We are currently in the middle of a NAND shortage due to the slower than expected transition to 3D NAND, new smartphones with increased capacity, and an assortment of flash-powered products coming to market. One company representative told me just days ago that, in his opinion, this is the worst shortage we've ever had.
If you follow the SSD market, then you already know that retail product prices have held steady or increased over the last few months. This time of year, we normally see a 15% price drop across the board for consumer SSDs, but I'm skeptical that will happen. We have good news for 2017, though; if you are shopping for a high-capacity SSD, you will have a wider selection. Intel and Micron will release the second generation IMFT 3D NAND with a staggering 768Gbit of capacity per die, which is twice the density of what we examined with the MX300. That should help to increase the number of bits shipped into the market, which will simultaneously decrease the price of high-capacity products positioned for the mainstream.
Shoppers have a slim selection with only four 2TB SATA products on the market, but at least it makes it easy to break the market down. If your workload involves professional applications as the primary function, then the 850 Pro and possibly the 960 Pro are the go-to products. Both tip the performance scales, but also empty the wallet.
If you run general-use applications, then you can't utilize the extra performance of the 850 Pro 2TB and will actually have a worse user experience compared to the 850 EVO 2TB. The 850 EVO 2TB is the best overall SATA SSD available. It offers users a massive fixed-size SLC buffer that absorbs both random and sequential writes at near-SLC latency. The problem with the 850 EVO series is the same now regardless of the capacity; they are expensive when compared to the new TLC-based products that others recently released to market. The OWC Mercury Electra 2TB is kind of a gimmicky drive that uses two 1TB SATA SSDs joined by a low-cost and relatively low-performance RAID controller. The Electra design is more complex than a normal drive because it uses two SSDs, which also increases the chance of failure.
Of the 2TB SATA products available, the Crucial MX300 2TB reaches a wider audience due to its name recognition, availability, and most importantly, pricing. The Crucial MX300 2TB retails for $549.99 at the time of writing. It's the lowest cost 2TB option and delivers 90% of the performance of the 850 EVO 2TB under light use. The drives were scarce at launch, but we didn't have any issue finding them at Newegg or Amazon. Crucial has a strong record with consumer SSDs, and we haven't found any reliability issues with any of its recent series.
That's not to say we didn't find any performance issues with the MX300 series. Enthusiasts will find this mainstream SSD performs more like an entry-level product during moderate workloads. Latency is the enemy here. Crucial tries to tackle the latency with a complex dynamic SLC buffer. SSD vendors first implemented the basic SLC buffer technology several product generations ago, and it's time for Crucial to find more performance with its SLC algorithm to increase the user experience in general use applications.
For most of us, performance is only secondary when it comes to the MX300 2TB. This product is about maximizing capacity at an acceptable pricing and performance level. Crucial succeeded in converging these three target areas, even though we look at the MX300 as a step in the wrong performance direction for the MX series. The MX300 is really the next step over the entry-level performance BX series. Users coming from a smaller high-performance SSD will notice the performance U-turn, but they will gain a high capacity drive at an acceptable price.
MORE: Best SSDs
MORE: Latest Storage News
MORE: Storage in the Forums