Samsung's ultra-compact T1 SSD made a strong impression around this time last year when it topped our performance charts as the quickest USB 3.0 storage device we'd ever tested.
Having been based on an mSATA version of the company's SSD 850 Evo, the T1 shared similar performance to that TLC SSD, and although USB 3.0 doesn't offer quite as much bandwidth as SATA 6Gb/s, Samsung touted sequential read and write speeds of 450MB/s, which at the time was more than twice that of the fastest thumb drive we'd handled.
Upon release the T1 series was $180 for the smallest 250GB model, $300 for the 500GB unit that we tested and $600 for the 1TB flagship. Now 13 months later the T1 pricing has been adjusted somewhat and the huge 1TB model can be had for just $360, 40% less than its debut price.
Having lowered its T1 series to a new price bracket, Samsung has made room for a newcomer -- no, not the T2 series, but rather T3. The new Samsung Portable SSD T3 drives will be available in four capacities ranging from 250GB all the way up to 2TB.
The company tells us that the T3 features several significant upgrades based on the T1's consumer feedback.
The key upgrade as far as we can tell is the change from USB 3.0 to USB 3.1, providing the T3 series with the easier to use and more convenient USB Type-C connection. That being said, let's move on to discover all of said significant upgrades.
Samsung has enjoyed a lot of success with its SSDs over the past few years and its current drives are as good as ever. The SSD 850 Pro is the world's fastest 2.5" SATA SSD, while the SSD 850 Evo is arguably the best value going.
Both are based on Samsung's proprietary 3D Vertical NAND (V-NAND) technology which overcomes cell-to-cell interference by stacking cell layers in 3D like manner. Stacking 32 cell layers of cells on top of one another allows for greater density and more performance without an increase in size, while overcoming the interference and manufacturing challenges which had previously limited progress.
Having already proved this technique with the SSD 850 range, Samsung released an external portable SSD known as the T1 in early 2015. The T1 was essentially an mSATA 850 Evo stuffed in a sleek enclosure with a SATA to USB 3.0 adapter card.
The 850 Evo 500GB boasts read and write speeds of 540 to 520MB/s over SATA 6Gb/s. Since USB 3.0 offers slightly less bandwidth, the T1 was limited to read and write throughputs of 450MB/s.
Now we have the T3, though from a performance point of view little appears to have changed. Samsung is still claiming the same sequential 450MB/s performance despite upgrading to the USB 3.1 spec. There's good reason for this however as the T3 is based on the USB 3.1 Gen1 (5Gbps) spec rather than Gen2 (10Gbps).
As the T3 is still based on an mSATA SSD the dimensions are similar to the original model. The T3 measures just 74.0mm wide, 10.5mm thick and 58mm deep, or a fraction larger than the T1. The heaviest T1 model came in at just 30 grams while the T3 2TB model will tip the scales at 51 grams, and while that's much heavier, it's still extremely light.
Being compact and light, the T3 feels sleek but it also looks the part thanks to a mostly metal enclosure. The T1 features an all-plastic enclosure and didn't look or feel particularly durable.
The T3's metal case with shock-resistant internal frame increases the durability for tough environments. It can withstand up to 1500G of force and will survive a drop of up to two meters.
Included in the package is an 11cm USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-A cable that's been custom designed for the T3, though there is nothing special about the cable besides its appearance. The cable is short because the T3 is designed to be used much like a thumb drive and thanks to its lightweight design it can hang from the cable safely while it's plugged in.
If you want a longer wire, any USB 3.1 Type-C cable will do the trick. On that note it would have been great if Samsung also included a USB 3.1 Type-C to Type-C cable as well.
Samsung's portable SSD works effortlessly with both Windows and Mac PCs using the exFAT file system, eliminating the hassle of having to reformat for every type of computer.
The T3 can connect with not just PCs but also Android mobile devices and large screens (Smart TVs). This means users can now send content to and from PCs, access content through Android mobile devices, and view multimedia on large screens, including TVs, with ease and reliability. The T3 also comes coupled with a brand-new complementary Samsung Portable SSD Android mobile app to make password changes and remaining capacity checks easy and convenient.
Additionally, those concerned with security will appreciate the T3's support for AES 256-bit hardware encryption along with an optional password to access the drive. Samsung has included some basic software to set up the T3 for the first time and this lets you apply a password.
The MSRPs for the various T3 models are set at $130 for the smallest 250GB model, $220 for the 500GB unit, $430 for the 1TB model that we are testing, and $850 for the flagship 2TB drive. Samsung backs the series with a three-year warranty. Ideally, we would have appreciated an extended five-year warranty, particularly for the $850 2TB drive.