Crucial has been on a roll this year. Back in October, Bill took a look at the high performing BX300 and found it “incredibly appealing” at its asking price. Today, we’re looking at Crucial’s new MX500 in both 500GB and 1TB versions. It’s a step up from the BX300 while still staying competitive at $134.99 and $259.99 for the models we’re looking at today. But is it enough to stay SATA?
- MSRP: $134.99 (500GB), $259.99 (1TB)
- Available Capacities: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
- Sequential Speed: 560 MB/s (read), 510 MB/s (write)
- Random IOPS: 95k (read), 90k (write)
- Endurance: 180TBW (500GB), 360 TBW (1TB)
- Interface: SATA 6 Gb/s
- Mean Time to Failure (MTTF): 1.8 million hours
- Warranty: 5-year Limited Warranty
Crucial operates multiple lines of storage and memory. The BX series, which we mentioned Bill looked at in October, tends to fall into the affordable upgrade category, operating in smaller capacities but high performance thanks to 32-layer MLC flash memory. The MX500s we’re reviewing today have been substantially upgraded with Silicon Motion SM2258 controller and 64-layer 3D NAND technology. These improvements stand to offer higher performance and reliability compared to the 32-layer, Marvell controlled units, while still offering staple features like full hardware encryption and power loss protection.
Where the MX500 really seeks to set itself apart is in random read/write operations, or IOPS. Put another way, even though it may seem to tie many other SSDs in oft-quoted sequential read and write speeds, in real world use (random accesses), the MX500s are poised to lead the pack. A quick glance across the specifications of similarly priced 3D NAND drives shows, indeed, the quoted specifications are typically 5-15K IOPS in either read or write and sometimes both. As we all know, though, quoted speeds and real life speeds are often two different things. We’re out to see how it stacks up.
Test system: i7-7700k @ 4.5GHz, MSI Gaming M7 Z270 Motherboard, 64GB DDR4 Ballistix @ 3200MHz, x2 GTX 1080 Ti in SLI configuration, 500GB Samsung 960 EVO, 12TB HDD Storage, Corsair HX1050 1050-watt PSU.
When testing SSDs, we first begin by looking at synthetic benchmarks to cross check the manufacturers claims on speed. We then move into real world file copy tests using a large, heavily modified Skyrim directory. Finally, we look at game loading times in a variety of popular MMORPGs. Since MMOs, particularly in capital cities where our tests are conducted, require large first-time, no-cache loads, this makes for a particularly good test of real world performance implications.
Beginning with synthetics, we ran both drives through ATTO. This program approaches industry standard for synthetic benchmark speeds under ideal conditions. As reviewers, we can see variance due to test conditions, but is a good way to ballpark manufacturer’s speed claims. Both drives performed well, with the MX500 1TB version scoring 551.2 MB/s and 505.4 MB/s read and write scores, respectively. The 500GB version scored 551.2 MB/s and 511.5 MB/s read and write. Compared to the quoted 560MB/s and 510MB/s, these scores are quite close and demonstrate a good amount reliability in the quotes.
Note: The following pair of charts include just the MX500 models to highlight the performance comparison. Real world file copying and game load times include additional comparison drives.
Next, we looked at CrystalDiskMark, which assesses both sequential and random access speeds. Here, the 500GB tended to outperform the 1TB, even if slightly. Comparing the 1TB version to the similar WD Blue 1TB we reviewed in August, we find that the MX500 achieves slightly slower read speeds and slightly faster write speeds (the Blue scored 386.1 MB/s read and 348.8 MB/s write). Overall, the MX500 and WD Blue performed very similarly, however, and we would encourage you to read the full review to compare.
Switching things over to IOPS, our results show 97417 read and 88391 for write on the 1TB version and 97480 read and 88604 write for the 500GB version.
Next, we turn to AS-SSD, which performs a similar set of tests but adds in a couple of unique elements, including copy test simulations and IOPS conversions. Here we see the drives perform remarkably similarly. Again, performance between the MX500 and the WD Blue 3D NAND is remarkably similar with only minor variations.
Where the drives really stand out is in the file copy tests where Crucial utilizes a small amount of DRAM cache to provide amazing bursts of speed. The benefit is borne out in our file copy tests below, but in the results here more than quadruples the results of the Blue.
With synthetics out of the way, we move onto real world testing. As you can tell, the MX500s provide excellent copy speeds compared against even the much more expensive drives in this list. A self-copy on the Samsung 960 EVO, for example, was clearly faster across the board and completed in 29 seconds; however, MX500 completed the exact same transfer in only 31 seconds. That’s a 7% performance difference for 6% of the price. Due to DRAM cache burst and more consistent transfer speed, the MX500 was able to beat the much more expensive Zotac Sonix 10-Year Anniversary Edition. This was a test the WD Blue had the upper hand in, however, coming in between 2-7 seconds faster in every copy. Between the two MX500s, the 500GB model pulled ahead.
Finally, we come to load times. We tested every game on a first load to prevent any system caching to skew the results. We began the timer from just after the character select screen to loading into the world. Since this is the bread and butter of our testing as a gaming site, it’s interesting to note that, with the odd exception of World of Warcraft, the MX500 series comes in within 1-2 seconds of every other drive we’ve tested, which we feel falls within an acceptable margin of error for human testing.
Overall, we were extremely impressed with the two Crucial MX500 drives we were had in our bench. In synthetic tests, it performed admirably, more than holding its own against competitor drives, even in the NVME space. That said, synthetics are good for theoretical assessments but don’t necessarily match day-to-day use. When it came to real world testing, the DRAM caching and consistent read and write speeds made for excellent performance. We were particularly surprised at how well they compared against the highly esteemed and high-cost Samsung 960 EVO. If you want the absolute best, an NVME drive will provide it, but for PC gaming the benefits don’t outweigh the cost. The MX500 is a high value, high performance drive that should more than satisfy any PC gamer.
- Makes file transfers fly by
- Cost effective way to cut load times in games
- Very good price per gigabyte bargain
- Random IOPs performance is exceptional
- Doesn’t quite eek out the competition in every test
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.