The Crucial MX300 2TB SSD Review
Date: February 12, 2017
Product Name: MX300 2TB
Part Number: CT2050MX300SSD1
Warranty: 3 Years
Crucial’s MX300 series of SSDs are quite highly regarded around these parts and our reviews of the 512GB, 750GB and 1TB models back that observation up. However, the MX300 lineup has undergone a bit of change with the elimination of the original 750GB model and the addition of bookend products with new 275GB and 2TB offerings. All of these are now offered in a handy M.2 format as well.
The 2TB version represents the pinnacle of Crucial’s MX300 series as it takes everything that makes the smaller drives so impressive and turns the dial all the way to eleven. Not only does this high capacity version offer double the storage capacity of the recently MX300 1GB it also offers twice on the onboard RAM cache (1GB vs 512MB), and nearly double the pseudo-SLC write buffer of its nearest capacity neighbor. It is does all this while still keeping a highly reasonable asking price of 25 cents (USD) per GB.
From a raw performance perspective, the MX300’s stats are remarkably consistent across the lineup and as a result the 2TB version doesn’t really offer faster speeds than its siblings. It does however have significantly better NAND endurance due to its massive capacity.
On paper, the MX300 2050GB is indeed worthy of its flagship status but a price of about $512USD does bring up the question of whether or not it could be considered a good value. While a low cost per GB is always a good thing, costing adds up quickly when dealing with over 2 Terabytes of capacity.
It’s important to remember the SLC write buffer that this model comes with is best described as massive and that actually does cause a difference in some testing, regardless of what Crucial’s baseline specifications state. In testing we did find that occasionally the 1050GB MX300’s write buffer was not quite large enough to keep up with long term throughput demands, so on paper doubling it should alleviate this concern.
Also of note is that due to the use of 384Gbit 3D NAND, the 2TB model actually has 2.6 times the over-provisioning of the 1TB model. To be precise a 1TB MX300 has a mere 6GB of NAND set aside, whereas the 2050GB has 14GB. For those interested, the 275GB MX300 has 13GB, the 550GB model has a whopping 26GB, and the Limited Edition 750GB used 18GB.
Counterbalancing this promise of improved performance are potential two issues. Firstly, the Marvell 1074 controller being used here only has four channels. If past experiences are any indication there does come a point where increasing the NAND interleaving – the number of layers of NAND each channel has access to – does little to improve the actual performance. Within the 2TB model there are 43 layers in total (48GB per layer with 43 layers for 2064GB of actual capacity) so not all four channels are equally populated. One channel will be ‘shorted’ by one layer. This could potentially cause some minor performance losses due to internal load balancing.
One way this could have been avoided is by simply making the ‘2050GB’ a 2.1TB drive. Such a move would have reduced over-provisioning to 12GB but may have allowed all four channels access to the same amount of NAND. This however would have been a bit more complicated than simply adding in a forty-fourth NAND layer. Right now Micron does not make 5 or 6 layer versions of their ONFi 4.0 677Mt/s ‘3D’ TLC NAND. Instead it comes in 1,2,3,4,8 and 16 layer configurations. This does limit the possibly NAND configurations that Crucial can create.
Of course, Crucial could have easily made a 44 layer MX300 if they had used a full-length PCB with room for 12 NAND ICs with four 3 layer and eight 4 layer NAND ICs. Instead of going with a longer PCB Crucial actually reuses the same one as the MX300 1TB and has opted to simply user higher density ‘stacked’ 3D NAND ICs. We can understand this step since it makes conversion to the more compact M.2 form factor much easier.
In realistic terms the added thermal load from using higher density NAND should not be a problem as the NAND ICs do use the 2.5-inch metallic case as a heatsink, but it does hint at future possibilities. Crucial does not have to stop at 2TB for the MX300 and only consumer demand is holding them back from creating a MX300 that has a whopping 9.2 Terabytes of storage capacity.
With all of this being said, in the here and now we have a 2TB drive that certainly isn’t inexpensive but it could provide a perfect solution for gamers looking for a performance boost. Plus, with games eating up more and more capacity (look no further than Fallout 4’s new 58GB high resolution texture pack for proof of that!) a 2TB drive may soon become the norm.