Crucial MX200 250GB SSD Review
Crucial’s MX200 series has proven to be a great all-round drive series with excellent performance metrics and an accessible price point. When we reviewed it both the 500GB and 1TB versions were covered and now we’re rounding things out with a review of the more affordable MX500 250GB.
Having access to an entire lineup of SSDs gives a unique perspective into how each compares against one another. Typically, due to a number of factors like interleaving and slight NAND differences, performance increases as capacity gets into higher ranges. The last things customers want is to buy into an SSD line based upon the performance of larger drives and end up with a slower drive. Some manufacturers have been able to overcome the inherent limitations of lower capacity drives by instituting clever firmware optimizations and architectural changes.
In the case of Crucial’s MX200, we have something called Dynamic Write Acceleration (or DWA) which is supposed to level the playing field and allow even the 250GB drive in this review to nearly equal the benchmark numbers put forth by the 1TB model. This feature isn’t even implemented on the 500GB and 1TB versions so it will be interesting to see how it works in this case.
One definite benefit of going “down market” with the MX200 is price. The 250GB version is just $115, or 46 cents per GB which puts it well within reach of budget-focused yet lower performing competitors. Two other things that should also be noted are NAND endurance and Crucial’s stated bandwidth numbers. While endurance does get reduced in parallel with capacity, both random read/write performance and sequential bandwidth are supposedly constant across all MX200 SSDs.
Externally there are very few clues to tell consumers that this model has the added DWA technology baked into its firmware. As with the larger models it makes use of an all metal 7mm high, 2.5" case that is nearly denude of any color. Also like the large version, this less expensive MX200 comes with a handy plastic 2.5MM adapter spacer but, just as with the other MX200s, it does not come with a 3.5" adapter plate.
Internally the MX200 250GB version almost mirrors the layout of the 500GB MX200. There are 8 NAND ICs (each has half the capacity of the ones found on its more capacious sibling), a single 256MB RAM cache, a Marvell 9188 controller, and numerous super-capacitors for consumer grade Data Loss Protection. It also supports TCG Opal 2.0, eDrive encryption, DevSleep capabilities, just like the 500GB MX200. However, unlike the 500GB capacity version, Dynamic Write Acceleration is activated in the firmware but this cannot be seen by the naked eye.
For those who did not read the 500GB and 1TB MX200 review Dynamic Write Acceleration means that the controller can use a portion of the NAND to act in quasi SLC mode to cache write IOs, and during slow periods then write the 'cache' to NAND tasked for standard MLC mode. In theory this should boost write performance and help make up for the lack of NAND interleaving that the 250GB suffers from. As an added benefit DWA also increases write endurance from a theoretical 72TB to 80TB.
While Crucial is not the first to use this hybrid caching method, their implementation is actually one of the most impressive. The portion of NAND which can be used in quasi-SLC mode can be dynamically increased or decreased based on the usage pattern the individual controller encounters and how much free space it has to work with. Instead of simply dedicating an arbitrary about of NAND for caching Crucial's DWA uses up to 50% of the free capacity for SLC write caching. This review will show precisely how much an impact this one change to the firmware can have on overcoming lack of NAND interleaving.
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