Crucial BX500 960GB Review (Page 2 of 11)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Test System

The Crucial BX500 960GB is based on Silicon Motion's SM2259XT controller with a custom firmware and uses Micron's 256Gb 96-layer 3D TLC flash memory. The use of 256Gb dies compared to 384Gb dies found in the MX300 mean models are now back to normal capacity specifications. This is the same controller as the SM2259, but with a DRAM-less design, which reduces performance. This controller is also a slightly updated version of the one found in the lower capacity Crucial BX500 480GB I reviewed in December 2018. But before we dig down into the ever so important technical details, let us briefly discuss the physical attributes of the SSD first. The Crucial BX500 960GB has a very simple appearance. What you will get is a black plastic cover with a "Crucial by Micron" sticker at the top left corner for branding. Meanwhile, the letters "BX" are engraved into the shell to give the overall design a bit of visual style. Measuring in at about 100 mm x 70 mm x 7.0 mm, its thickness -- or lack thereof -- will ensure wide compatibility.

Turning the SSD around reveals a flat plastic backplate. This is something users will come to expect from a solid state drive, as there are no exposed printed circuit boards like you would normally see with a traditional hard disk. The only thing that is common between the Crucial BX500 960GB SSD and a traditional hard disk drive is its SATA 6Gb/s and corresponding power connector at the end. A label here provides the usual series of certification logos, along with information such as the brand, capacity, serial number, and the fact it is made in Thailand. As shown in our photo above, there is no warranty seal anywhere. They are held together by friction clips on the shell. There are no user serviceable parts inside, but if you ever want to take a look inside, pry the heck out of it and you will be inside in no time.

Moving on, the Crucial BX500 960GB's shell is held together by purely friction. As aforementioned, pry the heck out of it around the Serial ATA connector, and you will be well on your way inside. In case you are uncomfortable with taking apart your brand new SSD even though it will not void your warranty, to save you some trouble, I cracked mine open to take some photos of its internals for you to see. As it is with many value-oriented and budget SSDs nowadays, you will not find a full-sized PCB, but rather, one that occupies only about one-third of the room inside. The heart of Crucial's BX500 960GB is the Silicon Motion SM2259XT controller. The PCB itself is held secure to the shell by -- you guessed it -- friction. As the drive controller is fundamentally very important to any SSD, let us dig more into the details of its brain.

As I have mentioned in the beginning of this page, the four channel SM2259XT is a SATA controller designed for use with 3D TLC flash memory. The XT variant is a reduced version of the vanilla SM2259 with no DRAM. The SM2259XT is an updated version of the SM2258XT with end-to-end data path protection and improved error correction. Being a Crucial BX series drive, it comes with a subset of MX series features like Adaptive Thermal Protection and Multistep Data Integrity Algorithm. The BX500 supports Data Write Acceleration as well, which uses up to a dynamically allocated amount of the free space for SLC write caching. Basically, entire blocks of flash can be switched between SLC mode and TLC mode. Due to the simplicity of a pseudo-SLC configuration, write operation performance can be significantly increased. In its downtime, the data 'cached' in SLC mode will be permanently moved to TLC blocks. Obviously, if writing becomes a continuous operation, previously cached data will be moved into SLC blocks at the same time as incoming data. Proprietary NANDXtend low-density parity check error correction codes are used to increase write endurance. To protect against physical flash failure, an internal redundant parity scheme called RAIN, or redundant array of independent NAND, is implemented. Unfortunately, there is no encryption support like the MX series.

Rated at 540MB/s read and 500MB/s write over SATA 6Gb/s, these figures are lower than its predecessor and the same as the BX500 480GB. Crucial does not even post its IOPS rating. To see how it translates to numbers in our benchmarks, we will pit them against all the drives we have tested in the past to see how this new mainstream drive from Crucial steps up against budget and mainstream drives in the next eight pages or so.

A total of four NAND flash chips are found in the Crucial BX500 960GB solid state disk, with two of them on each side. The chips used are Micron's own MT29F2T08EMHBFJ4-R:B (FBGA code NW952) synchronous 96-layer 3D TLC NAND flash memory, with a capacity of 256GB per integrated circuit chip. Its rated write endurance is 240TB, which equates to approximately 132GB per day for five years; about average for a budget drive. 64GB out of the 1024GB total capacity -- just under 7% -- is provisioned for the drive controller for overhead, so the actual usable space is 960GB, as advertised. You will see 894GB in Windows. There is no memory IC present for its DRAM-less design.

Our test configuration is as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790K @ 4.6GHz
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-D15S
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK
RAM: Patriot Viper 3 Low Profile PC3-17000 4x8GB
Graphics: Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 960 4GB
Chassis: Fractal Design Define R6 Blackout TG
Storage: OCZ Vector 180 240GB; Crucial MX200 500GB
Power: Seasonic PRIME Ultra Titanium 850W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD
Optical Drive: LiteOn iHAS224-06 24X DVD Writer
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Pro

Compared Hardware:
- Crucial BX500 960GB
- Crucial BX100 500GB
- Crucial BX300 240GB
- Crucial BX500 480GB
- Crucial MX100 256GB
- Crucial MX200 500GB
- Crucial MX300 750GB
- Crucial MX500 500GB (M.2)
- Crucial MX500 500GB (SATA)
- Gigabyte UD PRO 256GB
- Kingston SSDNow UV400 480GB
- Kingston UV500 240GB (M.2)
- Kingston UV500 240GB (SATA)
- OCZ Trion 100 480GB
- OCZ Trion 150 480GB
- Toshiba OCZ TL100 240GB
- Toshiba OCZ TR200 480GB

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look, Test System
3. Benchmark: AIDA64 Disk Benchmark
4. Benchmark: ATTO Disk Benchmark
5. Benchmark: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0
6. Benchmark: HD Tach
7. Benchmark: HD Tune Pro 5.70
8. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 9.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
10. Benchmark: PCMark 8
11. Conclusion