Wednesday, 16 August 2017 00:00

REVIEW: Samsung’s new portable SSD T5 is alive – and faster!

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Samsung’s SSD Number T5 is alive with faster USB-C, a faster transfer speed, a new colour scheme, two types of USB cable for greater flexibility and the superfast operation, lightweight construction and stylish design that makes Samsung SSDs stunningly superior drives.

iTWire first looked at Samsung’s first ultraportable SSD T1 back in 2015, (PSSD or Portable SSD) with the drive so light at 30 grams and thin that I actually managed to lose it somewhere, and still haven’t found it, much to my chargrin, but I absolutely loved it for its absolute breakneck speed.

It used that old and wide USB 3.0 connector that was in fashion for a short while.

The prices of the T1 were, in 2015, $269 for the 250GB model, $420 for the 500GB model and $700 for the 1TB model.

iTWire then looked at its successor, the Samsung T3, in 2016, and again, gave it top marks for being a fantastic portable SSD, with some improvements over the T1 as you’d expect.

The T3 thankfully sported rounder edges and a slightly thicker design that was a little heavier at 51 grams, thus making it harder to lose than the T1, while adding a proper USB-C slot, compatible with USB 3.1 (Gen.1, 5Gbps), USB 3.0, and USB 2.0.

The prices in 2016 were $199 for the 250GB model, $329 for the 500GB model, $649 for the 1TB model and the introduction of a 2TB model for $1249, which were all cheaper than the T1 the year before.

Also, those are RRP prices, with stores like MSY (PDF parts price list) selling the T3 at time of publication in 250GB, 500GB and 1TB capacities for $175, $270 and $569 respectively – no doubt prices for the T5 will fall once it has been on sale for a while too.

Now we arrive in 2017, with the launch of the T5.

Article continues below photo, please read on.

Samsung SSD T5

It sports new colours, with “Deep Black” for the 1TB and 2TB models, while the 250GB and 500GB models are available in “Alluring Blue".

The capacities are the same, as are the RRP prices, but there are more improvements that just new colours.

The T5’s dimensions are just a smidgeon smaller at the LxWxH of 74 x 57.3 x 10.5 mm, which compares with the 74 x 58 x 10.5mm of the T3.

Naturally, USB-C is still featured, but it now operates as a USB 3.1 (Gen 2, 10Gbps) port, while still being backwards compatible with regular USB 3.0 and USB 2.0.

Transfer speeds have improved from the “up to 450Mbps” speeds of the T3, to the “up to 540Mbps” of the T5.

There are also two USB cables in the box, both much longer than the cable that came with the T1.

The first cable has USB-C on both sides, to cater for USB-C phones, laptops like Samsung’s own Galaxy Book, and others from Acer, Apple and others now with USB-C as standard. The second cable features USB-C to plug into the T5, and a standard USB-A port to plug into USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports on over a billion PCs and other devices out there.

In addition, the T5 is formatted with exFAT out of the box, just like the T3 and T1 before it, meaning it will work with modern Windows PCs and Macs without reformatting, although you can easily reformat the drive to NTFS or macOS formats if desired.

Now, as with the T1 and T3, the T5 also sports encryption software, available for PCs, Macs and Android devices.

At the demo that Samsung organised for groups of journalists, we also saw it plugged into the USB port of a Samsung TV, which naturally worked beautifully, although in this configuration you’ll need the drive to be unencrypted as there is no Samsung TV app to decrypt an encrypted drive – or at least, not yet!

I copied a range of photos and videos I’d taken on my smartphone to the T5, with 21.24GB of files copying across from an internal macOS SSD to the exFAT-formatted T5 taking precisely 58.30 seconds, so under a minute, with 25GB of data copied across in 1 minute and 8 seconds – which means very fast speeds.

So, despite the fact many of us still use 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard drives to back up large amounts of data, with Seagate selling a 3.5-inch HDD with 5TB of space for $199, and a 2.5-inch drive with 5TB of space for $279 at Officeworks, these drives are clearly dramatically slower than an SSD.

Clearly, if you want faster back-ups, or simply the equivalent of a superfast USB stick on steroids, then an SSD is the fastest choice.

So, with that bit of article, tech spec and pricing history out of the way, as well as the speeds I achieved copying files to the drive, what’s Samsung’s pitch for us all to race out and buy one – if we don’t already have a portable SSD in our lives, or need another?

It turns out there’s new research revealing that “60% of Australians have lost content due to not backing-up their data".

Thus we have Samsung stating that, “as more content is transacted digitally, it is becoming increasingly important to regularly and securely back up data".

Samsung quotes a survey it commissioned in August 2017, dubbed “Samsung Consumer Pulse, Memory and SSD”, which “found that over half (60%) of Australians have lost content due to not backing-up their data, and 56% don’t perform a monthly backup. Personal photos and memories are the most common files to lose (42%), followed by media files (34%)".

We’re told the data “also revealed that the vast majority of Australians trust physical storage devices, and 90% see reliability as the most important factor when choosing how to back-up their data".

This is where Samsung Electronic’s director of Enterprise and Small Medium Business, Paul Sharpe, noted that “Samsung has been pushing the envelope of possibility in portable storage and solid-state drives for years”, and naturally this meant that “the Portable SSD T5 continues our legacy of leadership and innovation".

“We know Australians are interested in securing their data on a physical device, but see speed and time it takes to complete the back-up as a barrier.

“We are confident that the T5 offers a great solution for external storage, including faster transfer speeds from previous Samsung portable SSD solutions and a solid design that is lightweight and conveniently pocket-sized. It is the ideal portable storage product for consumers and professionals in search of a fast, durable and secure device,” Sharpe continued.

Samsung talks up the faster transfer speeds of “up to 540 MB/s”, which is billed as being “up to 4.9 times faster than many external HDD products,” with the comparison drive being a 3.5-inch 500GB Samsung hard disk drive, meaning that Samsung is targeting its new T5 at “business professionals, photographers, videographers, creatives and heavy content users to give instant, easy access to data.”

As you’d expect, Samsung bills its T5 as also being “a great addition to the home, allowing Australians to easily store personal memories and rich, 4k content such as video and games".

Smaller than an “average business card at 74 x 57.3 x 10.5 millimeters and incredibly lightweight from 51 grams”, it’s obvious that such a svelte device will comfortably fit in the palm of your hand, no matter whether you’re built like Tyrion Lannister, or The Mountain.

Of course, there are “no moving parts and a shock-resistant internal frame”, having been “designed to be able to withstand most accidental drops of up to two metres".

The aforementioned encryption and password protection software for PCs and Macs is pre-loaded onto the drive, and is based on the AES 256-bit hardware data encryption. The software also “makes it easy to configure security settings and receive the latest firmware and software updates".

There are instructions on how to download a mobile app for Android smartphones and tablets “for even further convenience".

Story continues below photo, please read on.

Coming with a three-year limited warranty, the Samsung SSD T5 is available now, and in Australia will be available from Bing Lee, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and Officeworks, and presumably MSY stores in the future, although you’d imagine the major retailers are getting the first bite at the RRP pricing cherry.

With all that info out of the way, I'm happy to give this drive 9.5 out of 10. The only two things I'd add to any future T7 would be an inbuilt Bluetooth tracking device, with tiny lithium-ion battery that would be charged every time the drive was plugged into a computer or device, to help me find it should it ever get accidentally lost – something that could still happen.

The other thing I'd do would be to give a future T7 drive IP68 water resistance so that it could survive an accidental drop into the sink, toilet, puddle or cup of coffee, and could better survive the kids taking the drive and accidentally getting it wet. Those scenarios are, relatively speaking, unlikely, but these are the two things I'd add to a future T7 drive.

If there was one other thing it would be for capacities to double at the same prices, but as with all good things, that's coming, and for the time being, Samsung's T5 is arguably the very best portable SSD you can get.

More information on the T5 is available at Samsung here.

The key specs are as follows:

Category
Samsung Portable SSD T5

Capacity
2TB/1TB/500GB/250GB

Interface
USB 3.1 (Gen 2, 10Gbps) backwards compatibility with USB 2.0

Dimensions (LxWxH)
74 x 57.3 x 10.5 mm

Weight
51 grams

Transfer Speed
Up to 540 MB/s

UASP Mode
Supported

Encryption
AES 256-bit hardware data encryption (optional)

Security
Samsung Portable SSD Software

Certifications
CE, BSMI, KC, VCCI, C-tick, FCC, IC, UL, TUV, CB

RoHS Compliance
RoHS2

Warranty
Three (3) Year Limited Warranty

Samsung’s pre-loaded software “requires Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks), Android 4.4 (KitKat), or higher. Older versions of Windows, Mac and Android operating systems may not be supported. Firmware update requires PC or Mac connection. Available on Google Play". 

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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