A double look at the Crucial BX200 SSD lineup

There's nothing like taking a fresh new SSD for a spin. And although the BX200 doesn't actually spin, it certainly knows how to toil.

I've looked at several SSDs over the past two or three years and I find them refreshingly fast. I also find them to be easy to perform as drop-in replacements for standard 2.5-inch SATA HDDs. An SSD is the single best personal computer upgrade that you'll ever perform. It can breathe new life into an otherwise throw away computer. Max it out on RAM and toss in an SSD and you have a new computer. And now that SSDs are at a price point that is reasonable ($65 for the 240 GB), you shouldn't hesitate to pick one up for your next weekend upgrade project. This post focuses on the Crucial BX200 SSD series from which I've tested two drives: the 480 GB CT480BX200SSD1 and the 960 GB CT960BX200SSD1 that cost $129.99 and $299.99, respectively.

Are SSDs fast? Yes, the personal ones run up to 13 times faster than your old HDD does. They boot your system quickly. My Windows 10 laptop with the 960 GB BX200 boots in the 40 second range as reported by 360 Total Security app.

boottime.jpg

But SSDs aren't just about speed, they're also about efficiency. They're approximately 40 times more efficient than an HDD. When I say "efficient", I mean that they're less power hungry than old drives and they don't make noise, so there's that kind of efficiency too.

The BX200 at a glance:

  • Replaces the BX100 line
  • 240 GB, 480 GB, and 960 GB capacities
  • Micron's first TLC SSD (16nm TLC)
  • 2.5-inch form factor
  • Silicon Motion SM2256 Controller
  • Includes Acronis True Image HD software

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Crucial's findings were somewhat better than my own when I performed similar benchmarks in Windows, but very comparable on CentOS 7. Part of the discrepancy might be that I used the BX200 drives as the primary drive onto which I installed the OS, so for Windows the BX200 was the C: drive and for CentOS it was the /.

Below is Crucial's benchmark comparison with other SSDs in their stable: BX100 and MX200. This comparison used the 480 GB drive size.

bx200-comparison.png

My test system does have the required 6 Gb/s SATA III interface. I tested with Windows 10 Professional on the 960 GB SSD and CentOS 7 on the 480 GB drive. Below is my average test using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 x64 on Windows 10 Pro (960 GB BX200 SSD).

Test Read (MB/s) Write (MB/s)
Sequential 433.8 402.3
512K 347.0 360.1
4K 27.52 68.47
4K QD32 177.6 150.0


Using dd and hdparm on the same system with CentOS 7 (480 GB BX200 SSD).

SATA speed:

[ 3.688605] ata1: SATA link up 6.0 Gbps (SStatus 133 SControl 300)
[ 3.688655] ata2: SATA link up 1.5 Gbps (SStatus 113 SControl 300)

# hdparm -Tt /dev/sda

/dev/sda: Timing cached reads: 3446 MB in 2.00 seconds = 1724.27 MB/sec Timing buffered disk reads: 1430 MB in 3.00 seconds = 476.58 MB/sec

dd Read Tests:

1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 2.18926 s, 490 MB/s

1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 2.19092 s, 490 MB/s

1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 2.17713 s, 493 MB/s

dd Write Tests:

1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 1.88491 s, 570 MB/s

1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 1.92038 s, 559 MB/s

1024+0 records in
1024+0 records out
1073741824 bytes (1.1 GB) copied, 1.91972 s, 559 MB/s

As you can see from my tests, the performance of the BX200 SSD is better on Linux than on Windows. In both cases, I'm happy with the performance. I don't think that I would notice a few milliseconds of difference when opening an application. I think the real difference to note is between HDDs and SSDs, not between operating systems. Windows handles things differently than Linux does and that's an old argument and road that I'm not going down again.

The SSD Speed Dilemma

Why don't SSDs hit their theoretical maximum of 750 MB/s?

I've discussed this before in another post, but the theoretical maximum throughput of a 6 Gb/s SATA interface is 750 MB/s. Why don't SSDs come close to that? The short answer is overhead. The drive controller makes the most difference in drive speeds, not the SATA interface. If you see drives with speeds in the 550 MB/s range, they have a souped-up controller, like the BX200 drives do. The SM2256 controller is the difference in performance for similarly configured SSDs.

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The maximum throughput, minus the overhead, you can hope for is 600 MB/s with a 6 Gb/s SATA interface. So Crucial's benchmarks and my benchmarks show that the BX200 series is near the top of the SSD performance game.

My suggestion is that you opt for the 480 GB or the 960 GB drive for a primary system drive. We all know too well how fast drives fill up. For most users the 480 GB drive is the perfect match between performance and price. At $129.99, you can't go wrong with it. The 960 GB drive has the same excellent SSD performance and efficiency, but at more than twice the price. It is a drive for power users and professionals who need the added space and the enhanced speed for I/O intensive applications.

I really like the BX200 series drives. If you're on the fence about switching or trying out an SSD, this is the one to jump on. The drive works in Linux, Mac, and Windows computers. Your applications will open so quickly that they'll be ready before you are. Take one (or more) for a "spin" and tell me what you think.

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