It’s not sexy, but it is great value

Maximum PC - - FRONT PAGE -

The new drive that ev­ery bud­get sys­tem needs

KEEP THOSE EX­PEC­TA­TIONS in check. That’s not the most en­thralling way to ap­proach a new SSD, but it’s very much the at­ti­tude to have when con­sid­er­ing a stan­dard SATA drive, such as the Cru­cial BX300.

For starters, it’s a SATA drive in an age when SSDs hooked up via the far faster PCI Ex­press in­ter­face are be­com­ing ever more main­stream. Not only is SATA lim­ited to a real-world max­i­mum through­put of about 550MB/s, but its con­trol pro­to­cols were never in­tended to jive with solid­state me­mory. That means ran­dom ac­cess per­for­mance is com­pro­mised, com­pared with the full po­ten­tial of the lat­est SSD con­trollers and flash me­mory.

What’s more, the BX300 isn’t merely a SATA drive. It’s an ag­gres­sively priced SATA drive, sold as a value of­fer­ing, rather than a premium per­for­mance propo­si­tion. This 480GB model, for in­stance, costs $145. A top-notch SATA drive in this 500GB-plus-or-mi­nus-a-few-GB cat­e­gory, such as Sam­sung’s 850 Pro, will hit you to the tune of $230. Even Sam­sung’s value drive, the 850 Evo, is more ex­pen­sive at $170.

So, it’s a cheap drive, and with that come those afore­men­tioned rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions. Do not ex­pect the BX300 to tear it up in the bench­marks. But be­fore we nose around those par­tic­u­lar num­bers, let’s pe­ruse the BX300’s speeds and feeds.

In­trigu­ingly, Cru­cial has wound back the clock tech­no­log­i­cally, and re­turned to MLC, or two-level, flash me­mory cells, each ca­pa­ble of stor­ing two bits of data. Its pre­vi­ous bud­get drive, the BX200, ran with TLC, or triple-level cells. In­deed, Cru­cial’s premium of­fer­ing, the MX300, re­tains TLC.

That said, this isn’t old-school pla­nar me­mory. It’s 32-layer 3D NAND me­mory. In short, due to the slightly un­usual 384Gb ca­pac­ity of Cru­cial’s first TLC 3D NAND me­mory chips, us­ing them in small, bud­get-ori­ented SSDs doesn’t add up. Cru­cial does have more suit­able 256Gb and 128Gb chips on the way. In the mean­time, a fall­back to MLC has proved ex­pe­di­ent.

Other high­lights in­clude Sil­i­con Mo­tion’s lat­est SM2258 con­troller chipset, 512MB of cache me­mory, and a write en­durance of 160TB. Peak speeds for the 480GB model are quoted at 550MB/s for reads and 510MB/s for writes. 4K ran­dom reads and writes are 95k and 90k IOPS re­spec­tively.

As for our tests, the BX300 cranks out some sur­pris­ingly good num­bers. Se­quen­tial through­puts for both reads and writes are well over 500MB/s in ATTO Disk Bench­mark. In Crys­talDiskMark’s slightly tougher test of se­quen­tial per­for­mance, the num­bers are still strong, with 536MB/s for reads and 486MB/s for writes.

Even more im­pres­sive for a bud­get drive are the re­sults in Crys­talDiskMark’s 4K ran­dom ac­cess test. The BX300 spits out 33MB/s reads and 130MB/s writes. Those num­bers com­pare fa­vor­ably with a premium drive, such as Sam­sung’s 850 Pro. In fact, all of the BX300’s per­for­mance num­bers look good next to more ex­pen­sive SATA SSDs.

Of course, the sub­jec­tive dif­fer­ence in terms of the com­put­ing ex­pe­ri­ence de­liv­ered by var­i­ous mod­ern SATA SSDs has nar­rowed. You would be hard pressed to tell the dif­fer­ence in terms of how re­spon­sive each one makes a PC feel. Ar­guably of more sig­nif­i­cance is longevity, and that’s where the BX300 be­trays its bud­get in­ten­tions.

Cru­cial pro­vides a three-year war­ranty, which matches other bud­get drives. How­ever, Sam­sung’s 850 Pro comes with 10-year cover. In the end, then, you pays your money and you takes your choice. If you need an SSD with max­i­mum stay­ing power, the BX300 isn’t for you, and you’ll sim­ply need to pay more.

For most, how­ever, three years is a de­cent life­span for a cheap SSD. In all like­li­hood, this drive will keep on truck­ing for many years be­yond. Com­bine that with very re­spectable per­for­mance for a bud­get SSD, and you have a pretty awe­some value propo­si­tion. Just so long as you keep those ex­pec­ta­tions rea­son­able. –JEREMY LAIRD

Cru­cial BX300 480GB

GREAT EX­PEC­TA­TIONS Ag­gres­sively priced; solid al­laround per­for­mance.

HARD TIMES War­ranty pe­riod is noth­ing spe­cial; doesn’t do any­thing spec­tac­u­lar.

$145, www.cru­

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