Switching your PC or laptop's hard drive from a traditional spinning disk to an SSD massively improves its responsiveness, but you don't have to splash your cash on the absolute best of the best to get there. Crucial's MX100 SSD services the mainstream PC upgrader that wants the speed of an SSD, but doesn't want to spend an excessive amount of money to get there.
What Is It?
The Crucial MX100, available in sub-$100 128GB, sub-$150 256GB and sub-$300 512GB capacities, is a mainstream 2.5-inch solid state drive, or SSD. It's built for laptops with its 7.5mm-thick form factor, but comes with a 9mm spacer and would be equally at home running a desktop PC (although you'll need an appropriate case or a 3.5-inch drive adapter). Like any other drive you can buy these days it's a SATA3 6Gbps disk, using the ride-along SATA power connector that is commonplace on any PC power supply (good riddance, Molex).
Crucial rates the MX100 at a SATA3-saturating 550MBps sequential read speed, but as you step up from the base to mid to max capacity you get a commensurate bump in sequential write speed. The 128GB version has a not-so-great 150MBps write, 256GB is a far superior 330MBps and 512MBps is what we want most at 500MBps. This trade-off is due to the MX100's use of 128Gbit NAND flash dies, which can store more data per chip but take an overall hit in write speeds because of it. So while the MX100 is a relatively cheap SSD, this is due to the technical limitations of its storage silicon.
The MX100 was sent to me along with Crucial's Easy Laptop Install kit, which bundles a SATA3 to USB 3.0 adapter that lets you plug this SSD or any other low-power SSD or hard drive into a PC's external USB 3.0 port, as if it were an external hard drive. Then, using the bundled Acronis True Image HD software, you can image your current PC installation of Windows, or Mac OS X, or any other media, and load it directly onto the MX100. Then, after it's physically installed, you're able to turn on your PC and work away as usual — except, of course, with a speedy SSD running your OS and programs.
While the MX100 Easy Laptop Install kit has its USB adapter, the only extra bundled with the drive itself is the 9mm drive spacer, with no 3.5mm adapter as you'll get with OCZ drives and some other competitors. There's a dollar or two to add onto the purchase price of the MX100 if you're buying it for a desktop PC.
What Is It Good At?
The MX100, when you look at its prices on StaticIce, is an especially cheap SSD. Paying less than $100 gets you the 128GB version and the 512GB drive is well under $275, but it's the sub-$150 256GB middle-of-the-range variant that looks to be the best compromise between price, capacity and transfer performance. If it's on sale, the MX100 looks even more attractive against its competitors and comes in on par with the Samsung 840 EVO.
In CrystalDiskMark, the MX100 256GB model is a great performer considering its low price tag and mainstream appeal. 490MBps read and 341MBps sequential write is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and points to the good-enough write rates of a drive aimed at the mass market. When you consider that the MX100 is aimed more at media consumption and the quick loading of programs rather than large-scale writes, you shouldn't be disappointed with these speeds. Expect broadly similar read and 500MBps-ballpark write rates from the step-up 512GB variant.
Crucial MX100 (256GB): Performance
Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 490MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 341Mbps
All of this has to be considered in the context of the Crucial MX100's crazy low prices. I remember buying a $250 120GB SSD, and a $400 80GB SSD before that. Less than $150 for 256GB of pretty damn competitive flash memory is an excellent deal, and if you're looking for a drive that hits the right compromise between being affordable and being powerful, I'd be inclined to suggest that the MX100 deserves your attention.
What Is It Not Good At?
Although it's a value drive, the lesser 128GB Crucial MX100's 150MBps sequential write rates are nothing to write home about. 150MBps is really not a great transfer rate; it's not too far off the max speed of the best of the best spinning disk laptop hard drives. Consider that paying $50 more for twice the capacity and twice the write speed gets you the 256GB version, and it's hard to see why you'd opt for the slower version unless price was your primary, inescapable purchasing decision.
The MX100 is also not a stellar performer in its power consumption. It is, of course, far superior in its idle and write and slumber power consumption compared to any magnetic hard drive, but when you look at it against something like the Samsung 850 Pro its 3.5W max power consumption is a full 50 per cent worse. These are cents per year we're talking about here, but if you're building an ultra-ultra-low-power PC then the MX100 is not a perfect choice.
Should You Buy It?
Crucial's MX100 gives you the lion's share of the responsiveness and transfer rate improvements of the best SSDs on the market, with only a small sting of the accompanying price tag. Even with the higher overall price per gigabyte of SSDs versus traditional platter hard drives, it's hard not to see the Crucial MX100 as a good value drive.
Especially if you have a good backup routine, cloud storage (and fast internet), or an external drive to store the majority of your media, a moderate-capacity 256GB MX100 hits the compromise both within Crucial's drive range and the wider SSD market in terms of its performance and street price.