Crucial MX100 512GB & Samsung 850 Pro 256GB SSDs

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Crucial MX100 512GB & Samsung 850 Pro 256GB

October 20, 2014 by Lawrence Lee

Crucial MX100 512GB
2.5 inch SSD
Samsung 850 Pro 256GB
2.5 inch SSD
Crucial Technology Samsung
Street Price
US$210 US$190

Crucial and Samsung are two of the biggest names in solid-state drives. Micron, the company behind the Crucial brand, is a giant in all things memory-related and has decades of experience in the industry. They're not the flashiest company, but they haven't survived this long by accident. Their products are popular and generally regarded as reliable and value conscious. Samsung is a huge conglomerate that lacks Micron's specialization, but their sheer size and massive manufacturing base has given them an edge over much of the competition. All the main components in their SSDs, the NAND Flash, controller, and firmware, are designed and manufactured in-house, keeping potentially unreliable third parties out of their supply chain and maximizing their own profit. With this cushion, they can undercut the competition or invest in better technology.

The strengths of each company are evident in the two drives we're evaluating today, the Crucial MX100 and Samsung 850 Pro. The former is positioned as the ultimate value SSD, with an excellent dollar per byte ratio. The latter is being pushed as the latest and greatest, the newest addition Samsung's fleet of high performance SSDs.

The Crucial MX100 512GB and Samsung 850 Pro 256GB boxes.

The respective drives.

Specifications: Crucial MX100 512GB & Samsung 850 Pro 256GB
Model number CT512MX100SSD1 MZ-7KE256
Interface SATA 6Gb/s
Height 7 mm (w/ 9.5 mm adapter) 7 mm
Controller Marvell 88SS9189 Samsung 3-core MEX
DRAM cache memory 512MB LPDDR2
Sequential Read (max) 550 MB/s
Sequential Write (max) 500 MB/s 520MB/s
4KB Random Read 90,000 IOPS 100,000 IOPS
4KB Random Write 85,000 IOPS 90,000 IOPS
Security AES 256-bit, TCG/Opal v2.0, IEEE1667
Power consumption N/A (not specified) Read (Average) : Max. 3.3W (1TB)
Write (Average) : Max. 3.0W (1TB)
Idle : Max. 0.4W
Device Sleep : 2mW
MTBF 1.5 million hours 2 million hours
Write Endurance 72TB 150TB
Warranty 3 years 10 years

The specifications don't differentiate the drives much. Both 2.5" form factor drives models are 7 mm thick, making them compatible with more ultrabooks than the typical 9.5 mm fare. They both have 512MB of DDR2 memory acting as cache, and support the latest modern encryption standards. Both have lofty claims regard regarding sequential and random performance with the 850 Pro promising a bit more horsepower. The most interesting difference is cliam durability: The 850 Pro boosts a longer MTBF, more than double the write endurance despite being lower capacity, offering an astounding 10 years warranty instead of 3.

The Crucial MX100 is a 7 mm thick drive but also ships with a 9.5 mm adapter bracket. There was also a complimentary key for a copy of Acronis True Image HD 2014 included inside the box.

The MX100 is actually a tweak of an older drive in Crucial's lineup, the M550, currently positioned as their upscale consumer SSD. The MX100 features the same Marvell 88SS9189 controller, but it utilizes more affordable NAND Flash manufactured with Micron's smaller 16nm process (most modern drives use 19/20nm technology). These chips are more densely packed, but this also means fewer NAND packages working in parallel, one of the main reasons why low capacity SSDs frequently have less impressive performance compared to larger versions of the same model.

Effectively, they've traded reduced performance for more capacity and lower cost — a perfectly valid strategy often employed to create a budget SSD. The 512GB model retails for a mere US$210, making it easily the cheapest big name SSD in the ~500GB range. 128GB and 256GB variants are available are priced just as attractively. Despite all this, Crucial proudly proclaims that the MX100 offers not only great value but also "unrelenting performance."

The Samsung 850 Pro, also a 7 mm thick drive.

The Samsung 850 Pro isn't a completely new drive either, powered by the same 3-core Samsung MEX controller as the 840 Pro, currently our SSD performance champion. However, its approach to the actual NAND Flash is completely different than the MX100. Rather than scaling down with a smaller fabrication process and trying to deal with the resulting performance complications, they've employed what they call V-NAND, effectively NAND arrayed in three dimensions rather than two. This allows more Flash memory to be packed inside, freeing Samsung to use 40nm MLC chips, which is unheard of in today's SSD climate. With superior technology, Samsung has more physical space than their competitors to leverage into stronger performance.

Also available in 128GB, 512GB, and 1TB versions, the 850 Pro carries a healthy price premium across the board, with the 256GB model selling for about US$190. It's quite expensive but not unreasonable if you take into account the reliability and performance claims. Samsung has one last ace up their sleeve: "RAPID mode." Enabling this feature in their Magician software allows the SSD to use up to 25% of the system's memory as an ultra-fast cache. RAMDisk users are familiar with this concept, creating a virtual drive out of excess RAM for frequently accessed applications, but RAPID mode does it all automatically under the hood.

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