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
Upstream Port USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
Bridge Chip ASMedia ASM2362 ASMedia ASM2362
Power Bus Powered Bus Powered
Physical Dimensions 85 mm x 57 mm x 8 mm 96.2 mm x 49.6 mm x 8.9 mm
Weight 58 grams (without cable) 79 grams (without cable)
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
S.M.A.R.T Passthrough Limited Limited
UASP Support Yes Yes
TRIM Passthrough Yes Yes

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.

Introduction Synthetic Benchmarks - ATTO and CrystalDiskMark
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  • zebrax2 - Thursday, January 23, 2020 - link

    For the ATTO you can probably create 2 line charts, for bytes and IO, with the read having solid lines and writes using dashed lines and lighter colors for example.

    As for CDM something similar to the charts here

    Anyway this is only my suggestion. If you do decide to keep the current layout may I at least suggest to have the expand all options on all the benchmark (e.g. the ATTO and CDM results doesn't have this option)
  • mm0zct - Thursday, January 23, 2020 - link

    I agree that it's not helpful to have all the comparisons separate, hidden under pulldown (can we get consolidated comparison graphs please?), but I'd also be interested to see the T5 in here for comparison as a SATA based USB3.1 gen2 drive.
  • MScrip - Thursday, January 23, 2020 - link

    Exactly. It would be nice to include a comparison to Samsung's previous highly-regarded SSD... the venerable Samsung T5 drive.

    Whenever there is a new version of a device... it's customary to compare it to the previous generation.

    It appears that Anandtech is strictly comparing MVNe drives here. But it would still be helpful for T5 owners.
  • R3MF - Thursday, January 23, 2020 - link

    is it fair to say that if you want ssd file storage that requires sustained sequential writes to 90% of disk capacity then you won't actually lose much performance by going for a sata based solution over the shiny new usb>PCI3.0 4x nvme?

    i.e. all that pcie bandwidth tends to be useful only for bursty activity until the SLC/ram cache is exhausted and cannot sustain full bandwidth write speeds.
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, January 23, 2020 - link

    Most high-end consumer NVMe SSDs can average at least 1GB/s for a whole drive write to their 1TB models. Several average 1.5GB/s or higher, even though they are still using TLC with SLC caching. So it's definitely possible to do far better than SATA-based portable storage, but it may require a higher class of NVMe drive than some portable SSDs use.
  • R3MF - Friday, January 24, 2020 - link

    thank you.
    recently bought a 2tb sata drive for storage.
    think i'll be happy with 540MB/s vs 80MB/s for a 2.5" portable, enough that i won't miss a doubling to 1GB/s too much.
  • AnarchoPrimitiv - Sunday, January 26, 2020 - link

    If you need the fastest performance and do not have a Thunderbolt 3 port, I'd recommend buying the newly released USB 3.2 Gen2x2 add in card released by Gigabyte if I remember correctly. It is capable of 20Gbps (so double the speed of these drives) and Western Digital just released their external P50 drive which can saturate the connection with sequential r/w at 2000MB/s. Or if you'd rather make a DIY solution with an enclosure, I believe Asmedia has released a bridge chip for USB 3.2 Gen2x2 so I'd expect enclosures to hit the market soon
  • HStewart - Thursday, January 23, 2020 - link

    One thing good about forthcoming USB4 is that Thunderbolt 3 will be full stream and prices of TB3 drives will be coming down.
  • Korguz - Thursday, January 23, 2020 - link

    maybe . but will intel still have to certify it ?? if so... that is a major hurdle for any TB device to be adopted and used....
  • Dragonstongue - Thursday, January 23, 2020 - link

    mehhh QLC (whatever want to call them) should be that much lower cost to consumer than prices I have seen as of late, likely save the company who makes them a whole whack per die (per drive) vs "regular" such as TLC certainly vs MLC and significant price difference vs the much prefered SLC design, overall has not dropped price as much as I would expect if I am to be completely honest, in other words, the makers want as many of them sold as possible to reap the RnD by making them in the first place, but at same time do not seem overly "keen" on putting on the shelves around the world at "ok" price point.

    That $169 easily becomes in the $240+ range most other places than USA which makes something that "seems" pretty reasonable price run into the area of "why bother when spinning rust is much much lower cost, even if slower"

    mehh is all I can personally say, though thank you for the review overall ^.^

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