Crucial MX100 512GB SSD Review
Crucialís new MX100 is an SSD with a mission. Instead of planting yet another flag in the expensive high end category, it has been precision designed for the performance-minded side of the mainstream category with an eye towards dethroning drives like OCZís Vertex 460 and ADataís SP920. That may seem like a difficult goal to achieve but Crucial has a knack of hitting the ground running with precisely targeted products.
Crucial is actually in an enviable position within the SSD market. As the distribution arm of Micron, they have first-run access to a vast selection of components that fall under the IM Flash Technologies (IMFT) umbrella. While there are advantages to being tied at the hip to a powerful parent company, the MX100 is also an excellent example of how quickly technology is progressing. Recently they released the flagship M550 series which features 20nm L85 / ONFi 128GBit NAND' and the latest Marvel '89 controller. This new drive however replaces the slightly older but nonetheless popular M500 but it actually makes use of brand new 16nm 128GBit NAND modules. This has placed Crucial in the unenviable position of having to showcasing the next generation NAND in a drive that cannot directly compete with their M550. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not.
Crucial has ensured no toes are stepped on by tweaking the MX100ís architecture so that while it will outperform the M500, it wonít scavenge sales from their more expensive M550 series. To this end the MX100 uses the same upgraded Marvell 89 controller as the M550 but that 16nm NAND (in its current implementation at least) canít outperform the 20nm modules on the higher end SSD. This has been accomplished by limiting the number of interleaved channels being run in parallel.
In order to artificially limited the MX100's abilities and help reduce costs, it uses massive 128GBit NAND ICs across the entire capacity line, just like the M500 it replaces. This means only the 512GB we will be testing today has 4 ICs per channel for interleaving whereas the 256GB model will only have two per channel, and the 128GB model will have only a single module per channel.
Considering its price tag of $215 puts the MX100 well within most mainstream consumersí budgets this drive is an oddity for a 'value' series drive, but one that should not overly impact M550 sales. What it will do however, is showcase exactly what makes the new 16nm NAND 'tick' as it is the only major change between the M550 512GB and the MX100 512GB. Of course with such a low online asking price this new 16nm MLC NAND equipped drive has already set the bar very high in the price to performance and capacity segment.
From the exterior the MX100 follows a similar path to that of the M500 it supersedes. Just like the M500, it uses a 7mm all metal exterior that is fairly thick and secure feeling. Unlike most 512GB drives, Crucial has as opted to forego a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter. Considering the much lower asking price, this missing accessory certainly wonít be a deal breaker. Thankfully the key 7mm to 9.5mm black plastic adapter covering is included and allows the MX100 to fit inside slimmer systems.
Internally, the MX100 is very similar to the M550 and it has a classic Marvell layout. There is a single Marvell controller, 16 dual die ONFi 3 128GBit NAND ICs, and a single Micron 256MB external ram cache IC. There are also onboard capacitors which allow for Flush In Flight abilities. Seeing a consumer grade drive with FiF is not as rare as it once was, but this costly to implement feature is always welcome on budget friendly storage devices.
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