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Crucial BX200 960GB & 480GB SSD Review

AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Even though their BX100 drives are not even a year old, Crucial has made the tough decision to EOL this award winning series and replace it with a new model: the BX200. This may seem like an admission of defeat for a highly respected product but nothing could be further from the truth. The BX100 still performs extremely well but the entry level SSD marketplace has been moving forward at such a quick pace that Crucial felt it was time to break with their typical release cadence. More to the point everyone from Samsung to OCZ are moving to a yearly refresh pace for a lot of their series and if Crucial had not kept up they would have been left in the dust.


The reasons for this stiff completion are varied and numerous, but boil down to one salient fact. More and more consumers are realizing the performance potential SSD have to offer and are moving away from HDDs. SSHD hybrids have slowed the flow but not by much when you consider the quick expansion of cloud storage solutions in lieu of localized data. Instead buyers are looking for relatively fast OS drives that offer more than enough storage space but do so without being absurdly expensive when compared to typical spindle-based options. This is indeed a tall order and has caused manufacturers to think outside the box.

We’ve seen that kind of thinking from a few manufacturers as of late. AData’s Premier series and OCZ’s Trion are just two drives among dozens that have been launched in an effort to capitalize upon the newfound purchasing power of budget-conscious users. Both offer performance numbers that used to be reserved for flagship drives while boasting affordable price points.


In the case of Crucial this means refreshing a relatively new series and going in a different direction for the replacement model. You see, even though the BX100 was rather inexpensive its price still tended to be too close for comfort to Crucial’s higher level MX200. This time around they’re focusing in on offering consumers nearly 500GB of space for about $150. Yup, that’s right; for the first time you will be able to purchase 500GB (technically 480GB due to over-provisioning) of SSD storage space for about thirty cents a GB! The same factors can be brought forward for the much larger 960GB model as well. Brilliant stuff.


In order to offer such a bargain basement price without sacrificing longevity Crucial started an in-house research project which resulted in the first ever TLC NAND-based drive that bears the Crucial name. More importantly the BX200 may be TLC based but still has the same endurance rating as its MLC NAND predecessor at 72TB. This is actually quite impressive since these types of designs aren’t exactly known for their endurance.

What really caught our eye is the 72TB of drive write endurance is based on a 90 percent full drive which makes this number extremely conservative to say the least. The only hitch is these 16nm ICs aren’t designed with the newer 3D NAND technology. Instead they are simply IMFT 'old school' NAND ICs that are (up to) quad die packs.


While this TLC NAND is technically the same as what IMFT offers to other companies, it is supposedly not the same quality. It is actually more accurate to say that this TLC NAND is not going to be found inside any other drive for the time being. Instead only the absolute best that Micron offers will go to the BX200 due to a stringent binning process.


Crucial has also taken advantage of the SMI's latest controller offering: the SMI2256. This controller made its debut inside the AData SP550 even though we felt that it wasn’t quite given its due in that particular drive. This controller RAIDs the NAND, has insane level of constant error checking, and is an all-round best in class option for the entry marketplace. Unlike AData, Crucial threw out the default firmware and as they said have baked in 'secret sauce' to fully optimize the controller for this particular NAND. This too is how Crucial boosted the endurance of the TLC modules to MLC levels.

On paper at least this is a potent combination and one that should have no issues on the durability side of the equation. The only potential hiccups lie on the performance side. Since the BX200 has a 4-channel design, and this is TLC NAND based drive, the performance is going to be an issue. However, as this model is meant to compete with SSHDs and other slow SSDs, there shouldn’t be too much of a problem for would-be buyers.


Further complicating things is that the BX200 series models are not all exactly the same. As you can see the 960GB model (on the right) has 16 TLC NAND ICs; whereas the 480GB has only 8 ICs (and the 240GB would only have 4). Obviously all the NAND ICs used throughout the BX200 series are the same density, but the NAND interleaving is directly proportional to the size of the drive. As all enthusiasts know just populating all channels of a controller is not enough, the interleaving (number of ICs per channel) can make a big difference in overall performance. Basically the 240GB would have 1 IC per channel (four layers of NAND), the 480GB would have 2 ICs per channels (eight layers of NAND), and the 960 would have 4 ICs per channel (sixteen layers of NAND).


In addition to all of this, the amount of RAM cache available to the controller varies from capacity to capacity as well. The largest model has two 256MB DDR3-1600 ICs for its buffer, while the 480GB (and most likely 240GB) has only one 256MB IC. Based on these factors we fully expect the 960GB to be faster than the 480GB. This may make it a touch harder for Crucial to succeed at their intended goal of offering a true “everyman’s drive”.


Before the benchmarks start, we do have to make mention of accessory bundle that Crucial sells separately. The aptly called SSD Install Kit is an upgrade kit which can be used with any Solid State Drive – this is why it is sold separately.

What this kit does is offer consumers a much more straightforward upgrade path. Simply plug the new drive into the USB adapter, plug the adapter into the system, install Acronis HD (a serial number comes with the kit) and clone your existing drive to the new drive. This is tailor made for users who don’t have a free SATA port, or even for laptops where only one drive can be used at a time. While it may not be quite as impressive as what Kingston offers, this kit only costs $24.99 and should be in every enthusiast’s toolbox. As an added bonus the SSD Install Kit also comes with a free SATA 6Gb/s cable and a 2.5” to 3.5” adapter plate. Not too shabby for 25 bucks.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Test System & Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Windows 7 load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being an Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus Sabretooth TUF X99 LGA 2011-v3 motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using either AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers, or NVMHCI using Intel NVMe drivers.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or a manufactures 'Toolbox' and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i7 5930K
Motherboard: Asus Sabretooth TUF X99
Memory: 32GB Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel P3700 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB: 1.33
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
Intel 7230 240GB: L2010400
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB:DXM06B0Q
Plextor M6e 256GB: 1.03
AMD R7 240GB: 1.0
Crucial MX200: MU01
G.Skill Phoenix 480GB: 2.71
Intel 750: 8EV10135
Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB: 0C34L5TA
Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB: SAFM00.r
OCZ Trion 480GB & 960GB: SAFM11.1
AData XPG SX930 240GB : 5.9E
AData SP550 240GB: O0730A
Crucial BX200 480/960GB: MU01

Toshiba TC58 controller:
OCZ Trion 480GB & 960GB - Custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode TLC NAND

Samsung MDX controller:
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

SandForce SF1200 controller:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 controller:
G.Skill Phoenix 480GB - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Marvell 9183 controller:
Plextor M6e 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9189 controller:
Crucial MX200 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Marvell 9293 controller:
Kingston HyperX Predator - Custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
AMD R7 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND w/ custom firmware
OCZ Arc 100 (M10) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Intel X25 G3 controller:
Intel 730 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND

Intel NVMe G1 Controller:
Intel 750 - Customer firmware w/ MLC 20nm NAND

Phison PS3110 Controller:
Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

JMicron JMF670H Controller:
AData XPG SX930 240GB - ONFi 3 NAND

SMI SM2256 Controller:
AData SP550 240GB - TLC NAND
Crucial BX200 480/960GB - TLC NAND w/ custom firmware

Special Thanks to Crucial for providing the Ram for this testbed.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


<i>For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/read.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Write Performance


<i>For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

This new series may use a different approach but sequential file performance is still top notch for a SATA/AHCI SSD. Of course this was fully expected as sequential file testing is not a hard test and rarely shows any issues.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


<i>The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Both the read and write performance curves are a touch low, but for an entry level drive both capacities offer more than adequate throughput. It should however be noted that the 960GB version does offer slightly higher performance at the initial transfer rate levels but plateaus at the same point as its smaller capacity sibling.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


PCMark 7


<i>While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

As expected the 980GB model <i>is</i> the faster of the two models but not by all that much. Unfortunately, it is becoming abundantly clear that this new BX200 did not make performance a main priority. Instead it is barely faster than its predecessor the BX100. This is acceptable given the lower asking price of this new series, but still a touch disappointing nevertheless.
 
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AkG

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Joined
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Messages
5,274
AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


<i>AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/asd_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


<i>Much like AS-SSD, Anvil Pro was created to quickly and easily – yet accurately – test your drives. While it is still in the Beta stages it is a versatile and powerful little program. Currently it can test numerous read / write scenarios but two in particular stand out for us: 4K queue depth of 4 and 4K queue depth of 16. A queue depth of four along with 4K sectors can be equated to what most users will experience in an OS scenario while 16 depth will be encountered only by power users and the like. We have also included the 4k queue depth 1 results to help put these two other numbers in their proper perspective. All settings were left in their default states and the test size was set to 1GB.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Once again both capacities do post pretty decent numbers for the entry level marketplace, but owners of the previous BX100 series certainly will not be lining up to purchase the new and ‘improved’ model.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
IOMeter

IOMETER


<i>IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

We honestly would never recommend either model for such extreme scenarios but the additional ICs and double RAM buffer do make the 960GB model better than the 480GB in this test. In either case the BX200 posts acceptable numbers for entry level consumers – and certainly destroys any hard disk drive.
 
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AkG

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Windows 8 / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 8 Start Up w/ Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


<i>When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Adobe CS5 Load Time



<i>Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the newly updated Adobe crucible. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

It really is unfortunate that the BX200 is not a touch faster than it is. After all, a new model should be noticeably faster than the model it replaces; yet that is not the case with the BX200 vs BX100 series. Instead the differences are rather small.
 
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AkG

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Messages
5,274
Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


<i>Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worst case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/copy_sm.jpg" border="0"

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Deep queue depths, and small file transfers are not this series' strong suit, but overall this level of performance will seem downright phenomenal for consumers used to HDD's.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


<i>While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing if a solid state drive will behave differently when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity. </i>

Synthetic Test Results

<i>For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/data_pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Real World Results

<i>For a real world application we have opted for our standard Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance test.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/BX200/data_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

When you combine slow TLC NAND with a controller that does not make performance its top priority (reliability and durability are the SMI’s main concerns) the performance drop off is going to be noticeable when going from a fresh drive to loaded. Of course, since Crucial makes changing the level of over-provisioning quite simple, this metric can be modified and performance would level off quite well as the SSD reaches capacity.
 
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