Crucial’s new MX300 line-up is the first to feature Micron’s new 3D TLC NAND. A full two years after Samsung first unveiled its own 3D NAND technology, Micron – Crucial’s parent company – has finally joined the party.
The move to a 3D arrangement instantly triples density when compared with the company’s conventional 2D or planar NAND. This situation should help to push down SSD prices, while pushing up capacities, as Samsung now has some competition. Right now, though, the MX300 isn’t exactly gunning for the current 3D TLC champion, the Samsung 850 Evo. Instead, it’s priced a little lower, and a quick glance at this drive’s specs shows it isn’t likely to be taking the performance crown from Samsung.
The maximum sequential read and write speeds of 530MB/sec and 510MB/ sec are below the Samsung 850 Evo series’ 540MB/sec and 520MB/sec speeds, and likewise the 4KB random speeds of 92K IOPS and 83K IOPS are below the 94K IOPS and 88K IOPS from the Samsung 850 Evo line. Similarly, the MX300 only gets a three-year warranty rather than the five-year deal that comes with the Samsung drives.
Otherwise, though, the MX300 drives are well placed to bring respectable performance at a competitive price. Also, you get all the usual features you expect at this level, including encryption support, SLC caching for faster initial write speeds and partial power loss protection.
SLC caching is dubbed Dynamic Write Acceleration in this case and, as its name suggests, it varies the size of the cache in line with the amount of free space on a drive. In contrast, Samsung’s drives use a fixed-size cache. The ultimate effect is the same though: up to a certain amount – say 8GB – the drive will have faster write speeds then it will drop to a lower level until the drive has a chance to move data from the cache to longer-term storage in TLC NAND.
“Crucial’s new MX300 line-up is the first to feature Micron’s new 3D TLC NAND”
The drive itself looks smart, with an all-aluminium outer casing and a Crucial sticker that should be easy enough to remove if you’d rather just see the plain metal. In the box you also get a plastic riser to enable the 7mm drive to fit more securely in 9mm drive bays, plus there’s a code for Acronis True Image HD. The latter is a decent inclusion that will allow you to perform a full drive-level transfer of your data from your old drive to the new one, as well as perform other partitioning tricks.
In our tests, the MX300 performed pretty much as expected, sitting between the fastest and slowest drives on test. The differences are small, but there are certain telltale signs of how the drive will feel in everyday use. For a start, the 32-queue-depth read and write speeds indicated in CrystalDiskMark show the faster drives hitting around 400MB/sec read and 360MB/sec write. The MX300, though, hits around 380MB/sec and 340MB/sec, while the Kingston UV400 – the slowest drive on test – manages 350MB/sec and 340MB/sec.
The trend continues with the PCMark tests, but when it comes to boot times, the MX300 actually comes last. When pushed a little harder in our lometer tests, the MX300 fell a little behind some of the competition too, including Samsung’s 2D TLC-based (and similarly priced) 750 Evo 500GB.
Crucial’s MX300 drives are a bit of a disappointment after the company’s previous MX100 and BX100 drives fared so well in our reviews – we were expecting more from the company’s first 3D TLC NAND. The performance differences aren’t massive, and you get an attractively designed drive and a good set of features, but the prices of these drives need to drop if they’re going find their niche.
Decent enough drives, but the price makes them uncompetitive for the performance on offer.