Conclusion

Most of the time, it seems like all the interesting new developments in the SSD market are in the NVMe segment, while SATA SSDs are stuck with the same performance limits and decreasing endurance. The Crucial MX500 bucks the trend by setting several surprising performance records while offering competitive mainstream pricing.

The MX500 is a more well-rounded product than its predecessor, the Crucial MX300. The MX300's performance takes a serious hit when it is full or subjected to heavy write loads, but the MX500 retains much more of its performance and does a better job of keeping latency under control. It is still subject to some of the pitfalls of TLC NAND with SLC write caching, but they are mitigated about as well as on any of its competitors.

Several of our synthetic benchmarks returned results for the MX500 that are far above any previous SATA SSD we've tested. The Crucial MX500 is faster at handling short bursts of I/O than any of its competitors, and even outperforms some NVMe drives with MLC NAND. This is exactly the kind of performance that a consumer SSD should focus on: increasing responsiveness, rather than trying to get a high score on a benchmark of throughput with queue depths that consumer workloads never hit.

These optimizations translate into some of the highest average data rates on our ATSB Heavy and Light test that we've seen from a SATA SSD. In favorable conditions (which also happen to be the most common and realistic) of a drive that isn't full and does get TRIM commands from the OS, the MX500 will generally hold its own against any other SATA drive. It isn't at the top of every benchmark—under sustained I/O it isn't any faster than most of its current-generation competition. But for most users, there's no need to pay any extra for the performance of a Samsung drive.

The MX500's power management seems to have taken a step backwards from the impressively efficient MX300. The MX500 is still a reasonable option even for mobile use, but it's a bit disappointing to see that Micron had to sacrifice efficiency on almost every test to improve performance on most of them. The MX500's idle power consumption is also a bit higher than the MX300, but not enough that we worry about something being broken. (It's also possible that our new power measurement equipment is contributing to higher readings; we'll rule out such potential discrepancies over coming weeks by re-testing the back catalog of drives.)

The Crucial MX500 does not stand out as being the top SATA SSD, but it is clearly a top-tier choice. Micron has extended the warranty to 5 years and increased the write endurance rating to match. The performance and power consumption of the Crucial MX500 are suitable for almost every consumer use case. We look forward to the rest of the capacities arriving next year.

SATA SSD Price Comparison
  240-275GB 480-525GB 960-1050GB
Crucial MX500 TBA TBA $259.99 (26¢/GB)
Crucial BX300 $87.99 (37¢/GB) $149.99 (31¢/GB)  
Crucial MX300 $89.99 (33¢/GB) $139.99 (27¢/GB) $272.00 (26¢/GB)
Samsung 850 EVO $84.99 (34¢/GB) $139.99 (28¢/GB) $289.99 (29¢/GB)
Samsung 850 PRO $109.99 (43¢/GB) $223.42 (44¢/GB) $399.99 (39¢/GB)
SanDisk Ultra 3D $79.99 (32¢/GB) $139.99 (28¢/GB) $279.99 (28¢/GB)
WD Blue 3D NAND $79.99 (32¢/GB) $139.99 (28¢/GB) $279.99 (28¢/GB)
Toshiba TR200 $74.99 (31¢/GB) Out of Stock Out of Stock
Intel 545s $99.99 (39¢/GB) $171.99 (34¢/GB)  

In terms of performance, the SATA drive to beat has long been the Samsung 850 PRO, but its much cheaper sibling the 850 EVO also offers great performance in most use cases and is the most important competitor for mainstream SSDs. The 1TB Samsung 850 EVO is currently selling for $289.99. With the MX500 arriving at $259.99 for the same capacity but with a longer warranty, higher everyday performance and better power efficiency, Samsung needs to change something. The rest of the industry will also have to respond, because the MX500's MSRP is beating the holiday street prices on competitors like the SanDisk Ultra 3D.

The NAND flash shortage is starting to ease as everybody (except SK Hynix) ramps up their 64-layer 3D NAND production. By setting an aggressive introductory price, it is clear that Micron expects SSD prices to be in decline, and they intend for the MX500 to remain an economical choice for the near future. If they can keep the MX500 ahead of the pace of price drops, they have a good chance at recapturing the broad market appeal that once made the MX100 such a clear-cut recommendation. Given how the recent Crucial BX300 is also aggressively positioned, they are probably going to keep up the pressure.

Power Management
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  • mode_13h - Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - link

    Actually, you don't need it to upgrade the firmware. But it also does things like over-provisioning and secure-erase. And it can tell you roughly how much write endurance is remaining. Reply
  • ddrіver - Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - link

    Overprovisioning, that very advanced function that translates to shrinking a partition and leaving some free space somewhere at the end of the drive using nothing but Windows tools... There is no killer function in these SSD tools. They make FW updates a lot easier for regular people. I don't want to make boot disks and type in my updates. Just click click form the GUI and I'm done. Maybe something like Samsung's RAPID needs the software but other than that you can do it yourself. Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - link

    Yeah I just use Disk Management or Partition Wizard to leave 2-5GB (depending on size) free on all my SSDs. Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - link

    Good luck with that. First, it's not much (I usually OP by anywhere from 6.25% to 25% - if you search SSD reviews on this site, you'll see performance benefits even up to 25%).

    Second, it definitely won't work for all vendors. The SSD firmware needs to know that the unpartitioned space doesn't hold user data, and they don't all derive this information by simply looking for a partition table and parsing that, as you seem to believe.
    Reply
  • ddrіver - Thursday, December 21, 2017 - link

    Any link for that? The point of overprovisioning is to have space to swap data and do internal reorganization even when the drive is full, for wear leveling. Since most drives support TRIM and you can trigger it manually it's impossible to assume there will be data there. It's like the SSD should stop with the wear leveling because I might have some data in that free space it's using anyway.

    The ONLY difference between normal free space and OP is that OP will be there even when you regular partition is full. Wear leveling and data reorganization works even with 0 OP when there actually is user data everywhere. It just takes longer.

    The second you create an empty chunk of disk space it will be TRIMmed anyway and it becomes really free space. It can even be a partition that you never write to. Windows will TRIM it regardless and the SSD will know the LBAs are empty. No flag needed. But I'd love to see some docs from recent times to say otherwise.
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Friday, December 22, 2017 - link

    I don't know why you think anyone is TRIMming unpartitioned space, but it's a bad assumption. Reply
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - link

    Their documentation seems to suggest it writes something to flag the unpartitioned space as useable for over-provisioning. I don't know how you can easily prove that simply leaving unpartitioned space is equivalent.

    With certain other vendors, I've seen official statements that simply leaving unpartitioned space is not sufficient for overprovisioning.
    Reply
  • npz - Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - link

    In addition to secure erase, you also need it for Opal / eDrive. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - link

    Dumb question, but what do you need to use it for? I've never used it, that I can remember, and I've got a couple of Crucial drives. I don't have Java on any of my personal systems either. Reply
  • mikato - Friday, January 19, 2018 - link

    Agree. I don’t see how Java is a problem. Reply

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