When Micron sold the Lexar brand to China-based Longsys in 2017, some of us wondered what direction the Lexar product lines might take as a result. We needn’t have worried, based on this and other late models. The Lexar SL100 Pro is a tough, sleek external solid-state drive (SSD) that performs well and is easy on the wallet, at $129.99 list price for the 500GB version we tested, though less from most etailers. It’s a solid addition to the company’s offerings that should appeal to media pros and casual users alike, and even brings bit of executive chic to the table.
What’s in the Box?
Most of today’s mainstream external storage devices are relatively simple, and SSDs are even simpler than the platter-driven variety. Reflecting that simplicity, not much is included with the Lexar SL100 Pro, because, frankly, not much is needed.
In the retail box (ours arrived a bit scuffed, as you can see below), you’ll find the SSD, in all its slim, black-and-silver glory, and two USB cables, one to use if your PC or devices requires USB Type-C and one for USB Type-A. (The device is USB 3.1-compatible, though of course it can be used with earlier versions of USB with slower transfer speeds.) Minimal instructions are necessary, and those are simply printed on the packaging.
Speaking of packaging, the package I received notes that the drive includes 256-bit data encryption, provided by DataVault Lite security software that ostensibly ships on the drive. But Lexar says that due to U.S. import restrictions, it will be including different 256-bit encryption software in newer packages. Of course, there are plenty of alternative encryption apps available; see our recent PCMag.com roundup of data encryption programs.
The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful
SSD beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, and the Lexar SL100 looks good to my eye—slim and sleek, and made of black anodized aluminum with chrome highlights. Measuring 0.43 by 2.9 by 2.2 inches and weighing less than three ounces, it’s not tiny, but it’s plenty small enough to drop into a shirt pocket. The only feature on the front face of the unit is the Lexar logo, and on one of the narrow ends just a small USB-C port and a tiny LED activity light interrupt the slab of black aluminum. This is a handsome piece of equipment, without any unnecessary flair. It looks like it means business, and it would complement any setup.
Note that, out of the box, the SL100 Pro is formatted in exFAT. That will be fine for many systems and devices, but Mac users may wish to reformat the unit. If you do reformat, don’t forget to copy any provided utility software first so that you can place it back on the drive once your formatting is complete.
Of course, the lack of any additions or flaps also means that there are no rubber bumpers to cushion the SL100 Pro and nothing with which to stop up the USB port on the end, so no waterproofing here. The device, being an SSD, is already vibration- and shock-resistant, but the SL100 Pro boasts no MIL-SPEC ruggedization. On the other hand, the unit comes with a three-year warranty, so Lexar is pretty confident in its ability to handle any of life’s hard knocks. (See our guide to ruggedized drives if that is what you need.)
The drive at its 500GB capacity lists for $129.99, but at Amazon’s and other etailers’ discounted price at the time of this writing ($99.99), the SL100 comes in right at the 20-cent-per-gigabyte cost sweet spot shared by such competing devices as the ADATA SE800 (about 19 cents); it’s a bit more spendy than the 1TB Crucial X8 (about 16.5 cents per gigabyte). With the 1TB version of the SL100 Pro, which Amazon and Lexar list for $179.99, you save only about a penny per gigabyte, so buying the larger-capacity version may or may not be worth your while. (Note that the SL100 is much less expensive than such vault-like security-driven devices as the iStorage DiskAshur Pro2, with its per-gigabyte cost of about 48 cents. Of course, the DiskAshur’s raison d’être is neither storage nor speed but security.)
There’s really not much to dislike about the Lexar SL100 Pro. One minor irritant: while it’s nice that the device comes with two USB cables (no clumsy, easy-to-lose dongles here), the cables are quite short. At 9 inches each, the length is not likely to be an issue with most laptop applications, but users of desktop machines or gaming systems may find themselves wishing for a longer cable.
Testing the SL100: Speedy Enough
The SL100 Pro uses PCI Express NVMe internals, so it should perform reads and writes at a much faster rate than a device with older SATA-based guts. Given that, we had no reason to doubt the company’s claim of data transfers in the 900MBps-plus range and, sure enough, the SL100 performed well enough in our tests. It didn’t set any records, but it outperformed some other drives in some tests, and generally stayed with the pack in others.
BlackMagic 3.1 is a general disk speed test that measures read and write performance. It’s often used to gauge how a drive performs when dealing with large files, such as those used by videographers and other multimedia content creators.
In this test, the Lexar SL100 Pro more or less matched Samsung’s popular Portable SSD T7 Touch, generating read speeds of 818MBps and write speeds of 869MBps. Three other drives tested (the ADATA SE800, the Crucial X8, and the SanDisk Extreme Pro) all outperformed the SL100, but not by meaningful margins. The Lexar did not quite meet the company’s advertised maximum read/write speeds of 950MBps and 900MBps, but it came close.
We use Crystal DiskMark to measure sequential read and write speeds when dealing with large, contiguous blocks of data, and here the Lexar SL100 shone, coming in at or near the top of the heap in both reads and writes—and seriously outperforming the ADATA SE800’s 676MBps write speed.
In this test, the Lexar SL100 Pro held its own and delivered numbers close to the company’s promised maximums.
PCMag Drag-and-Drop Test
In this test, we time how long it takes to copy a 1.2GB folder containing files of various types. This sort of operation is, of course, very common with typical users, so it provides a good window into the drive’s real-world data transfer capabilities.
Here, the SL100 seemingly performed behind the pack, with the other four drives completing the transfer in 2 seconds, while the Lexar unit required 3 seconds to accomplish the transfer. On paper, that indicates that the Lexar was a tad slower than the other units, but the real-world vagaries of a stopwatch-timed test mean you shouldn’t read too much into that. A difference of one second isn’t huge in light of the other results above. Because of that, we felt that the Lexar drive’s performance was on a par with the other units tested.
The PCMark 8 storage test measures a drive’s performance when dealing with typical office workloads such as videoconferencing and word processing. Here, the Lexar SL100 Pro (barely) outperformed the ADATA SE800, while turning in numbers just slightly below those generated by the other three units tested.
These numbers were all close enough that, in the end, we have to judge the performance of all four SSDs as roughly equal. For the kinds of tasks PCMark 8 measures, they’ll all feel about the same.
A Slick SSD That Keeps Up With the Pack
If you’re looking for affordable storage that doesn’t skimp on the speed, but which also doesn’t clutter up the package with doodads and add-ons, take a look at Lexar’s SL100 Pro. It’s versatile and will work with just about any computer or gaming system. It’s fast, sleek, and tough. And it’s small enough to drop into a shirt pocket but so good-looking that you’ll want to show it off.
Lexar SL100 Pro Specs
|Internal or External||external|
|Interface (Computer Side)||USB 3.1|
|Capacity (Tested)||500 GB|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Read||950 MBps|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Write||900 MBps|
|Warranty Length||3 years|