Any way that you look at it, Crucial's parent company, Micron, is a semiconductor giant. As one of the top five semiconductor manufacturers in the world, with an estimated $16bn revenue in 2014, it's no surprise that they're intimately involved with cutting-edge research and development in the industry. A focus on DRAM and NAND has meant that their products reside in countless computing systems around the world as both RAM and flash storage, whilst as a leader in new memory technologies they're advancing the performance frontier through GDDR5X and, in cooperation with Intel via their IM Flash Technologies joint venture, 3D XPoint non-volatile memory.
Two years ago, Samsung burst onto the market with the 850 Pro — its first Solid State Drive with 3D flash memory, with high speeds and correspondingly high prices — and followed that up with the more affordable 850 Evo. Now, memory manufacturer Crucial is the second company to use 3D NAND in a 2.5-inch solid state drive, and it’s aiming to provide both fast transfer speeds and high disk capacity AND at a reasonable price.
The Crucial MX300 is a 2.5-inch solid state drive using the SATA data and power connectors, supporting the 6Gbps SATA3 standard with SATA2 backwards compatibility, making it suitable for any new or reasonably new laptop — it can replace a traditional 2.5-inch spinning-disk mechanical hard drive, and will fit in either slim drive bays (7mm) or thicker drive bays (9.5mm) with an included plastic adapter. It’ll also fit a desktop computer with SATA connectors, although you’ll need to invest in a 3.5-inch drive tray or use a case with 2.5-inch mounting points since the MX300 doesn’t ship with 3.5-inch hardware.
There’s only a single version of the Crucial MX300 at the moment, with the aforementioned 750GB capacity — using eight of Crucial’s newly developed 384Gbit 3D TLC NAND chips. This unconventional size means that the smallest SSD Crucial will likely produce with the MX300 name would be around 275GB in usable capacity, but maximum drive capacities of 2TB are easily possible; there’s no word on when these might launch beyond "later this year" according to Crucial, but expect to see them in the near future.
The Crucial MX300 is a tempting drive in that it offers nearly identical performance for mainstream users to Samsung’s two top SATA solid state drives, and is the only drive on the market that offers that 750GB capacity. For some users, that might just the answer for an SSD that gives you the price you need and the capacity that you want. It’s the same price as a less capacious 500GB Samsung 850 Pro that’s only slightly faster, and it sits perfectly in between Samsung’s 500GB and 1TB 850 Evo drives for those that need that middling level of storage.
Crucial includes three years of warranty for the MX300 in South Africa - this warranty is not bad in terms of how Crucial compares to most other SSD manufacturers but falls short of Samsung’s 5- and 10-year warranty conditions for the 850 Evo and Pro respectively.
It’s likely that smaller capacity - 275GB, 525GB - Crucial MX300 drives will be even more price competitive than the 750GB variant, and that these will be more attractive rather than equally attractive versus competitors’ 250GB and 500GB drives especially considering their 10 or 5 per cent extra capacity. We’re looking forward to these hitting the market and shaking things up even more in South Africa. As it stands Crucial’s MX300 is an ideal product for a small segment of the market, and more drives will broaden that appeal.
First shipments are expected to arrive in South Africa in August 2016. Watch this space for pricing.