Pro and EVO products. Even an enthusiast won't notice a difference between the drives at this level, though. MyDigitalSSD's BP4 is the exception.
PCMark 8 Advanced Workload
To learn how we test advanced workload performance, please click here.
Under heavier workloads, the MX200 ends up just under Samsung's 850 Pro and SanDisk's Extreme Pro, the two fastest consumer SSDs available. Crucial's 1TB MX200 doesn't use the lower-capacity model's dynamic SLC cache layer, and that really hurts performance during the recovery phase.
The other day I was at a four-way stop sign with several cars waiting to proceed. The time it took for one car to pass through the intersection and for the next to start made me thing about latency and how we react to it. One car waiting a second or two longer than necessary is enough to get me upset. A second here, a second there. The inefficiency is enough to drive you crazy.
The few seconds I spent at that intersection didn't have anything to do with how long it took me to get home. Stop lights, filling up the tank and grabbing a cup of coffee took much more time. But you don't remember those events; you remember waiting for other drivers to find their gas pedals.
We often read that modern 6Gb/s SSDs perform the same, and that you can't really tell one from the others. In daily use that is often true. But when you move beyond the normal tasks, some products simply do better than others. Updating Windows or installing a game after it downloads are great examples of workloads that let one drive stand out from another. The third chart above represents the four-way intersection.
Notebook Battery Life
For more information on how we test notebook battery life, click here.
Crucial's MX200 distinguishes itself from the M550 when it comes to milking time from your notebook's battery. When we first tested the 1TB M550, we had to run this test several times to verify that its dismal results were accurate. Crucial managed to rectify the M550's issue this time around, even though both SSDs use the same controller.
The drives included in our chart all perform similarly with the CPU, DRAM and other system buses running at a reduced rate. On battery power, none of the drives really establish a performance advantage.
The MX100 wasn't a performance powerhouse, but Crucial sold boatloads of them. As a flash manufacturer, Crucial's focus is on volume and not all-out performance. The company wants to sell its memory products in stable platforms at low prices. This trend started with the M500 and carries over today.
The MX200 follows suit. It's not a next-gen drive that will pin you back in your seat. No, the MX200 is a sensible SSD that caters to budget-bound power users looking for more than a hard drive replacement without spending 75 cents per gigabyte for flagship performance. Sadly though, Crucial goes too conservative with the MX200. Its 250GB model is the only 2.5" drive with an emulated SLC caching technology. Our tests with the full line-up show that the two largest SSDs write random data faster than that 250GB implementation; however, we can't help but think the technology would have pushed the bigger drives to the performance levels expected in 2015. TurboWrite (Samsung) and nCache (SanDisk) both offer amazing results. They work even better when the writes are spread to more dies in the higher-capacity models.
Crucial's Storage Executive software tames the firmware updating process, but its not perfect yet. We haven't been able to get the tool to update drives that are not the primary system disk (C:\). Otherwise, the utility is a nice, albeit long overdue addition. Crucial doesn't do anything innovative with the software that hasn't been done before by a competitor.
The MX100 and MX200 will coexist, at least for now. At the time of writing, the MX200 with its less expensive flash is priced similarly as the MX100. The 16nm node enables MLC NAND that delivers higher sustained writer performance than 2D planar TLC. But Samsung's 850 EVO uses 3D TLC with a sustained sequential write speed of 400 MB/s. In comparison, the 1TB MX200 only achieved 285 MB/s in our testing. Sealing the MX200's fate is the fact that Samsung's 1TB 850 EVO also benefits from RAPID Mode DRAM cache, the same software features and a $30 price advantage. It's almost comical that Crucial's 1TB model costs more than Samsung's expensive 3D V-NAND TLC drive.
It almost seems like Crucial is launching new SSDs to compete with Samsung. But sales volume doesn't come from a wide selection of SSDs. Just ask OCZ how well that worked. There are currently so many products in the line-up that most customers (even the power users) don't know the difference between them. Crucial's portfolio is so confusing that it's almost faceless. BX100, MX100, MX200...whatever. Which one costs the least on Amazon? If you are shopping for a mid-range 1TB SSD right now, the answer is Samsung's 850 EVO.