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Crucial's MX500 500 GB and 1 TB SSDs reviewed

An evergreen drive gets a 64-layer refresher

Back in the summer of 2016, Crucial released the successor to its popular MX200 drive. The MX300 left behind the 16-nm planar MLC we knew and loved in its predecessors for IMFT's then-newfangled 3D TLC NAND. Despite our initial misgivings concerning the move from MLC to TLC, the MX300's 3D chops were enough to ensure that its speeds kept up with the older drive. Just a couple of months ago, Crucial took the wraps off of the next drive in the MX line, the MX500. 

As you can see, little has changed on the exterior. But it's what's on the inside that counts. Like the MX300, the MX500 is built on IMFT's 3D TLC NAND, but this time it's stacked 64 layers high instead of a mere 32. And a Silicon Motion chip has displaced the Marvell controller which ran the show before. More on that in a second. The MX500 is available in 250-GB, 500-GB, 1-TB, and 2-TB capacities. We've got the 500-GB and 1-TB models on hand to play with.

Crucial MX500
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
250 GB 560 510 95K 90K
500 GB 560 510 95K 90K
1 TB 560 510 95K 90K
2 TB 560 510 95K 90K

We wasted no time in breaking open our toys.  The top side of each drive is identical; eight NAND packages are arranged neatly behind the controller and 512 MB of DRAM. Each package houses two of Micron's 64-layer, 256-Gb 3D TLC dies.

The controller is a Silicon Motion SM2258 with Micron-customized firmware. We've seen the SM2258 paired with Micron NAND before in a couple of Adata products, but the last Crucial-branded drive we touched with Silicon Motion gear inside was the somewhat uninspiring BX200.  But that drive included planar TLC and an aging SM2246EN controller, so don't despair for the MX500 just yet.

The back of the MX500 500 GB PCB

The other side of the 500-GB drive's PCB is completely barren, while the 1 TB's underside is a bustling metropolis.

The back of the MX500 1 TB PCB

Another eight of the same 3D TLC packages and an additional 512 MB of DRAM give the 1-TB drive a simple doubling of the 500 GB's loadout.

As we've become accustomed to in Micron's MX series, the MX500 enjoys burst write speed boosts courtesy of Dynamic Write Acceleration. It also benefits from the same hardware-accelerated encryption capabilities the MX300 had, adhering to the TCG Opal specs and IEEE-1667 standards. Crucial also highlights the MX500's power-loss protection in case your system isn't already guarded by a UPS.

Micron's suggested launch prices were $140 for the MX500 500 GB and $260 for the MX500 1 TB, but each drive has already taken a ten-dollar haircut at Newegg. The MX500 drives are backed by a five-year warranty, unless you manage to exceed the respective endurance ratings of 180 and 360 terabytes written over the guarantee period. 

The enthusiast SATA storage scene is in sore need of a challenge to Samsung's market dominance. Let's see if the MX500 can fill the role.