Performance Consistency

An interesting aspect of these types of DAS units is performance consistency. Aspects that may influence this include thermal throttling and firmware caps on access rates to avoid overheating or other similar scenarios. This aspect is an important one, as the last thing that users want to see when copying over, say, 100 GB of data to the external, is the transfer rate going to USB 2.0 speeds. In order to identify whether the drive under test suffers from this problem, we instrumented our robocopy DAS benchmark suite to record the flash drive's read and write transfer rates while the robocopy process took place in the background. For supported drives, we also recorded the internal temperature of the drive during the process. The graphs below show the speeds observed during our real-world DAS suite processing. The first three sets of writes and reads correspond to the photos suite. A small gap (for the transfer of the videos suite from the primary drive to the RAM drive) is followed by three sets for the next data set. Another small RAM-drive transfer gap is followed by three sets for the Blu-ray folder.

An important point to note here is that each of the first three blue and green areas correspond to 15.6 GB of writes and reads respectively. Throttling, if any, is apparent within the processing of the photos suite itself. It is obvious that the transfer rates are quite consistent and there is no throttling at play here, unlike the T1. In addition, the T3 also manages to remain a full 20C below the T1 for the same workloads. While the T1 reached a toasty 75C internally after more than 250 GB of continuous reads and writes, the T3 only reaches 54C for the same.

Concluding Remarks

The Samsung Portable SSD T3 is a unique product - it is the only palm-sized bus-powered direct-attached storage unit with a 2TB capacity in the market right now. In addition to the 2TB capacity (priced at $850), we also have the 1TB, 500GB and 250GB variants at $430, $220 and $130 respectively.

Price per GB

The closest competitor to the Samsung Portable SSD T3 is SanDisk's 1.92TB Extreme 900 Portable SSD. At $800, it is a bit cheaper, but has a bigger footprint compared to the T3. The Extreme 900 also comes with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface and boasts speeds of up to 850 MBps compared to the T3's 450 MBps. These are aspects that we would like Samsung to consider for the next iteration. In a bus-powered enclosure, it is difficult to incorporate PCIe SSDs. However, it would have been really nice to have a faster version to go along with the capacity bump in this generation. The slight retrogression in performance over the T1 is also a small cause for concern. In terms of usage on mobile platforms, it would be nice to have exFAT access capabilities in the Android app. In addition to the provided Type-C to Type-A cable, we would have also liked a Type-C to Type-C cable for the price of the unit. Even though the price per GB ($0.425/GB) is lower than the T1's at launch ($0.60/GB), the recent trend towards cheaper flash memory makes it a bit difficult to digest the premium.

Other than the above aspects, there is really nothing much to complain about the T3. The thermal characteristics are excellent (way better than that of the T1). There are plenty of thermal pads protecting the flash packages. The construction of the unit should help it withstand rugged handling conditions that such a small unit is bound to undergo. The metal enclosure helps in heat dissipation and also provides a more premium feel compared to the all-plastic T1. The AES-256 encryption process / password protection works seamlessly (unlike the T1, where the unit had a separate FAT32 partition), even in Android. The flash density is unparalleled. Anyone looking for a secure high-capacity, small-sized direct-attached storage unit would do little wrong in going with the Samsung Portable SSD T3, as long as the price premium is acceptable.

Direct-Attached Storage Benchmarks
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  • cm2187 - Monday, February 22, 2016 - link

    Do these things have power loss protection? That's what I would be the most concerned about with a portable SSD. Reply
  • darkfalz - Monday, February 22, 2016 - link

    You'd hope with the relatively low power requirement there'd be capacitors with power enough to flush internal RAM to NV. Reply
  • cm2187 - Monday, February 22, 2016 - link

    Well... I assume nothing. Given the cost of a capacitor all SSD should have power loss protection, but as far as I know none of the 850 EVO and Pro have any. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Monday, February 22, 2016 - link

    I agree that they all should, but especially an external/mobile SSD. Reply
  • theduckofdeath - Wednesday, February 24, 2016 - link

    Power loss protection shouldn't be inside a drive. It requires batteries to be useful without degrading performance. If it's essential to you, get a SATA controller with battery backed WBC. On consumer devices, this kind of protection is usually handled by the operating system, to an extent. Like, if you disconnect a USB device from a Windows 10 device, Windows should be able to pause and resume your write jobs whenever you reconnect the USB drive. Reply
  • NeatOman - Friday, March 11, 2016 - link

    Power Loss Protection doesn't really "require" batteries, and a few capacitors or just one is enough for a SSD and that's exactly what you get when you buy a real enterprise grade SSD. With that said, HDD with full power loss protection in servers do have a battery, which is what i think you're thinking about. Reply
  • vortexmak - Monday, February 22, 2016 - link

    How did it force format to FAT32?
    Isn't the FAT32 filesystem limited to 32 GB?
    Reply
  • Maboroshi - Monday, February 22, 2016 - link

    originally FAT32 had a limit of one byte less than 4GB (for some reason) but current implementations allow for up to 16TB depending on how it's formatted. (depending on sector size it is 2, 8 or 16 TB maximum) Reply
  • hojnikb - Monday, February 22, 2016 - link

    Thats not true at all. FAT32 was never limited to 4GB, it was always 2TB+ (depending on the secotor size).

    4GB is the single file limit.
    Reply
  • GU - Saturday, February 27, 2016 - link

    I think you mean 2TB- not +. For 2TB+ you need UEFI BIOS and GPT partition table, with which well... you can have Fat32 partitions but each limited to 2TB (1.7TB) to be exact. Reply

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