Crucial MX300 750GB SSD Review
If there is one constant in the SSD marketplace it is change. This entire storage subclass was created from the very desire for change – as hard drives weren’t meeting anyone's need for speed. Needless to say this market is extremely volatile and its very foundation can change seemingly overnight as technology evolves and new drives are launched. In this crucible, innovation is the key to staying relevant, and those that don’t innovate don’t last all that long.
One company known for their constant desire for innovation is Crucial, which has served them extremely well over the years. This is not all that surprising as Crucial is the consumer 'arm' of Micron, and as such has insider knowledge of what’s on the horizon before many of their competitors. This insight has rarely led Crucial astray and when combined with their focus on only offering a few models their lineup usually has excellent staying power in market known for mayfly-lifespan product cycles.
For the past few years their top of the line model was the MX series and it is still arguably the linchpin which keeps Crucial in the forefront of many consumers' minds when making an SSD purchasing decision. More importantly, this line is the very epitome of 'change'. The original MX100 model introduced 16nm 128Gbit NAND, while the second generation MX200 made Drive Write Acceleration a household name outside of TLC based models. For the all new third generation MX300 Limited Edition Crucial has continued this tradition of making massive changes and changing the very way in which mainstream solid state drives are designed. This time Crucial is bringing 3D NAND to the masses. Equally noteworthy is this is also the first 'M' series (let alone 'MX') model to be based upon TLC and rather than MLC class NAND.
Crucial’s MX300 is an interesting addition since the plan is to initially offer the SATA-based 750GB version we’re reviewing here today. Then throughout the remainder of 2016 they want to continue the model’s cadence to other capacities and additional form factors like M.2. Indeed, just this week the rest of the lineup was announced.
Other than the odd staggering of SKU release dates, the MX300 really doesn’t represent an improvement over the MX200 and that may be potentially more problematic. As a matter of fact from a raw specifications standpoint this new drive has lower read / write throughput numbers, consumes slightly more power when in use and even costs a bit more per GB than its predecessor. The only potential area of improvement we can detect is the standby power which has been reduced from 100mW to 75mW.
This radical double change of NAND type and manufacturing technology does require a bit of explanation – one that we will go over in detail in the next page. For the time being these massive changes completely transform the very nature of this series. So much so that it is rather difficult to compare the new MX300 to its predecessor – though this will not stop us from doing precisely that. As such we will be comparing it to not only its predecessor the MX200 but also a wide variety of entry and mainstream options that do not use 3D NAND. This way the differences should be accentuated and come to the forefront – where they belong.
Beyond the physical NAND used Crucial has also changed out the MX200’s controller. This is not all that unexpected since the MX-series has historically used the newest Marvell controller with every successive generation. In the past, MX models were powered by 8-channel Marvell 88SS9189 controllers - the MX100 used an earlier version, the MX200 used a more refined version. The MX300 on the other hand takes a page from the BX series and uses a four channel based design.
While the newer Marvell 88SS1074 SoC is technically faster many consider it to be hobbled by its four-channel nature. That is a significant reduction that will become rather apparent in deeper queue depth scenarios. On the positive side at least the MX300 uses the same amount of RAM cache – in the case of the Limited Edition 750GB MX300 this means a single 512MB DRAM IC.
This combination of different NAND type (and technology type) with a different controller is certainly going to give the MX300 unique performance characteristics. On the positive side the overall endurance rating has not changed all that much. The last generation MX200 500GB was rated for 220TB of drive writes, and the MX200 1TB was rated for 320TB; whereas the new MX300 750GB LE is rated for 220TB. At worst this is a 20TB reduction compared to a (non-existent) MX200 750GB's ~240TB, which is bloody amazing for a TLC NAND based drive. Equally impressive is this number can easily be increased via modifying the over-provisioning amount in Crucial's free Storage Executive application.
While the MX300 may use an entirely new PCB and different hardware it does come with the same level of data loss protection as its predecessors. There are onboard capacitors to ensure data integrity which will continue to be a major selling feature for this series.
The other thing that has not changed all that much is the asking price. With an MSRP of $200 it is almost to the cent what a MX200 costs per Gigabyte. This is actually the most critical part of the equation as the MX series has always been the more mainstream performance orientated option and yet this MX300 appears to be – at best – no better than its predecessor. It also relies upon unproven 3D TLC NAND.
All of these factors combine to place a pretty significant handicap upon the shoulders of Crucial’s new MX300 LE. Only with stellar short and long term performance in a broad range of categories will this SSD live up to its predecessors’ sterling reputation. Otherwise this 'Limited Edition' may indeed live up to its limited name.
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