You may have caught our recent coverage of the PNY Optima scandal that led to a boycott of PNY and Kingston SSDs on Reddit. Several technology websites picked up the initial blog post and post inspection editorial. For the most part, the industry chimed in with supporting remarks, damning both companies for changing important components after reviews hit the web. There were a handful of dissenting opinions, though. All were based on fiction, like those buying low-cost SSDs don't care about performance, and the manufacturers can't keep up with the demand during manufacturing, so they get to just throw together any product they want and sell it under the same model name. The latter is what really caught my attention and the new Crucial MX100 proves the claim false.
Crucial is part of the Micron and Lexar, Micron being one of the largest NAND flash and DRAM manufacturers in the world. Crucial gets first pick of NAND flash made by Micron, in a cooperation with Intel called IMFT. Both Micron and Crucial have SSD product lines, Micron sells to OEM customers like Dell, and Crucial sells to the channel, customers like you and me. In a roundabout way, we can say that Crucial has NAND flash production via proxy, just like Intel, Samsung, SanDisk, Toshiba and SK Hynix.
As the SSD market grows, these NAND flash manufacturers will make sure they have NAND flash for themselves before selling flash to third-party SSD manufacturers, those without NAND flash product capability. SSD prices are rapidly shrinking and so are profit margins per unit sold. When you have NAND flash production, it's really not a big deal, but when you have to buy flash and sell a drive at a competitive price point, it certainly is.
What we're seeing now is the lower-end of the totem pole cutting corners to stay competitive with the six NAND flash manufacturers. If they were having problems before, then things are about to get a whole lot worse.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Hot on the heels of Crucial's flagship M550 release is the replacement for M500, the MX100. Crucial positioned the MX100 at the lower tier of a two-tier structure - one product designed for the performance market, and the other designed for mainstream users. 'Mainstream users' is really an odd term, but it means those who don't want to spend a lot of money on a product.
Nearly all SSDs deliver enthusiast levels of performance, but some perform a bit better under heavy workloads. A true mainstream user wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an expensive SSD and one that costs less than $100. It's a significant price point though because it's an easy to swallow amount, even if you only care about your PC booting quicker and web pages loading faster.
The Crucial MX100 ships in three capacity sizes - 128GB, 256GB and 512GB. All three capacity sizes read sequential data at 550 MB/s, but the sequential write speeds vary by the capacity and range from 150 MB/s for the 128GB model to an impressive 500 MB/s on the 512GB model.
We recorded the current prices at the time of writing and snagged a screenshot from Newegg, shown at the top of this page. The MX100 128GB comes in at just $77.99, the 256GB model costs just $109.99 and the 512GB model just $214.99. It seems Newegg is even reducing the cost of shipping on the MX100, just 99 cents.
Things get interesting on the technology side. While the 128GB MX100 uses 128Gb die capacity 20nm NAND flash, like the larger capacity M550 series, the 256GB and 512GB MX100 models use new 16nm flash. Micron is able to produce more 16nm die per wafer than 20nm die. Since the wafer price is the same, Micron gets more parts per wafer at 16nm, which trickles down to mean lower price SSDs. 16nm lithography is Micron's answer to Samsung's 3-bit MLC (Triple-Level Cell, TLC) flash. For years, we've heard that price is the leading reason for users to pass on solid state storage technology, and Micron / Crucial's 16nm flash addresses the price issues.
You may think the MX100 also cuts technology features from the flagship M550, but that isn't the case. The MX100 checks all of the boxes with an extensive list of features. Those include hardware encryption via TCG Opal 2.0 and Microsoft's eDrive. Crucial's RAID technology is also included, as well as adaptive thermal protection, power loss protection and a host of industry standards.
The MX100 series of products carry a three-year warranty with a TBW of 72TB or 40GB per day. To frame the writes per day, I've used the same SSD in my daily use notebook, the one that I take everywhere, and average 23GB writes per day.
PRICING: You can find the Crucial MX100 256GB SSD for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
United States: The Crucial MX100 256GB SSD retails for $109.99 at Amazon.
Canada: The Crucial MX100 256GB SSD retails for CDN$160.45 at Amazon Canada.