Introduction, Design Features
It’s a bit of a strange time in the solid-state drive (SSD) world. After nearly a decade of innovation saw performance pushing ever higher and prices plummeting steadily, things have more or less leveled off—at least when it comes to drives running on the traditional Serial ATA (SATA) bus.
While NVMe-based M.2 drives (such as Samsung’s flagship SSD 960 Pro), which run over the much faster PCI Express bus, are still getting faster, the SATA interface has been a hard ceiling for a while now. That has made truly faster drives on the older interface (which was designed for spinning-platter hard drives) impossible. And while the cost of churning out drives has fallen in recent years, thanks to a shift from horizontally stacked (planar) NAND to vertically stacked 3D NAND (also known as “V-NAND,” in the world of Samsung’s drives), drive prices have also started to level off due to increased demand for flash storage in PCs, smartphones, and tablets. (They have even started to rise over some stretches.)
So, while the speed race continues among the higher-end PCI Express drives, the focus in the land of SATA SSDs has mostly shifted to “good enough” performance and, as in the case with the Crucial BX300 we’re looking at here, ways to ease matters for users looking to upgrade from a slower spinning-platter hard drive to an SSD.
The BX300 is a replacement for Crucial/Micron’s Crucial BX200Crucial MX300 drive, too. The BX300 manages to perform well overall for a budget-focused drive, sticking in most of our benchmarks to the middle or upper-middle of the pack, versus other drives we’ve tested.
Where the difference can be, between drives so close in performance and price, is in the intangibles. Crucial also provides a smartphone-friendly online guide to help with the installation process, and an activation key for Acronis True Image HD. The latter will help with the data-migration process if you’re moving an existing boot partition to your new SSD.
There isn’t much in the way of surprises with the BX300—unless you count consistently solid performance, which isn’t always a given with a budget-focused drive. But we don’t have much in the way of complaints, either. Capacity is the one area that might give buyers pause. This drive only ships in 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB flavors. (We tested the 240GB.) If you want more gigs than that, you’ll have to step up to the MX300 drive line, which currently costs a little more, despite somewhat lower performance in many of our tests.
We get that the BX300 is a budget-focused drive. But we’re pretty certain that many users don’t need the absolute fastest speed so much as they need capacity. And in these days of 4K video, endless selfies, and ever-inflating game-install sizes, a 480GB drive is starting to feel cramped, even from many budget users’ standpoint. So make sure you assess your future storage needs realistically, before you commit to this line.
See our guide to the best M.2 SSDs we have tested.)
The silver-metal shell and blue-and-white sticker that make up the Crucial BX300’s exterior design will look familiar to those who have been paying attention to the company’s other recent drives. Like most 2.5-inch drives in the last few years, the BX300 is 7mm thick, and the company includes a spacer in the box for older laptops with thicker (9.5mm-high) drive bays.
There’s no practical reason most users would need to get inside the drive, but Crucial makes it pretty easy to do so, via four tiny screws. We popped off the lid, mostly because we could. As you can see, there’s plenty of empty space inside, which is common for 2.5-inch drives these days, especially those with lesser capacities…
Inside the drive, as noted up top, lives Micron’s 3D NAND. But interestingly, Crucial says the flash here is MLC (multi-level cell), rather than the TLC (triple-level cell) memory that’s become much more common in budget drives lately. MLC tends to be faster (particularly when it comes to write speeds), and its presence here, along with a Silicon Motion SMI2258 controller, likely account for this drive’s surprisingly solid performance. (For more on decoding SSD lingo, see our feature Buying a Solid-State Drive: 20 Terms You Need to Know.)
As noted earlier, Crucial will ship the BX300 in a trio of capacities. Rather than rattle off the drives’ rated specs, here’s a chart, direct from the company…
As you can see, the rated sequential speeds are the same across the three capacities, while random-read IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) are lower at the two lesser capacities. Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that the drive wasn’t a star when it came to random reads.
As far as drive endurance goes, Crucial rates the 120GB model of the BX300 for 55TB of total terabytes written (TBW), the 240GB model we tested to 80TB, and the 480GB version to 160TB. That translates, respectively, to 30GB, 44GB, or 80GB written to the drives every day for five years. Those certainly aren’t the the highest endurance ratings we’ve seen; the Samsung SSD 960 EVO (500GB) is rated to 200TB, for example. But the Samsung drive is pricier (and runs on the PCI Express bus, not SATA). And honestly, if you’re writing anything close to even 30GB of data to your drive every day of every week, you clearly aren’t the entry-level/upgrader user that Crucial is targeting with this drive.
The BX300 ships with a three-year warranty, which is standard for a drive in this price range. As for in-box accessories, aside from the drive-bay spacer, you’ll find just a couple of pieces of paper. One points you to the Web-based install guide, while the other leads you to the download location for the Acronis True Image HD drive-cloning software, along with a serial number for activating it. While it’s not mentioned in the documentation, the company also has free Storage Executive software that lets you monitor drive health and total bytes written, update firmware, and secure-erase the drive should you want to hand it off to someone else down the line. We covered Storage Executive extensively in our review of the previous Crucial BX200Crucial MX300Samsung SSD 850 EVO, while it’s been out for years at this point, is still tough to beat. It sells for about $90 in the 250GB capacity, which is in line with the BX300. But step up to the 500GB model, and the price shifts in Samsung’s favor. Samsung’s drive was selling at about $140 at that capacity, and with the SSD 850 EVO, you again get some extra gigs. Plus, the SSD 850 EVO has a class-leading five-year warranty.
The SSD 850 EVO remains a bellwether drive among budget and mainstream SSDs, and a tough one to beat on price and performance among the SATA lot. But we suspect that the BX300 will fall in price at least slightly as it finds its market footing. If it stays at its launch price, though, there’s little reason not to opt for a Crucial MX300 or a Samsung SSD 850 EVO instead.