Conclusions

It appears that the Crucial MX300 will be priced as a mid-range SATA drive or slightly below that. On a 'Price per GB' metric alone the 3D TLC NAND isn't starting any revolutions, which means that again the association between TLC NAND and lower performance still rings true. Despite this, the performance is clearly higher and above the current glut of planar TLC drives that are competing in a race to the bottom. 

One of the issues that Crucial will face is that despite being plus-one generation above the MX200, The MX300 is slightly slower and only by a small amount. It frequently straddles the dividing line between MLC performance and planar TLC performance. One issue on performance will be that it is also surpassed on several benchmarks by SanDisk's X400, one of the fastest planar TLC drives and a drive that will likely beat the MX300 on price. The 850 EVO level of performance is simply out of reach; Micron's 3D TLC drive is slower than Samsung's 3D TLC drive, and so will have to compete on price.

One thing to point out is that through our testing, we see that the MX300 has an acute weakness in its random read latency. At all but the highest queue depths it is half as fast as the top MLC drives that are only moderately faster than the MX200. Since this pattern holds at the lowest queue depths where parallelism and caching don't apply, there's a danger that this means Micron's 3D TLC is inherently quite slow to read from. This is most likely a carry on from when Micron implemented SLC write caching for the Crucial MX200:

With the MX200, the short-term performance boost of the SLC wasn't always worth the eventual cost of moving data from SLC to MLC. The SLC caching on the MX300 seems to greatly lower the power requirements of handling a small volume of writes, which may be a reason to use it even with the 3D MLC, especially if performance is sufficient to handle flushing a full write cache under load without a drastic slowdown. However, when the MX300's SLC write caching and spare area are exhausted, it slows down to the level of budget planar TLC drives. This is a drive that should not be filled to the brim and should not be subjected to enterprise workloads with heavy sustained writes.

Crucial SSDs: MX, BX and The Future

The future of Micron's Crucial SSDs is uncertain. When the MX100 launched, it was a hit by offering mainstream performance at great prices for the time. The BX100 showed up at even lower prices and with performance that was pretty close to the MX100. The MX200 added just enough performance to somewhat justify keeping two models around. Later the BX200 adopted TLC and sacrificed a lot of performance to cut costs, but failed to compete against the wave of budget drives based on Toshiba and Hynix TLC. Now that the MX line has also adopted TLC, it seems likely that the BX line will be retired along with planar NAND.

The interesting question is whether Crucial will introduce a higher end 3D MLC drive. We learned at Computex that a 3D MLC NVMe SSD will be released under Micron's Ballistix brand, a now separate sub-brand of Micron and different to Crucial. Thus the only potential for a new MLC drive from Crucial would be a high-end SATA drive. Many companies have been wondering whether it is worth trying to compete directly against the 850 Pro that has reigned for two years as the fastest SATA SSD and is very nearly the fastest possible SATA SSD (barring the use of pure SLC or 3D XPoint, neither of which will happen). Crucial might have the opportunity with Micron's 3D MLC to introduce a drive that is just as fast as the 850 Pro while being more power efficient, but it would still be tough to dethrone the 850 Pro unless Micron could also clearly undercut Samsung on price. Alternatively, we may see MLC become something that is mostly used on PCIe SSDs while the SATA SSD market is overrun by TLC.

SSD Price Comparison
(Sorted by Price/GB of Highest Capacity Drive)
Drive 960GB
1TB
750GB 480GB
512GB
OCZ Trion 150 $199.99 (20.8¢/GB)   $109.99 (22.9¢/GB)
SanDisk X400 $229.49 (22.4¢/GB)   $124.49 (24.3¢/GB)
SanDisk Ultra II $219.56 (22.9¢/GB)   $127.31 (26.5¢/GB)
Mushkin Reactor $249.99 (24.4¢/GB)   $149.99 (29.3¢/GB)
Crucial MX300   $199.99 (26.7¢/GB)  
Crucial MX200 $269.94 (27.0¢/GB)   $139.00 (27.8¢/GB)
PNY CS2211 $289.99 (30.2¢/GB)   $129.99 (27.1¢/GB)
Samsung 850 EVO $306.76 (30.7¢/GB)   $153.95 (26.7¢/GB)
SanDisk Extreme Pro $338.08 (35.2¢/GB)   $189.99 (39.6¢/GB)

 

Final Words

To put this into perspective, under ordinary consumer and end-user/home workloads, the MX300 performs at its peak near the top of the TLC charts. On most tests we found the MX300 to be remarkably power efficient. Other things being equal, TLC is typically slower and more power hungry than MLC, but the MX300 is more power efficient on most benchmarks than most MLC drives. Having this level of efficiency is extremely promising for Micron's 3D MLC and an accomplishment worth some kudos.

 

ATTO, AS-SSD & Idle Power Consumption
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  • fanofanand - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    Slower and more expensive than the competition. Bravo Micron/Intel! Bravo! Reply
  • ddriver - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    They have no choice but to get realistic about the price. Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    Other SSD manufacturers are living in la-la land then? Because other OEMS seem to have no trouble selling SSDs for less. Reply
  • Arnulf - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    They should get realistic about their naming as well - this is clearly a BX300 ... Or perhaps a BX298.32, given more crappy performance considering the BX100 ... Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Friday, July 08, 2016 - link

    The drive beats the 850 EVO in the power consumption (except idle) tests, though. So, if the drive is going to be used in a laptop that doesn't idle much it could be a potential choice over the Samsung based on that. Reply
  • barleyguy - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    I was hoping it would be faster than the MX200. I have 3 of those.

    It's top of the charts in power efficiency though, so it might be a great choice for a laptop. The performance difference is probably barely noticeable in real world use, but the battery life advantage might be tangible.

    Also, launch price is $199 for 750 GB, which is not bad at all.
    Reply
  • chrisso - Friday, June 17, 2016 - link

    I also use an MX 200,which actually only has a write speed of 330.
    I suspect launch price is a suits guestimate at selling point.
    Real world differences are indeed minimal, price will be the main selling point later for the mainstream crowd (me).
    Reply
  • chrisso - Friday, June 17, 2016 - link

    (my drive IS the humble 256 gig, btw). I would buy a 750 later as pointed out,prices are a tumbling. Reply
  • eek2121 - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    Prices quoted are MSRP, as an example, the Trion 150 listed above debuted at 38.5 cents per gb. Don't be surprised to see this drive drop below 20 cents a gig in a few months. Reply
  • Gondalf - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    Strange comment. Anandtech article is not negative at all about this SSD driver, Techreport too says "recommended" at the end of the review.
    So you are a little biased in my opinion.
    Reply

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