Mushkin’s Reactor 1TB SSD reviewed

It’s time for another edition of our deals of the week! Just kidding, but the subject of today’s review—Mushkin’s Reactor 1TB SSD—is a frequent star of our deals posts. We’ve been featuring it in our deals for so long that we finally decided we just had to review the thing. This drive is a favorite of the budget 1TB SSD market, thanks to its potent combo of MLC flash and the well-established Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller.

The drive as a whole is neither particularly new nor particularly ground-breaking, so let’s do a quick overview and then jump right into testing. The 1TB drive we have on hand was the debut drive in the Reactor series, and it was first announced at the end of 2014. In the middle of 2015, the lineup got 256GB and 512GB versions, too. More recently, Mushkin has previewed 2TB and 4TB Reactors, though neither of those drives is available yet.

Mushkin Reactor
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
256GB 560 315 71k 73k
512GB 560 460 71k 75k
1TB 560 460 74k 76k

On the inside, the Reactor 1TB sports the tried-and-true Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller. We’ve covered this controller more times you can shake a stick at, so let’s move on to the NAND.

Mushkin has binned and bundled the flash into austere packages devoid of any conspicuous branding, but believe us: it’s Micron’s ubiquitous 16-nm MLC hiding in there. This controller and NAND combination should sound familiar, since it’s the exact same combination used one of Micron’s own drives, the Crucial BX100. We should expect to see similar performance between the Reactor and the BX100 500GB that’s in our result set.

As a budget drive, the Reactor 1TB lacks fancy encryption-acceleration features or other perks, but it still carries a reasonable three-year warranty. Mushkin doesn’t publish a total-bytes-written endurance spec, but for what it’s worth, Micron slapped a 72TB rating on the BX100 1TB. We’d expect the useable lifetime of the two drives to be comparable. The Reactor sells for about $220 on Newegg right now, though it’s often found its way into the $205 range depending on how the discount winds blow. When the price wars favor this drive, it’s a tough value to beat in its size class.

Now that we’ve covered the Reactor’s most salient characteristics, let’s get into testing.

 

IOMeter — Sequential and random performance

IOMeter fuels much of our latest storage test suite, including our sequential and random I/O tests. These tests are run across the full capacity of the drive at two queue depths. The QD1 tests simulate a single thread, while the QD4 results emulate a more demanding desktop workload. For perspective, 87% of the requests in our old DriveBench 2.0 trace of real-world desktop activity have a queue depth of four or less. Clicking the buttons below the graphs switches between results charted at the different queue depths.

Our sequential tests use a relatively large 128KB block size.



The Reactor’s sequential speeds are excellent. Only PCIe drives read appreciably faster. Samsung’s 850 EVO 1TB handles writes about 15% faster than the Reactor, but that’s not a huge margin of victory for a substantially more expensive drive. The Reactor’s write performance is right on par with the other couple of 1TB-class SATA drives in the dataset: OCZ’s Vector 180 and Transcend’s SSD370.

Next, we’ll turn our attention to performance with 4KB random I/O. The tests below are based on the median of three consecutive three-minute runs. SSDs typically deliver consistent sequential and random read performance over that period, but random write speeds worsen as the drive’s overprovisioned area is consumed by incoming writes. We’ve reported average response times rather than raw throughput, which we think makes sense in the context of system responsiveness.



The Reactor’s random read response times are smack dab in the middle of the pack at both queue depths. Its random write latencies are at the top end of our data set, which is par for the course with a drive this size. So far, so good. In spite of its budget price tag, the Reactor is performing remarkably well.

 

Sustained and scaling I/O rates

Our sustained IOMeter test hammers drives with 4KB random writes for 30 minutes straight. It uses a queue depth of 32, a setting that should result in higher speeds that saturate each drive’s overprovisioned area more quickly. This lengthy—and heavy—workload isn’t indicative of typical PC use, but it provides a sense of how the drives react when they’re pushed to the brink.

We’re reporting IOps rather than response times for these tests. Click the buttons below the graph to switch between SSDs.


To show the data in a slightly different light, we’ve graphed the peak random-write rate and the average, steady-state speed over the last minute of the test.

The Reactor 1TB’s peak random write rate is pretty speedy. The 850 EVO 1TB and Vector 180 960GB stand head and shoulders above it, but that stiff competition comes from drives in a completely different price class. The Reactor doesn’t have any fancy pseudo-SLC tricks like the EVO’s TurboWrite, either. On the steady-state side of our testing, the Reactor inexplicably trails the BX100 500GB by a large margin, despite sharing the same controller and NAND. Perhaps Micron knows how to coax more mojo out of its MLC than it cares to share with third-party OEMs.

Our final IOMeter test examines performance scaling across a broad range of queue depths. We ramp all the way up to a queue depth of 128. Don’t expect AHCI-based drives to scale past 32, though—that’s the maximum depth of their native command queues.

For this test, we use a database access pattern comprising 66% reads and 33% writes, all of which are random. The test runs after 30 minutes of continuous random writes that put the drives in a simulated used state. Click the buttons below the graph to switch between the different drives. And note that the P3700 plot uses a much larger scale.


Unlike many of the SATA drives we’ve looked at recently, the Reactor 1TB’s performance does scale as queue depth increases. There’s an almost 100% increase between QD1 and the higher queue depths. That’s nowhere near the astronomical scaling of an Intel PCIe drive, but it’s certainly better than the completely flat scaling performance we often see. Below, we plot it against the scaling results of other drives to provide context.


The Reactor’s scaling curve isn’t markedly different from the 850 EVO’s. As usual, we threw one of OCZ’s Barefoot-controlled drives into the mix to put the others to shame. Next up, we’ll look at real-world performance with some basic file I/O.

 

TR RoboBench — Real-world transfers

RoboBench trades synthetic tests with random data for real-world transfers with a range of file types. Developed by our in-house coder, Bruno “morphine” Ferreira, this benchmark relies on the multi-threaded robocopy command build into Windows. We copy files to and from a wicked-fast RAM disk to measure read and write performance. We also cut the RAM disk out of the loop for a copy test that transfers the files to a different location on the SSD.

Robocopy uses eight threads by default, and we’ve also run it with a single thread. Our results are split between two file sets, whose vital statistics are detailed below. The compressibility percentage is based on the size of the file set after it’s been crunched by 7-Zip.

  Number of files Average file size Total size Compressibility
Media 459 21.4MB 9.58GB 0.8%
Work 84,652 48.0KB 3.87GB 59%

The media set is made up of large movie files, high-bitrate MP3s, and 18-megapixel RAW and JPG images. There are only a few hundred files in total, and the data set isn’t amenable to compression. The work set comprises loads of TR files, including documents, spreadsheets, and web-optimized images. It also includes a stack of programming-related files associated with our old Mozilla compiling test and the Visual Studio test on the next page. The average file size is measured in kilobytes rather than megabytes, and the files are mostly compressible.

RoboBench’s write and copy tests run after the drives have been put into a simulated used state with 30 minutes of 4KB random writes. The pre-conditioning process is scripted, as is the rest of the test, ensuring that drives have the same amount of time to recover.

Let’s take a look at the media set first. The buttons switch between read, write, and copy results.



The Reactor 1TB’s performance is in lockstep with that of the BX100, as we predicted. That’s not at all a bad thing, since the BX100 posts very respectable speeds for the dollar. The 850 EVO 1TB writes a good 15% faster at both queue depths, but the Reactor’s read performance is indistinguishable from that of the more expensive drive.

Next up, let’s see how the drive does with our work set.



The work set results demonstrate that the Reactor 1TB is perfectly peppy. Its numbers are right in line with the expectations set by the BX100. The gap between the 850 EVO and the cheaper drives shrinks considerably here, making its price premium an even tougher sell.

Thus far the Reactor 1TB has been performing quite well, just as we figured it would. On the next page, we’ll check how it fares as a primary boot drive.

 

Boot times

Until now, all of our tests have been conducted with the SSDs connected as secondary storage. This next batch uses them as system drives. We’ll start with boot times measured two ways. The bare test depicts the time between hitting the power button and reaching the Windows desktop, while the loaded test adds the time needed to load four applications—Avidemux, LibreOffice, GIMP, and Visual Studio Express—automatically from the startup folder. Our old boot tests focused on the time required to load the OS, but these new ones cover the entire process, including drive initialization.

I might have a tendency to overuse the phrase “middle of the pack,” but in this case it’s especially accurate. The Reactor 1TB falls in the dead center of the boot results, both bare and loaded. As usual, Windows dutifully ignores how much you spent on your SSD when it boots.

Load times

Next, we’ll tackle load times with two sets of tests. The first group focuses on the time required to load larger files in a collection of desktop applications. We open a 790MB 4K video in Avidemux, a 30MB spreadsheet in LibreOffice, and a 523MB image file in the GIMP. In the Visual Studio Express test, we open a 159MB project containing source code for the LLVM toolchain. Thanks to Rui Figueira for providing the project code.

No pitfalls here. The Reactor 1TB fires up applications willingly and speedily. Lastly, we’ll take a look at how quickly it loads games.

If you put your games on the Reactor 1TB, it moves their bits around as quickly as any SSD does these days, plus or minus a few milliseconds. In these days of ballooning install sizes, the Reactor 1TB would make an excellent game library drive for not a lot of cash.

That’s it for performance testing. Read on for a breakdown of our hardware and test methods.

 

Test notes and methods

Here are the essential details for all the drives we tested:

  Interface Flash controller NAND
Crucial BX100 500GB SATA 6Gbps Silicon Motion SM2246EN 16-nm Micron MLC
Crucial BX200 480GB SATA 6Gbps Silicon Motion SM2256 16-nm Micron TLC
Crucial MX200 500GB SATA 6Gbps Marvell 88SS9189 16-nm Micron MLC
Intel X25-M G2 160GB SATA 3Gbps Intel PC29AS21BA0 34-nm Intel MLC
Intel 335 Series 240GB SATA 6Gbps SandForce SF-2281 20-nm Intel MLC
Intel 730 Series 480GB SATA 6Gbps Intel PC29AS21CA0 20-nm Intel MLC
Intel 750 Series 1.2TB PCIe Gen3 x4 Intel CH29AE41AB0 20-nm Intel MLC
Intel DC P3700 800GB PCIe Gen3 x4 Intel CH29AE41AB0 20-nm Intel MLC
Mushkin Reactor 1TB SATA 6Gbps Silicon Motion SM2246EN 16-nm Micron MLC
OCZ Arc 100 240GB SATA 6Gbps Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10 A19-nm Toshiba MLC
OCZ Trion 100 480GB SATA 6Gbps Toshiba TC58 A19-nm Toshiba TLC
OCZ Trion 150 480GB SATA 6Gbps Toshiba TC58 15-nm Toshiba TLC
OCZ Vector 180 240GB SATA 6Gbps Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10 A19-nm Toshiba MLC
OCZ Vector 180 960GB SATA 6Gbps Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10 A19-nm Toshiba MLC
Plextor M6e 256GB PCIe Gen2 x2 Marvell 88SS9183 19-nm Toshiba MLC
Samsung 850 EV0 250GB SATA 6Gbps Samsung MGX 32-layer Samsung TLC
Samsung 850 EV0 1TB SATA 6Gbps Samsung MEX 32-layer Samsung TLC
Samsung 850 Pro 500GB SATA 6Gbps Samsung MEX 32-layer Samsung MLC
Samsung 950 Pro 512GB PCIe Gen3 x4 Samsung UBX 32-layer Samsung MLC
Samsung SM951 512GB PCIe Gen3 x4 Samsung S4LN058A01X01 16-nm Samsung MLC
Samsung XP941 256GB PCIe Gen2 x4 Samsung S4LN053X01 19-nm Samsung MLC
Transcend SSD370 256GB SATA 6Gpbs Transcend TS6500 Micron or SanDisk MLC
Transcend SSD370 1TB SATA 6Gpbs Transcend TS6500 Micron or SanDisk MLC

All the SATA SSDs were connected to the motherboard’s Z97 chipset. The M6e was connected to the Z97 via the motherboard’s M.2 slot, which is how we’d expect most folks to run that drive. Since the XP941 and 950 Pro requires more lanes, they were connected to the CPU via a PCIe adapter card. The 750 Series and DC P3700 were hooked up to the CPU via the same full-sized PCIe slot.

We used the following system for testing:

Processor Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz
Motherboard Asus Z97-Pro
Firmware 2601
Platform hub Intel Z97
Platform drivers Chipset: 10.0.0.13

RST: 13.2.4.1000

Memory size 16GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Adata XPG V3 DDR3 at 1600 MT/s
Memory timings 11-11-11-28-1T
Audio Realtek ALC1150 with 6.0.1.7344 drivers
System drive Corsair Force LS 240GB with S8FM07.9 firmware
Storage Crucial BX100 500GB with MU01 firmware

Crucial BX200 480GB with MU01.4 firmware

Crucial MX200 500GB with MU01 firmware

Intel 335 Series 240GB with 335u firmware

Intel 730 Series 480GB with L2010400 firmware

Intel 750 Series 1.2GB with 8EV10171 firmware

Intel DC P3700 800GB with 8DV10043 firmware

Intel X25-M G2 160GB with 8820 firmware

Plextor M6e 256GB with 1.04 firmware

OCZ Trion 100 480GB with 11.2 firmware

OCZ Trion 150 480GB with 12.2 firmware

OCZ Vector 180 240GB with 1.0 firmware

OCZ Vector 180 960GB with 1.0 firmware

Samsung 850 EVO 250GB with EMT01B6Q firmware

Samsung 850 EVO 1TB with EMT01B6Q firmware

Samsung 850 Pro 500GB with EMXM01B6Q firmware

Samsung 950 Pro 512GB with 1B0QBXX7 firmware

Samsung XP941 256GB with UXM6501Q firmware

Transcend SSD370 256GB with O0918B firmware

Transcend SSD370 1TB with O0919A firmware

Power supply Corsair AX650 650W
Case Fractal Design Define R5
Operating system Windows 8.1 Pro x64

Thanks to Asus for providing the systems’ motherboards, to Intel for the CPUs, to Adata for the memory, to Fractal Design for the cases, and to Corsair for the system drives and PSUs. And thanks to the drive makers for supplying the rest of the SSDs.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Some further notes on our test methods:

  • To ensure consistent and repeatable results, the SSDs were secure-erased before every component of our test suite. For the IOMeter database, RoboBench write, and RoboBench copy tests, the drives were put in a simulated used state that better exposes long-term performance characteristics. Those tests are all scripted, ensuring an even playing field that gives the drives the same amount of time to recover from the initial used state.

  • We run virtually all our tests three times and report the median of the results. Our sustained IOMeter test is run a second time to verify the results of the first test and additional times only if necessary. The sustained test runs for 30 minutes continuously, so it already samples performance over a long period.

  • Steps have been taken to ensure the CPU’s power-saving features don’t taint any of our results. All of the CPU’s low-power states have been disabled, effectively pegging the frequency at 3.5GHz. Transitioning between power states can affect the performance of storage benchmarks, especially when dealing with short burst transfers.

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1920×1080 at 60Hz. Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

 

Conclusions

Let’s see where the Reactor 1TB falls in the grand scheme of things. We distill the overall performance rating using an older SATA SSD as a baseline. To compare each drive, we then take the geometric mean of a basket of results from our test suite. Only drives which have been through the entire current test suite on our current rig are represented.

The Reactor floats all the way to the top of our SATA drives, as it turns out. The only drives with a higher overall performance in this set are a trio of PCIe drives. Granted, there are some obvious heavyweights still missing from this graph, waiting to be un-retired and retested for the current suite. There’s little doubt that the 850 EVO 1TB, 850 Pro 1TB, and Vector 180 960GB would have an overall score at least as high as the Reactor 1TB’s. Nonetheless, those drives are all significantly more expensive than our perennial deal-of-the-week drive.

Now, let’s quantify the Reactor 1TB’s value proposition by looking at its overall performance and its price per gigabyte. In the scatter plot below, the most compelling position is toward the upper-left corner, where the price per gigabyte is low and performance is high.

The numbers paint a rosy picture for the Reactor 1TB. At $220 over at Newegg, the Reactor 1TB has the lowest price per gigabyte ($0.22) of all drives on the scatter plot. The graph tells the whole story: ignoring the three PCIe drives off in the distance, the Reactor 1TB is simultaneously the highest-up and farthest-left SATA drive of the bunch in our current data set. This is a true win-win scenario.

While there’s nothing truly novel or exciting about the Reactor 1TB, it’s a great drive for all the same reasons Crucial’s BX100 was so popular. If you long for the now-discontinued BX100 1TB, consider the Reactor 1TB a fine replacement. Its excellent performance across all our benchmarks, coupled with its consistently low price tag, guarantee that it will remain a regular in our deals posts—and we can now call it TR Recommended, too.

Comments closed
    • dragontamer5788
    • 3 years ago

    Uggghhhh… the drive shot up to $250. But this is finally the month when I actually have disposable income for a computer upgrade.

    At $250, this is still the best MLC drive for price / performance / capacity. So I ended up getting it. Methinks Newegg noticed the review and jacked up prices or something…

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    I have a BX100 in service today. It’s about 18 months old, IIRC, and it’s been great. There are folks with good and bad luck with just about every brand, but I’ll stick to something that has worked for me in the past, even if it hasn’t worked for other people. So when it’s time to get a 1TB SSD this is absolutely an option for me.

    • toki
    • 4 years ago

    I bought a lemon! :holdstrophy:

    • Kretschmer
    • 4 years ago

    Bought one of these a few weeks ago after it was listed as a TR weekly deal; Doom 4’s install size (1/5th of my current SSD) has finally pushed me into installing it tonight. I’m looking forward to installing *all the things* on SSD space.

    • shank15217
    • 4 years ago

    I have 8 of this in a qnap slim nas (TS-853S), works great and runs cool . I would recommend these drives for nas builds.

      • Deanjo
      • 4 years ago

      Curious how you are running them. IFAIK, running them any other way than a bunch of individual drives on a Qnap means sacrificing trim with the way their kernel is configured.

    • Duck
    • 4 years ago

    Power consumption?

    • HERETIC
    • 4 years ago

    It’s a strange world-Crucial replacing the really good BX100 with the BX200-a real LEMON.
    The Transcend 370 is also the same config but dearer.

    Hansmuff wrote-
    “Bought it a few weeks ago because it was listed as a deal. It failed after 4 hours. First the benchmarks showed numbers way below what I’ve seen anywhere else, then finally the drive would no longer be detected by the BIOS. According to the newegg ratings, I’m far from the only one this happened to.”

    I prefer and am willing to pay a little extra for drives where the flash is cut and binned by the manufacturer.
    Remembering that that’s what killed OCZ with their 60% failure rates on some drives…..

    • NovusBogus
    • 4 years ago

    Glad to see this thing get the formal treatment, it’s topped my “cheap and cheerful” SSD list for quite a while.

    • anotherengineer
    • 4 years ago

    Really glad TR finally reviewed this.

    One question for TR though, how come SSDs get the tear down and pics of the ‘guts’ (or what really counts IMHO), but the other review items generally don’t, like mice, keyboards, etc.?

    It would really be nice to see that kind of detail on all items.

      • willmore
      • 4 years ago

      I have a screwdriver and a DSLR, send me stuff! 😉

    • odizzido
    • 4 years ago

    Pretty good review. Only thing I would like to see added is long term performance. I know there are time issues with this so I am not sure what the best way to do it would be, however there are a number of drives which seem to have performance issues as data ages.

      • Glaring_Mistake
      • 4 years ago

      Would be interested in that as well.
      But the thing is that for many SSDs it will take a long time (even unpowered) before read speeds start to slow down.

      Some SSDs like Crucial BX200 and ADATA SP550 may experience read speed slowdowns fast enough to make them appropriate for a relatively short test however, according to the tests I’ve performed myself.

    • geniekid
    • 4 years ago

    Somewhat related, I would love to see another SSD endurance run!

      • chubbyhorse
      • 4 years ago

      I agree with you, as I REALLY enjoyed the series, and it very much eliminated my fears of NAND burning out; but as the endurance test showed, you can’t base an entire series on one book so to speak.

      I just had an 840 PRO 250GB SSD fail with less that 1TB written with around 11,000 hours on it. Came home to a BIOS screen complaining Drive 0 was missing. Case in point, endurance isn’t everything.

      • albundy
      • 4 years ago

      this! bring it on!

    • JosiahBradley
    • 4 years ago

    My prayers have been answered. I keep recommending this drive here and now we have proof that it is one of the best. Great review. Thank you!

    • Neutronbeam
    • 4 years ago

    Picked up one for me and one for my son; paid about $204 each time as the ‘egg often runs deals.

    • hansmuff
    • 4 years ago

    Bought it a few weeks ago because it was listed as a deal. It failed after 4 hours. First the benchmarks showed numbers way below what I’ve seen anywhere else, then finally the drive would no longer be detected by the BIOS. According to the newegg ratings, I’m far from the only one this happened to.

      • cygnus1
      • 4 years ago

      By dying that quickly, effectively it was DOA. That happens to pretty much all electronics to one degree or another. That’s definitely unfortunate that it happened to you, but it’s good that it happened quickly and you had both Newegg and Mushkin as options for replacement.

        • Sabresiberian
        • 3 years ago

        The question isn’t really whether a single electronics part is DoA, the question is “What are my chances that the unit I buy will be DoA?”.

        Of the 141 comments listed on Newegg for this drive, I counted 26 failures with in 6 months (most DoA or failed in less than a month). Some people bought 2 drives and both were dead or died in minutes. That indicates to me that Mushkin has a QA problem with these SSDs, and I would not want to take such an increased chance of failure over other drives and go through the the frustration (at very least) and expense of returning a drive. It not only costs time, it costs money, since very few etailers or manufacturers will pay to have a failed product returned.

        Out of 116 customer comments for the Samsung 850 EVO, 5 drives failed prematurely.

        Now I’m not saying these consumer comments are “real scientific evidence”, but they are a good enough indicator. I doubt the failure rate of the Mushkin Reactor 1TB is overall the 18% indicated by the Newegg comments, it is far higher than the 4% the same metric shows for the 850 EVO 1TB. The additional $100 (at the prices currently listed on Newegg) is well worth the cost for me to have a significantly lower chance of a failed drive.

      • Duct Tape Dude
      • 4 years ago

      Every time I see a Mushkin deal I get scared away based on the negative reviews.

        • JosiahBradley
        • 4 years ago

        Up to 8 of these drives now with no failures and everyone seems happy with them at least in my microcosm.

          • Duct Tape Dude
          • 4 years ago

          A microcosm of 8 drives is quite encouraging actually. Thanks!

        • Topinio
        • 4 years ago

        Eh, at least Mushkin support is good for RMA’s /

        • Srsly_Bro
        • 4 years ago

        People often post negative reviews when something breaks. People are less likely to post positive reviews when something works.

          • mtruchado
          • 4 years ago

          Or when things breaks but the service does a job job replacing the defective part, usually we see bad reviews there. Only a few include an “Update” section afterwards explaining how good/bad was the problem solved

    • jessterman21
    • 4 years ago

    Awesome! I knew it was a great deal, but I’m glad it’s beat-for-beat with the BX100 (a drive I miss more than my mom). Thanks for finally testing!

    EDIT – woops, I mean, my mom’s still alive, just lives far away in FL. I guess I meant that the BX100 is really hard to get ahold of these days, not that it’s EOLed.

      • Deanjo
      • 4 years ago

      You’re a bad son.

        • Neutronbeam
        • 4 years ago

        Well, to be fair it would depend on what kind of mom she was.

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