Crucial MX300 750GB Review (Page 2 of 11)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Test System

The Crucial MX300 750GB is based on Marvell's 88SS1074 controller with a custom firmware, and uses Micron's 384Gbit 32-layer 3D flash memory. These ultra-high density NAND flash ICs were developed with Intel, and uses floating gate transistors, which are different than Samsung's charge trap design. 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 MX300 750GB has a very simple appearance -- a plain silver aluminum cover with a sticker in the middle. The label on top of the metal enclosure has the same color scheme as the product packaging, and features a black and dark blue gradient background blended in with a 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 is 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 MX300 750GB 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, there is no warranty seal anywhere. In fact, it is not even held together by any screws. There are no user serviceable parts inside, but if you ever want to take a look inside, all you need to do is to give the edges a quick pry, and you will be on your way in no time.

Moving on, the Crucial MX300 750GB's shell is attached to the aluminum backplate by friction clips only. As aforementioned, a quick pry, and you will be well on your way inside. No screws, no warranty seals; nothing. In case you are uncomfortable with taking apart your brand new SSD, 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 opened up in the past, we have exactly what the doctor ordered once again: A full sized PCB inside. The heart of Crucial's MX300 750GB is the Marvell 88SS1074 controller, with a piece of thermally conductive tape between it and the enclosure. The PCB itself is held secure to the shell by more friction clips. 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 88SS1074 is a fifth generation SATA controller designed for use with TLC flash memory. Being a Crucial MX series drive, it comes with all the usual features like DevSLP support, temperature monitoring/overheat protection, and onboard capacitors to ensure all data finishes writing in case the power goes out. Power failure protection is a rare feature in the mainstream realm. The MX300 supports Drive Write Acceleration, which uses up to 50% of the free space for SLC write caching for lower capacity models (This feature is not needed, therefore not enabled, for high capacity variants like the one we are reviewing today). Basically, entire blocks of flash can be switched between SLC mode and MLC 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 MLC blocks. Obviously, if writing becomes a continuous operation, previously cached data will be moved into SLC blocks at the same time as incoming data. 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 MX300 750GB 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 MX300 is a rare breed that 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 last personal laptop was fully encrypted, and because the SATA SSD I used with it did not support Microsoft's eDrive standard, it took a pretty sizable write performance hit with BitLocker enabled, thanks to the lack of hardware acceleration.

Thanks to the new 3D TLC flash memory, the biggest change with the MX300 series is the capacity range. It also comes in funky capacities like 275GB, 525GB, and 1050GB in addition to the 750GB we are reviewing today. Rated at 530MB/s read, 510MB/s write, up to 92,000 IOPS read and 83,000 IOPS write over SATA 6Gb/s, these figures are actually a little lower than the MX200. 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, Phison, Silicon Motion, and other Marvell based drives in the next eight pages or so.

Of course, the part that really stands out about the Crucial MX300 750GB is its 384Gbit 32-layer 3D flash ICs. A total of eight NAND flash chips are found in the Crucial MX300 750GB solid state disk, with four on each side. The chips used are Micron's own MT29F768G08EEHBBJ4-3R:B (FBGA code NW852) synchronous NAND flash memory, with a capacity of 96GB per integrated circuit chip. Its rated write endurance is 220TB, which equates to approximately 120GB per day for five years, which is pretty good. 18GB out of the 768GB total capacity (Just under 3%) is provisioned for the drive controller for overhead, so the actual usable space is 750GB, as advertised. You will see 698GB in Windows. One Micron 512MB LPDDR3 SDRAM chip is present; it is used by the Marvell 88SS1074 controller for system memory.

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 R5
Storage: OCZ Vector 180 240GB; Crucial MX200 500GB
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 10 Pro

Compared Hardware:
- Crucial MX300 750GB
- Crucial BX100 500GB
- Crucial MX100 256GB
- Crucial MX200 500GB
- G.Skill Phoenix EVO 115GB
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB
- Kingston HyperX 120GB
- Kingston HyperX Predator PCIe 480GB
- Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB
- Kingston SSDNow UV400 480GB
- 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 RD400A 512GB
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB
- OCZ Trion 100 480GB
- OCZ Trion 150 480GB
- OCZ Vector 150 240GB
- OCZ Vector 180 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 Blaze 240GB
- Patriot Ignite 480GB
- Patriot Pyro 120GB
- Patriot Pyro SE 240GB
- SanDisk Extreme II 240GB
- SanDisk Extreme PRO 480GB
- SanDisk Ultra II 240GB
- Silicon Power Slim S80 240GB

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. Benchmark: PCMark 8
11. Conclusion