USB 3.2 Gen 2 Portable SSDs Roundup - Featuring the Samsung T7 Touch and the SanDisk Extreme Proby Ganesh T S on January 23, 2020 9:00 AM EST
Device Features and Characteristics
Prior to looking at the usage characteristics of the various drives, it is helpful to compare their specifications and also take a look at the internals. All the drives discussed in this review adopt the strategy of placing a NVMe SSD controller behind a USB 3.2 Gen 2 bridge chip.
|Direct-Attached Storage Characteristics
|USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
|USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
|85 mm x 57 mm x 8 mm
|96.2 mm x 49.6 mm x 8.9 mm
|58 grams (without cable)
|79 grams (without cable)
|30 cm USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-C
30 cm USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-A
|25 cm USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-C
25 cm USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-A
The table above shows that the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch is the lightest of the new lot, coming in at 58 grams. In contrast, the Crucial Portable SSD X8 and the OWC Envoy Pro EX USB-C come in at 148g and 100g - both of them feel solid in hand with an aesthetically pleasing industrial design. The physical dimensions indicate that the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch and the Lexar SL100 Pro do not integrate a standard M.2 2280 SSD. Both are credit-card sized units and small enough to unobtrusively fit in any pocket.
The Lexar SL100 Pro Portable SSD uses a JMicron JMS583 bridge chip (just like the Plugable USBC-NVME enclosure). All the other SSDs in the new set use the ASMedia ASM2362 bridge. While all units support some sort of SMART passthrough, most of the traditional SMART monitoring tools can't reliably track the internal SSD's parameters over the bridge chip. TRIM support exists in allof the drives.
Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch
Samsung's T7 Touch is a unique DAS, thanks to its fingerprint security feature. We had already covered various aspects of the drive in our launch piece.
Another key aspect of the T7 Touch is the availability of support for use with both PCs and smartphones - as in, Samsung provides mobile apps keeping the security aspect in mind. We had already covered this while reviewing the Portable SSD T5, and the T7 Touch can be used in the same way. On the hardware side, we find that the fingerprint recognition module is embedded in the inside of the casing. There is only one internal board which carries the MZBLQ product tag. The SSD controller is the S4LR033, and the ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip is right next to it. The flash package has the K9DVGY8J5A tag, which decodes as: TLC, 5th gen V-NAND (92L), 512Gbit per die, 16 dies, 1TB for the whole package. This is the same NAND package used in 2TB 970 EVO Plus.
The thermal design also appears to tick all the right boxes - aluminum casing with a pink thermal pad (Samsung terms it as ePCM - encapsulated phase change materials) covering all the heat-generating PCB components. During operation, the LED around the fingerprint sensor lights up and rotates. The LED automatically turns off after the drive idles for 10 seconds. A blinking on/off status indicates that a security unlock is needed. All that said, it is possible to also use the T7 Touch as a dumb DAS without any of these security features activated.
SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD
SanDisk's Extreme Pro Portable SSD carries forward the gumstick form-factor that has served the previous Extreme Portable SSD models well. The key difference is that the fully plastic enclosure in the previous generation is replaced by a combination of plastic and aluminum.
SanDisk is now supplying two distinct cables (Type-C to Type-C, and, Type-C to Type-A) with the Extreme Pro, compared to the Type-C to Type-C and Type-C to Type-A adapter scheme used in previous SSDs. Internally, we see a wrapper around the mainboard (with the ASMedia ASM2362bridge chip and a Type-C port that is also protected by a gasket to prevent water ingress) with a single thermal pad in it. A WD Black NVMe SSD acts as a daughterboard. SanDisk also claims IP55 ratings for dust and water resistance.
Lexar SL100 Pro Portable SSD
Lexar's SL100 Pro adopts the same single-board strategy as the Samsung T7 Touch, enabling it to come in a more compact form-factor compared to the gum-stick offerings. The SSD controller is from Marvell and the bridge chip is the JMicron JMS583.
While most other USB 3.2 Gen 2 SSDs claim speeds of up to 1050 MBps, Lexar is conservative and claims speeds of up to 950 MBps only.
Crucial Portable SSD X8
The Portable SSD X8 is the only device being considered today to come with QLC memory. The device places their Pl NVMe SSD behind an ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip.
It comes with a single Type-C to Type-C cable and a bundled Type-C to Type-A adapter. The unit proved quite difficult to disassemble, and we do not have any teardown photos of the device.
OWC Envoy Pro EX USB-C
The OWC Envoy Pro EX USB-C is available either driveless, or, with an OWC Aura P12 NVMe SSD pre-installed. Our review version came with a 2TB P12.
The enclosure is fully metallic and the single thermal pad affixed to the casing along the length of the M.2 drive is good enough to draw away the heat generated in the course of usage.