Review : Crucial MX100 256GB SATA-3 SSD

Crucial shoots for performance and cost-effectiveness with MX100 series

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Crucial

Price: $225

The Good

  • Cool-running
  • Excellent performance
  • Price per GB very attractive

The Bad

  • New 16nm cell technology still unproven
  • Firmware update utility for drive not OS X compatible
  • No terabyte capacity in MX100 line
While the price-per-gigabyte ratio for magnetic platter-based hard drives can't be beat, the speed that a SSD brings to the table for any computer is unmistakeable. The latest batch of SSDs have a variety of technological or price improvements, but usually there is a trade-off between technical improvement and price. The one standout that claims both is the Crucial MX100 series of drives. Electronista has been living with one as a primary boot drive in a production machine for a while now. How did it fare in day-to-day operations?

First, the raw stats. The company claims that the drives deliver up to 90,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS). The 256GB and 512GB drives reach up to 550/500 MB per second sequential read/write speeds, on both compressible and incompressible data. Power efficiency is said to be up to 89 percent better than an equivalent 2.5-inch hard drive. The entire drive range utilizes MLC technology, and the drive features hardware encryption, native write acceleration, adaptive thermal protection, and power loss protection. Endurance of the drive is expected to be 72TB total written, which is equivalent to 40GB per day for five years.

Notably, the line is the first to use 16nm 128Gbit MLC NAND storage -- the first of its kind. This allows Crucial to increase the amount of storage per manufacturing run of the media. This is the breakthrough that gives the MX100 line its cost-per-GB ratio, which is the best of its kind. In theory, the new NAND could allow for up to 2TB of SSD storage in a standard 2.5-inch form factor, but we have yet to see this at the consumer level yet.

The drive we were provided for testing was the 256GB model. The 256GB model is faster than the 128GB, slower than the 512GB versions, just because of a reduction in parallel NAND dies. The drive uses the Marvel 9189 controller with 512MB of LPDDR2 cache, replacing the M500's M9187 controller.

For raw speed, we were pleased, but the drive didn't break any records. Peak sequential read speeds with compressible data hit 528.8MB per second, and 491.1MB per second write -- very close to the peak speeds as advertised by Crucial. Uncompressible data suffered, as is expected with SSD performance in general. Speeds with compressible data dropped to 312.1MB per second read, and 301.8MB per second write.

Our primary usage test platform for the drive is a 2012 Mac Mini with an i7 processor and 16GB of Patriot RAM (not Apple-provided). Boot speeds improved noticeably by swapping out the hard drive to the Crucial SSD - from 29.1 seconds to desktop from power-on with a hard drive and a vanilla OS X 10.9 Mavericks install, down to just 8.2 seconds with the SSD installed. Regarding the endurance spec, in a 10-hour work day, we moved an average of 27GB per day, five days a week.

Power consumption under heavy processor and I/O load dropped from 84.2W with the 5200RPM hard drive to 51.5W with the SSD. Similar performance percentages were obtained booting to Windows 8.1 in Boot Camp. Some of the power savings were realized from an improvement in thermal conditions and a drop in fan speed-- under load, with the same ambient room temperature, core temperatures were on the average 10C lower with the Crucial MX100 SSD installed than the hard drive. We've tested a few SSDs, and the temperature falling this low with the Crucial SSD isn't the norm across all SSDs, but welcome just the same in space-constrained systems.

There are faster SSDs than the MX100. However, the MX100 is faster than anything available two years ago. There are cheaper SSDs than the MX100, but then you'd pay a cost in performance. The MX100 is intended as a mid-range SSD with good performance for the dollar, and it hits the target. Without sales, the drive retails for less than $0.50 per GB in the 256 and 512GB capacities, with sales driving it much lower.

Overall, we like the MX100. We thought it was fantastic as an upgrade for the 2012 Mac Mini, and we've seen slightly improved thermal conditions in a notoriously hot 2011 MacBook Pro as well. Our Windows testing showed great performance for the dollar as well, with only the speed-optimized drives beating out the real-world results we saw, but at a cost premium. The SSD equation that Crucial has solved makes it hard to beat.