Lexar SL100 Pro Portable SSD Review: Pro Pricing, Semi Performance

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Lexar’s SL100 Pro is more semi-pro than professional. For those who are just looking for a sleek and speedy portable SSD, it will most likely suit your needs. It delivers performance numbers in the 1,000MBps range, but there is a catch. While its pSLC cache can be quite fast, once saturated, its direct-to-TLC write speeds are very poor, averaging 180MBpss. As a professional-labeled product, I would expect write speed to be much better overall considering the cost of the unit. SanDisk’s Extreme maintains full write performance at all times with an average speed that is triple that of the SL100 Pro’s.

Now, depending on your use case, this may not affect you in most day to day use. We wrote over 300GB to the Lexar drive before write speeds slowed down. So, if you aren’t writing hundreds of GB at once often (and from a similarly speedy drive), the SL100 Pro should keep up. You can definitely record and work on 4K media with these speeds. During our file transfer tests, we saw great performance as well when toying with 25-50GB file folders and large, multi-GB files. Temperatures were fine too.

After using the device for a good bit of time, we also came up with a few other minor complaints: Lexar could improve the device by giving it more grip to rest securely on whatever surface you place it on. Also, I'd like t see slightly longer USB cables included. I often found that these two issues make positioning the device around our laptop or on your desktop either a bit bothersome or nearly impossible. As well, considering the free encryption support is currently void in the US, one of its main value points is irrelevant.

But the biggest issue we have with the device at this time is the cost. At nearly double the price of SATA-based competitors, is the Lexar SL100 Pro really worth it for double the transfer performance? Considering the rather slow direct-to-TLC write speeds, we don’t think so. The performance doesn’t justify such a high price point. You are better off purchasing a JMicron JMS583 based NVMe SSD enclosure like the Pluggable or MyDigitalSSD M2X and an NVMe SSD to make your own external SSD at current prices.

The Lexar SL100 Pro has a lot going for it, but maybe a bit too much going against it too. Until Lexar brings prices down to more competitive levels, this drive isn't worth it unless you have money to burn. Otherwise, if you’re paying that kind of cash, go ahead and build your own or opt for something in the faster Thunderbolt 3 flavor if you have the requisite ports on your computing devices.

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Sean Webster
Storage Reviewer

Sean is a Contributing Editor at Tom’s Hardware US, covering storage hardware.