Crucial MX100 256GB Review (Page 2 of 10)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Installation, Test System

The Crucial MX100 256GB is based on Marvell's 88SS9189 controller with a custom firmware, and uses Micron's new 16nm MLC flash memory. The Marvell 88SS9189 is an updated version of the 88SS9187, which we have seen in products like the SanDisk Extreme II and SanDisk Extreme PRO. Its main competitors include the OCZ ARC 100 and SanDisk Ultra II. 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 MX100 256GB has a very simple appearance -- a plain silver aluminum cover with a sticker in the middle, but with a twist. If you examine at the photo above closely, you will notice this is actually the bottom of the SSD. Whereas most manufacturers place the sticker on top of the drive, Crucial decided to do the reverse. At first, I was a bit confused, but it is nothing to get too concerned over, haha.

The label on top of the metal enclosure has the same design as the product packaging, which features blue gradient background is blended in with wave stream pattern. Meanwhile, the outline of the letters "MX" are horizontally oriented in the background to give the overall design a bit of visual style. We can see Crucial's logo and "2.5-inch Solid State Drive" printed on a strip across the design, so one will make no mistake what this device is. Measuring in at about 100 mm x 70 mm x 7.0 mm, its thickness -- or lack thereof -- will ensure wide compatibility. If, for some reason, a full 9.5 mm is needed for installation, a rubber spacer will be included out of the box.

Turning the SSD around reveals a flat metal 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 MX100 256GB SSD and a traditional hard disk drive is its SATA 6Gb/s and corresponding power connector at the end. As shown in our photo above, this is actually the top of the drive, and here is where you will find a large label with the usual series of certification logos, along with information on the brand, capacity, and serial number. In case you missed it, our particular unit is the Crucial MX100 256GB, haha. This SSD is made in China, just like how in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the rest was made in China. Yes, I know I have cracked the same joke before. But here at APH Networks, we tend to be very environmental and recycle everything, including old jokes.

Moving on, the Crucial MX100 256GB's shell is attached to the aluminum backplate by four small screws. One of the screws has a warranty seal over it, so in order to take a peek inside the SSD, you will have to inevitably void your three year warranty. To save you some trouble, I cracked mine open to take some photos of its internals for you to see. Judging by dozens of SSDs we have wrecked opened up in the past, we have exactly what the doctor ordered once again: A full sized PCB inside. The heart of Crucial's MX100 256GB is the Marvell 88SS9189 controller, with a piece of thermally conductive tape between it and the enclosure. As the drive controller is fundamentally very important to any SSD, let us dig more into the details of its brain.

At the heart of Crucial's MX100 is a Marvell 88SS9189 controller. As aforementioned, the eight channel 88SS9189 is a slightly improved version of the 88SS9187, with better DevSLP support and more available bandwidth. This solid state drive replaces the company's M500, but carries forward many features found on the higher end M550, such as temperature monitoring/overheat protection and onboard capacitors to ensure all data finishes writing in case the power goes out. To protect against physical flash failure, an internal redundant parity scheme called RAIN, or redundant array of independent NAND, is implemented. As with many SSDs on the market today, the Crucial MX100 256GB has built in 256-bit hardware encryption that meets IEEE-1667 and TCG Opal 2.0 standards. However, unlike many SSDs being sold right now, the Crucial MX100 also supports Microsoft's eDrive standard. What this does is it allows your system to directly address the hardware encryption scheme already present on the disk if you use BitLocker to encrypt your drive. Personally, I find this especially appealing to mobile users. My personal laptop is fully encrypted, and because my current SSD does not support Microsoft's eDrive standard, it takes a pretty sizable write performance hit with BitLocker enabled, thanks to the lack of hardware acceleration.

Rated at 550MB/s read, 333MB/s write, and up to 85,000 IOPS over SATA 6Gb/s, these figures are extremely competitive figures. 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 SandForce, Indilinx, and other Marvell based drives in the next seven pages or so.

Of course, the part that really stands out about the Crucial MX100 is its low cost flash memory ICs. A total of sixteen NAND flash chips are found on the Crucial MX100 256GB solid state disk, with eight on each side. The chips used are Micron's own MT29F128G08CBCCBH6-10:C (FBGA code NW645) NAND flash memory, with a capacity of 16GB per integrated circuit chip. These are multi-level cells manufactured on the 16nm fabrication process, which are exclusive to Micron at press time. Its rated write endurance is 72TB, which equates to 40GB per day for five years. Unlike SandForce and some Marvell based SSDs, there is no over-provisioning, so they all come together and make up for its 256GB storage capacity. You will see 239GB in Windows. One Micron MT42L256M16D1 (FBGA code D9RLT) 512MB LPDDR2-1067 chip is present; it is used by the Marvell 88SS9189 controller for system memory.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K @ 4.6GHz
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-U14S (2x Noctua NF-A15)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
RAM: Kingston HyperX Savage HX324C11SRK2/16 2x8GB
Graphics: Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB OC
Chassis: SilverStone Temjin TJ04-E (Noctua NF-S12A PWM, Noctua NF-P12 PWM)
Storage: SanDisk Extreme II 240GB; OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
Power: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi Bravura
Optical Drive: LiteOn iHAS224-06 24X DVD Writer
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional

Compared Hardware:
- Crucial MX100 256GB
- G.Skill Phoenix EVO 115GB
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB
- Kingston HyperX 120GB
- Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB
- 2x Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB RAID 0
- OCZ ARC 100 240GB
- OCZ Agility 3 240GB
- OCZ Agility 4 256GB
- OCZ Octane 512GB
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB
- OCZ Vector 150 240GB
- OCZ Vector 256GB
- OCZ Vertex 2 160GB 25nm
- OCZ Vertex 2 60GB 34nm
- OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
- OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB
- OCZ Vertex 4 256GB
- OCZ Vertex 450 256GB
- OCZ Vertex 460 240GB
- Patriot Pyro 120GB
- Patriot Pyro SE 240GB
- SanDisk Extreme II 240GB
- SanDisk Extreme PRO 480GB
- SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB

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 4.60
8. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 8.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
10. Conclusion