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As important as cloud storage technology has become for businesses and individuals, it isn't necessarily the most ideal method to back up or access a large volume of data. Those keen on security for instance often prefer to store everything locally.
There's still plenty of demand for mobile storage devices and flash-based thumb drives have come a long way over the years. It's now possible to purchase a 1TB storage device that fits in your pocket – albeit for nearly $1,000. If you don't need a huge amount of storage, however, thumb drives are a cost effective way to store data.
A common 16GB stick can be purchased with spare change and larger, snappier models such as the Patriot Supersonic Magnum 128GB cost less than $100.
Unfortunately, those who need to move large volumes of data on without spending an arm and a leg (500GB and over) have traditionally had to rely on comparatively sluggish USB 3.0 hard drives. The quickest 2.5" external hard drives move data at around 90MB/s, versus thumb drives such as the Patriot Supersonic Magnum 128GB that are over two times as fast at over 200MB/s.
So while you might only pay $70 for a 1TB 2.5" external hard drive, it's much slower and perhaps more importantly for some users, the physical size is considerably larger as well.
Many companies have tried to solve this issue. We recall OCZ doing so back in 2010 with the Enyo, a USB 3.0 SSD that came in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB capacities and saw top-side speeds of 260MB/s read and 200MB/s write. Unfortunately, the Enyo came when SSD pricing was extremely high and the 128GB model cost an eye-watering $305.
At the time it was also possible to buy a faster 2.5" internal SSD and stick it in a USB 3.0 enclosure for less money. The Enyo faded quickly and a year later, Kingston found a little more success with its HyperX Max 3.0 series. Although it was slightly slower than the OCZ Enyo it was also more affordable thanks to a mild improvement in NAND flash prices.
Since then countless SSD-based external storage solutions have found their way to market, though few have been great, either offering weak performance or being grossly overpriced – until now. Thanks to Samsung, we may finally have an external SSD that delivers blisteringly fast transfers at an affordable price in the form of its new T1 Portable SSD.
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 proven this technique with the SSD 850 range, Samsung is now taking on the portable storage market. In fact, the T1 is essentially an 850 Evo shrunk down to the mSATA form factor and stuck in a sleek looking 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 new T1 is limited to read and write throughputs of 450MB/s which is more than twice that of the fastest thumb drive we've ever tested.
Being based on an mSATA SSD, the T1 measures a compact 71.0mm wide, 9.2mm thick and 53.2mm deep (2.79 x 0.36 x 2.09 inches). More impressive than the T1's size is its weight, which amounts to no more than a thumb drive at 30 grams.
Being compact and light, the T1 feels sleek but it also looks the part despite being wrapped in plastic. This is admittedly a bit disappointing for a premium mobile storage product as the thin plastic case doesn't feel especially durable, and while it will likely survive being dropped thanks to its lightweight design, make sure no one stands on it once it has hit the ground.
Included is a 11cm USB 3.0 cable that's been custom designed for the T1, though there is nothing special about the cable besides its appearance. The cable is short as the T1 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 3.0 cable will do the trick.
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.
Additionally, those concerned with security will appreciate the T1's support for AES 256-bit encryption along with an optional password to access the drive. Samsung has included some basic software to set up the T1 for the first time and this lets you apply a password.
The T1 is set at $180 for the smallest 250GB model, $300 for the 500GB unit that we're testing and $600 for the 1TB flagship. Samsung backs the drive with a three-year warranty. Ideally, we would have appreciated an extended five-year warranty, particularly for the $600 1TB model.