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Crucial MX100 512GB SSD Review

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Crucial’s new MX100 is an SSD with a mission. Instead of planting yet another flag in the expensive high end category, it has been precision designed for the performance-minded side of the mainstream category with an eye towards dethroning drives like OCZ’s Vertex 460 and AData’s SP920. That may seem like a difficult goal to achieve but Crucial has a knack of hitting the ground running with precisely targeted products.

Crucial is actually in an enviable position within the SSD market. As the distribution arm of Micron, they have first-run access to a vast selection of components that fall under the IM Flash Technologies (IMFT) umbrella. While there are advantages to being tied at the hip to a powerful parent company, the MX100 is also an excellent example of how quickly technology is progressing. Recently they released the flagship M550 series which features 20nm L85 / ONFi 128GBit NAND' and the latest Marvel '89 controller. This new drive however replaces the slightly older but nonetheless popular M500 but it actually makes use of brand new 16nm 128GBit NAND modules. This has placed Crucial in the unenviable position of having to showcasing the next generation NAND in a drive that cannot directly compete with their M550. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not.

Crucial has ensured no toes are stepped on by tweaking the MX100’s architecture so that while it will outperform the M500, it won’t scavenge sales from their more expensive M550 series. To this end the MX100 uses the same upgraded Marvell 89 controller as the M550 but that 16nm NAND (in its current implementation at least) can’t outperform the 20nm modules on the higher end SSD. This has been accomplished by limiting the number of interleaved channels being run in parallel.


In order to artificially limited the MX100's abilities and help reduce costs, it uses massive 128GBit NAND ICs across the entire capacity line, just like the M500 it replaces. This means only the 512GB we will be testing today has 4 ICs per channel for interleaving whereas the 256GB model will only have two per channel, and the 128GB model will have only a single module per channel.

Considering its price tag of $215 puts the MX100 well within most mainstream consumers’ budgets this drive is an oddity for a 'value' series drive, but one that should not overly impact M550 sales. What it will do however, is showcase exactly what makes the new 16nm NAND 'tick' as it is the only major change between the M550 512GB and the MX100 512GB. Of course with such a low online asking price this new 16nm MLC NAND equipped drive has already set the bar very high in the price to performance and capacity segment.



From the exterior the MX100 follows a similar path to that of the M500 it supersedes. Just like the M500, it uses a 7mm all metal exterior that is fairly thick and secure feeling. Unlike most 512GB drives, Crucial has as opted to forego a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter. Considering the much lower asking price, this missing accessory certainly won’t be a deal breaker. Thankfully the key 7mm to 9.5mm black plastic adapter covering is included and allows the MX100 to fit inside slimmer systems.


Internally, the MX100 is very similar to the M550 and it has a classic Marvell layout. There is a single Marvell controller, 16 dual die ONFi 3 128GBit NAND ICs, and a single Micron 256MB external ram cache IC. There are also onboard capacitors which allow for Flush In Flight abilities. Seeing a consumer grade drive with FiF is not as rare as it once was, but this costly to implement feature is always welcome on budget friendly storage devices.

 
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AkG

Well-known member
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 P8P67 Deluxe motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 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 OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel 910 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
Intel 335 180GB: 335
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660
OCZ Vector 150 240GB: 1.2
Angelbird Adler 640GB: AA3.15
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
ADATA SP920 512GB: MU01
Intel 7230 240GB: L2010400
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB:DXM06B0Q
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Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" 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QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading"/> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:15.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:14.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";} </style> <![endif]-->Crucial M550 512GB: MU01

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:
Intel 520 - custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND

LAMD controller:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND
Seagate 600 Pro - custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9187 controller:
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
SanDisk Extreme 2 - Custom firmware w/ 19nm eX2 ABL NAND

Marvell 9189 controller:
ADATA SP920 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial M550 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial MX100 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector 150 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
OCZ Vertex 460 (M10) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Novachips NVS3600A controller:
Angelbird Adler - ONFi 2 NAND

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

Well-known member
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/mx100/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/mx100/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

These results certainly point towards there only being small differences in performance between an M550 512GB and a MX100 512GB. Meanwhile, the MX100 does boast some meaningful improvements over the outgoing M500.
 
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AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


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.






All things considered, the ATTO performance curve is respectable for such an affordable drive. The only real sticking point with this new SSD is the small file performance it offers. Obviously the new 16nm NAND hasn't been built with performance in mind; or rather it has obviously been designed to outperform Samsung's TLC modules but not necessarily MLC NAND.
 
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AkG

Well-known member
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 hard 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/mx100/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/mx100/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/mx100/pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Crucial may not have the greatest track record when it comes to creating value-based SSDs but these results are extremely impressive. While there is certainly an on-paper difference between the flagship M550 and MX100, consumers really won't notice it. More importantly the MX100 512GB is faster than the M500 480GB drive it replaces and that drive..
 
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AkG

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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/mx100/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/mx100/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/mx100/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/mx100/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Once again we are impressed with what the MX100 512GB is able to do. While it is slower than the M550 and AData SP920 the difference is extremely hard to justify given the large disparity in asking prices. It appears that with their new 16nm process, IMFT may finally have a product capable of taking on TLC NAND.
 
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AkG

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IOMeter

IOMETER


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.



As a value drive it is hardly surprising to see the MX100 lag behind high end options here. However, these results are actually rather impressive. Not only is the MX100 512GB noticeably faster than the M500 480GB it replaces, the differences between it and the M550 512GB are not all that great.
 
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AkG

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Windows 7 / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up with 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. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our 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>

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/mx100/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 Adobe crucible! </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/mx100/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

While not unexpected, these real world results do back up everything the synthetic tests were telling us. Simply put this drive is bloody impressive for a value-oriented product. In fact, unless you knew it cost a lot less than its M550 sibling you would be hard-pressed to tell one from the other. The performance difference is really that small.
 
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AkG

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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 worse 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/mx100/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not 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/mx100/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/mx100/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

As expected the new 16nm NAND is unable to provide any clear and distinctive performance advantages over the previous 20nm NAND it replaces. By the same token we are not fully counting it out yet. Crucial has had a lot more time working with 20nm 128GBit NAND IC (two generations to be exact) whereas this is the first time they h are working with 16nm technology. It is possible that 16nm simply has some new 'quirks' than need to be worked out before its full potential is reached. In either case, the greatly reduced cost of manufacturing does set a new standard for value.
 
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AkG

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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/mx100/full_pcm7.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/mx100/full_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Marvell drives <i>always</i> have a large drop-off in performance and this one is no different. On the positive side, this drive is <i>better</i> at retaining its performance over the long term than the M500 it replaces and it is within grasping distance of the M550 and AData SP920. Considering the differences in price between those drives, the MX100 is clearly the better deal.
 
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