For US customers, the aggressive pricing of the X9 Pro and its extra features make it a no-brainer. But for those in the EU or the UK, the older X8 and X6 remain a much better deal if you don’t need encryption. Those that are looking for something quicker should consider the X10 Pro instead.
Price When Reviewed
€99.62 (1TB), €177.11 (2TB), €321.02 (4TB)
Best Prices Today: Crucial X9 Pro
It has been four years since Crucial launched one of the most popular portable drives, the X8. It was followed a year later by the cheaper X6, and between them, they’ve set a standard for robust portable drives that other brands have struggled to match.
Weaknesses of these products were the lack of hardware encryption and only a three-year warranty.
Those issues have been addressed in the new X9 Pro and X10 Pro, which introduce contemporary styling and enhanced functionality to the X Series lineup. This review covers the X9 Pro, and I’ll cover the X10 Pro very soon.
While there have been functional and cosmetic changes to these drives, not everything has changed. The maximum read performance of the X9 Pro is dictated by USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10gbit/s), similar to the Crucial X8 and close to the larger capacities of the Crucial X6.
Therefore, a valid conclusion might be that the X9 Pro will replace both previous X Series drives and provide a new entry-level option below the X10 Pro.
Sitting alongside the existing products, it provides new and enhanced features that might justify a premium price. But the pricing equation of this product is already skewed by the dramatic drop in the NAND Flash modules used for this storage.
When the X8 first arrived in October 2019, the 1TB model cost $164.95/£149.99. And four years later, that much storage space costs only $89.99/£82.79 on the X9 Pro, or almost half as much.
Not much else in PC technology has gone down this much, but is it the only reason for buying this new take on a classic portable SSD?
Design & Build
No USB adapter
The new X9 Pro moves away from the black aluminium lozenge concept of the X8 and embraces a more nuanced form that resembles a solid block of silver metal that’s had the edges rounded off by a milling machine.
In one corner is a hole that looks like it allows the drive to be put on a lanyard, although none is provided for that purpose. Except once I powered up the X9 Pro, I realised the hole was where the activity LED resides.
Not sure this was a great plan because the LED is on the angled part of this hole, and the directions it is clearly visible are very limited. Those in a brightly lit room might never notice it is on or off. I did note that it is a little easier to see on the black X10 Pro than on the silver X9 Pro.
The underside of the drive has a soft rubberised coating that prevents the SSD from sliding around on the desk or damaging the surface. The provided USB-C cable is 23cm long, a bit longer than the ones that came with the X6 and X8.
What’s missing that was on the X8 is a USB-C to USB-A adapter. That is an accessory that was removed from the X6, and is not included with either the X9 Pro or X10 Pro. Given the meagre cost to Crucial in the volume of an adapter, that it didn’t include one gratis is regrettable.
Alongside the drive, in either 1-, 2- or 4TB capacity, a short USB-C cable and some warranty and service documentation in 20 languages. This paperwork doesn’t cover any operational or use aspects of the product, assuming that this device is effectively a plug-and-play device that doesn’t need detailed instructions.
Where the X8 felt substantial and able to withstand being crushed, Crucial made few claims about precisely what the enclosure could handle. Thankfully the X9 Pro is now officially IP55 rated for water and dust ingress protection and a specific drop height. That rating and the extended warranty period offered with it supports the assertion that the X9 Pro is more durable than its predecessors.
Other than the penny-pinching by Crucial, the big takeaway from the X9 Pro is how light it is. At just 39g, it is much lighter than the 148g X8 and closer to the 42g X6.
Crucial makes much of the resilience of the drive in its product information, highlighting its rating to survive a fall from 2M (6.5ft).
You might wonder what hard and potentially damaging surface does it fall in those tests? The small print reveals that it’s a carpeted floor and not concrete. Frankly, if something made of metal with no moving parts weighing 39g couldn’t cope with falling two meters onto carpet, it probably wouldn’t be a recommendable purchase. It is something both the X8 and X6 would have undoubtedly survived.
But, I did notice that the packaging inside the box is less protective of the X9 Pro than the X6 box, and therefore Crucial might think that it can take more abuse on its journey to the customer.
For those unfamiliar with the IP rating scheme, IP55-certified devices are not waterproof in the same way as you might expect from an expensive mobile phone. It offers some resistance to water, making it able to cope with a rain shower or very brief submersion, but it cannot be reliably taken underwater for any period longer than a few seconds.
What the IP55 definition defines is limited protection from dust, low-pressure water jets from any direction and damp and wet weather, so don’t take your X9 Pro for a swim.
Specs & Features
USB 3.2 Gen-2
Up to 4TB
According to Crucial, the X9 Pro can transfer 1050MB/s reading and writing if connected to a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port and about half that if you only have Gen 1 ports (original USB 3.0).
The drive comes preformatted using the exFAT file system, making it readable by Windows, Mac OS and Linux machines, and the drive contains no software. There are HTML pages that link to some provided tools and offers that I’ll cover in the user experience part of the review.
Notes in the reviewer’s guide told us that Windows users can obtain the best performance if the drives are reformatted to NTFS, but this makes the drive less flexible in what operating systems can understand that file format. In our testing, the performance was not dramatically different using NTFS.
One new feature is hardware encryption. Almost any external SSD can be encrypted, but the vast majority can only be encrypted using additional software. To unlock a software encrypted volume requires the same tool used to create the protected space to be installed on any machine or device that it is connected to read it.
That could be an issue if you carry protected data and want to provide it to another person.
Conversely, hardware encryption happens at a hardware level in the SSD, is therefore much more difficult to crack and can be accessed, in theory, with any operation system that inherently understands hardware-encrypted media if you have the correct password. Hardware encryption using 256 AES is more secure than software encryption, and the contents should be easier to access on other computers.
This encryption technology is also available on the SanDisk Extreme Portable SDD V2, Samsung T7 Touch and T7 Shield but is missing from those portable SSDs at the cheaper end of the market like the Crucial X8 and X6.
1-month Adobe Creative Cloud included
Crucial Storage Executive
Crucial has tried to offer some value added to the X9 Pro proposal in the form of a selection of utilities that are on its website that can be found using the HTML links stored on the drive or a QR code in the packaging. One of these is a month free on Adobe’s Creative Cloud All-apps plan.
If you were thinking of joining the Creative Cloud and paying Adobe for eternity, then this might be helpful since it’s 51.98 a month or $54.99. But there are cheaper ways to get effective software.
Another freebie is Mylio Photos with its image management tool that’s compatible with Windows, macOS, Android and iPhone, and Like the Adobe offer, this is a one-month free access offer.
The third item is less of a cross-marketing opportunity and something genuinely useful, Crucial Storage Executive. A general-purpose tool for monitoring the health of your Crucial storage devices, it can identify firmware upgrades and install them if you agree. And, it also has some functions for reformatting drives and modifying SSD cache allocations. These would all be great things, but the latest version of the Crucial Storage Executive has never heard of the X9 Pro (or X10 Pro) and is, therefore, of no use until Crucial fixes it.
Another product Crucial mentions, but it’s ready, is Hedge, an automated backup tool. That sounds perfect for the X9 Pro, so I hope it is available soon.
And finally, the Crucial Portable SSD Utility is promised in September 2023 for Windows and Mac. A simple tool that can encrypt, lock and unlock the hardware security of the device with a password that facilities a backstop to cope with those who enjoy encrypting everything and forgetting their passwords.
Again, the details suggest this could be good, but it wasn’t available to include in this review.
Overall, I’d conclude that the software side of the Crucial operation was blindsided by the speed at which the hardware was made ready and released and is now trying to catch up as quickly as possible.
Up to 1050Mb/s
No faster than X8
For this review, Crucial provided me with a 2TB X9 Pro, though according to a Crucial written reviewer’s guide, the speed differences between this and other capacities are tiny.
Crucial stated that the X8 read performance was 1050Mb/s, and the X9 Pro matches that speed on read but also on write. A write speed for the X8 was never quoted, but I previously clocked a 2TB model at 961MB/s.
In our testing, the X9 Pro managed around 966MB reads, and 970MB/s writes in the CrystalDiskMark 8.04 Real World profile. That makes it slightly better than the X8, and much superior to the X6.
What’s important to realise is that the SSD inside can undoubtedly run faster than the 1050MB/s read and write speed, and the limiting factor is the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface bandwidth.
However, even within the confines of the available bandwidth, the X9 Pro is an excellent drive, though in a few tests, it trailed the X8, but not significantly.
These tests also provided data from the X6, Seagate One Touch 1TB, SanDisk Extreme V2 1TB, Samsung T7 Shield 1TB, WD MyPassport SSD (2020) 1TB and OWC Envoy Pro Mini 1TB. And, to show what USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 drives, I also included the Corsair EX100U and the Crucial X10 Pro.
While it was never going to compete with the Gen 2×2 drives, the X9 Pro was at the very top or near that place across the board. It also didn’t demonstrate a massive performance decline when I threw a 64GB file at it using the AJA System test, which happens on some drives.
Overall, the X9 Pro is a great performer for those that don’t have Gen 2×2 or Thunderbolt connectivity.
Price & Availability
With NAND memory prices at an all-time low, Crucial made the logical choice to avoid any capacities below 1TB, offering that size, 2- and 4TB as all the options. It would be nice to see an 8TB model, but Crucial hasn’t reached that NAND density as yet.
The best place to buy the X9 Pro is the USA, as at launch, this product was discounted significantly across all capacities. Not sure what the rules are about discounts in the USA are. But in Europe, you’re not supposed to show a high price and then a lower discounted one if it was never on sale at the higher price.
However, Crucial avoided that issue in Europe by not applying the discount to UK and EU customers on the X9 Pro or X10 Pro. Yet, Crucial has at least discounted the X8 and X6 to European customers.
The prices are $89.99, $159.99 and $289.99 for the three capacities in the USA. You can buy it from Crucial, Amazon and Andorama.
In the UK the X9 Pro is £82.79, £147.59 and £267.59 respectively for the three capacities. You can buy it from Crucial, Amazon, Box and Ebuyer.
Based on current exchange rates, the UK X9 Pro costs 34%, 46% and 43% more than in the US, and with EU pricing, those price hikes become 37%, 50% and 47% more.
That undoubtedly makes the best place to buy the X9 Pro the USA, and the worst is the EU, with the UK hardly a bargain. In all locations, the best value per GB is the 4TB option, with the worst being the 1TB.
The problem with this pricing is that the 1TB Crucial X8 is currently just $69.99 and offers very similar performance levels to the X9 Pro, even if it lacks encryption and water/dust resistance. With a $10 extra cost in the USA, that’s at a level where most customers might be inclined to take the newer and longer warranty design.
But in the UK, the difference is £25.80, and €30.60 in the EU. That makes for a less compelling argument in those regions.
To compare it with other brands, the SanDisk Extreme Pro 1TB is $119.99 direct from Western Digital, the Samsung T7 Shield Portable is $88.59, and the WD 1TB My Passport SSD Portable is $81.99, both on Amazon.
Overall, the major competitors for the X9 Pro are the original X8 and X6, though it may be that Crucial will phase those products out once the retail channels clear of existing stock.
Not sure why Crucial has so shabbily treated its European customers with this product, but unsold X8 and X6 stock in these regions may have driven those choices.
Check out our chart of the best portable hard drives and SSDs for more options.
Initially, it was easy to see the X9 Pro as a replacement for the X8. Still, deeper thinking suggests it will be the new X6 when you consider the two-tier model that Crucial has previously operated. Therefore, the X8 replacement must be the X10 Pro, not the X9 Pro.
That’s not to say it isn’t better than the X6 and X8 in some ways, but its launch price doesn’t make it the obvious choice for the budget conscious outside the USA (until prices come down). And for those customers that don’t use encryption or work in the rain, the X8 or X6 are better deals.
What the X9 Pro offers is a slightly faster writing drive, greater survivability and a five-year warranty. And the new enclosure is also highly pocketable, even smaller than the X6.
If you only have USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and not Gen 2×2, this is the X series drive to own. However, if you have Gen 2×2 ports, paying more for the X10 Pro might save you time on transfers.
Putting the curious pricing decisions that Crucial made regarding Europe to one side, our only other complaint about this product is that the X8 came with a USB-C to USB-A adapter, and now you need to add an adapter. Given how cheap these are to include, passing the cost on to the customer isn’t likely to make some of them happy.
Had it included that item and had a worldwide price scheme less focused on one region, I’d be more enthusiastic about the X9 Pro, even if it doesn’t offer a dramatic performance improvement over the older X8.
The current pricing of the X9 in Europe will probably boost the sales of the X8 and X6 rather than encourage customers to get the new design, and maybe that’s intentional.