Crucial MX500 500GB Review (Page 2 of 11)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Test System

The Crucial MX500 500GB is based on Silicon Motion's SM2258 controller with a custom firmware, and uses Micron's 256Gb 64-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. 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 MX500 500GB has a very simple appearance -- a plain silver aluminum cover with a sticker in the middle, just like its predecessors. 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 MX500 500GB 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. They are held together by screws, unlike previous models. There are no user serviceable parts inside, but if you ever want to take a look inside, Phillips-head screws are easy to remove, and you will be on your way in no time.

Moving on, the Crucial MX500 500GB's shell is attached to the aluminum backplate by screws and friction. As aforementioned, remove the screws and give it a quick pry, 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 two-thirds of the room inside. 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. The PCB itself is held secure to the shell by a series of adhesive thermally conductive pads. 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 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 256Gb 64-layer 3D TLC flash ICs. A total of eight NAND flash chips are found in the Crucial MX500 500GB solid state disk, with all of them on one side. The chips used are Micron's own MT29F512G08EECAGJ4-5M:A (FBGA code NW925) synchronous NAND flash memory, with a capacity of 64GB 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 500GB 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 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 MX500 500GB
- Crucial BX100 500GB
- Crucial BX300 240GB
- Crucial MX100 256GB
- Crucial MX200 500GB
- Crucial MX300 750GB
- Kingston SSDNow UV400 480GB
- 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 9.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
10. Benchmark: PCMark 8
11. Conclusion