Crucial MX500 500GB (M.2) Review (Page 2 of 11)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Test System

The Crucial MX500 500GB (M.2) looks nothing like your traditional Serial ATA solid state drive, and this is because it is not your traditional solid state drive. If you are looking for one in traditional 2.5" form factor, please read our other Crucial MX500 500GB review. A black aluminum foil-based label in front with silver text shows Crucial's logo and MX500 M.2 SATA SSD branding. This version of the Crucial MX500 500GB we are reviewing today is an M.2 2280 format SSD. It still works on the SATA interface interfaced through an AHCI driver as shown on the label and plugs into compatible motherboards directly. If you are not familiar with the M.2 physical standard, M.2 2280 means it the size of the drive is 22mm by 80mm, hence its numerical designation.

Flipping the Crucial MX500 500GB around, and you will find no components of interest. In fact, the PCB is completely blank, as all the components are located on the other side shown in our photo above. The layout is fairly simple upon closer inspection of the blue printed circuit board. A label on the SSD carries miscellaneous information such as its certification logos, brand, capacity, and serial number. Unlike many flash storage solutions we have reviewed in the past, this Crucial drive is made in Mexico like its 2.5" variant. Removing the label in question will void your five-year warranty, but there is no real reason why you need to do that, haha.

Peeling the sticker back, and you can see what the Crucial MX500 500GB is made out of. There are few components on the side where there are components thanks to the use of high-density TLC memory. The heart of Crucial's MX500 500GB is the Silicon Motion SM2258 controller with a piece of thermally conductive pad between it and the enclosure, just like the BX300. As the drive controller is fundamentally very important to any SSD, let us dig more into the details of its brain.

The four channel SM2258 is a SATA controller designed for use with 3D TLC flash memory. Being a Crucial MX series drive, it comes with all the usual features like DevSLP support, temperature monitoring/overheat protection, and power failure protection. Power failure protection is a rare feature in the mainstream realm. The MX500 supports Data Write Acceleration, 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.

As with many SSDs on the market today, the Crucial MX500 500GB 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 MX500 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.

Rated at 560MB/s read, 510MB/s write, up to 95,000 IOPS read and 90,000 IOPS write over SATA 6Gb/s, these figures are in the ballpark as the MX200 and MX300. 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.

Of course, the part that really stands out about the Crucial MX500 500GB is its 64-layer 3D TLC flash ICs. A total of four NAND flash chips are found in the Crucial MX500 500GB solid state disk, with all of them on one side. This is half the number of ICs used compared to the 2.5" 500GB version. The chips used are Micron's own MT29F1T08EMHAFJ4-3R:A (FBGA code NW913) synchronous NAND flash memory, with a capacity of 128GB per integrated circuit chip. Its rated write endurance is 180TB, which equates to approximately 100GB per day for five years, which is pretty good. 12GB out of the 512GB total capacity (Just under 3%) is provisioned for the drive controller for overhead, so the actual usable space is 500GB, as advertised. You will see 465GB in Windows. One Micron MT41K256M16TW-107:P 512MB DDR3 SDRAM chip is present; it is used by the Silicon Motion SM2258 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 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 MX500 500GB (M.2)
- Crucial BX100 500GB
- Crucial BX300 240GB
- Crucial MX100 256GB
- Crucial MX200 500GB
- Crucial MX300 750GB
- Crucial MX500 500GB
- 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 4.60
8. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 8.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
10. Benchmark: PCMark 8
11. Conclusion