Fast, small, cheap — pick two. This is the adage that stands true whenever you're buying lots of technology products, but it's especially true in the competitive world of portable hard drives. Samsung's new portable SSD, the T1, is a hell of a lot faster than even the fastest mechanical hard drive or USB flash drive out there, and it's smaller than any other portable hard drive you can buy. It's not exactly cheap, though.
What Is It?
- Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB
- Connectivity: microUSB 3.0
- Read Speed: 450MBps (rated)
- Dimensions: 71x53x9mm
The Samsung T1 is a one-of-a-kind portable hard drive in almost every way. It has the same extended credit card shape of any other portable mechanical hard drive or laptop-grade solid state drive, but at 71x53mm long and wide it's actually smaller even than a credit card. It's even smaller than the Seagate Seven, itself an engineering marvel. It's 9mm thin at its thickest point, too, so it's not exactly dumpy.
Under the hood, the Samsung T1 is functionally similar to the 850 Evo, one of Samsung's twin latest and greatest solid state drives alongside the 850 Pro. It's really the first portable SSD on the market, although it was technically preceded by the Sandisk Extreme PRO USB 3.0 — although that looks more like a traditional USB thumb drive.
The T1 is a USB 3.0 flash drive, of course, although it doesn't quite reach the blistering fast speeds (625MBps maximum) that the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 standard is capable of. It does reach speeds of 450MBps read and write, according to Samsung, and in real world testing it genuinely does get quite close to those numbers. Available in 250GB, 500GB and 1TB capacities, you'll pay roughly a dollar per gigabyte for 250GB ($269), and prices per gigabyte get slightly lower as you move up to 500GB ($429) and 1TB ($799).
Samsung includes a 5-inch microUSB 3.0 to USB 3.0 cable in the T1's packaging; as well as that you get a three-year limited warranty — not as long as the 850 Evo's five years, but probably long enough for the T1's expected service life alongside a new laptop or desktop PC. Crucially, too, you get a piece of setup software out of the box — it appears on its own little partition when you first boot up the T1 — which lets you pick a name and format it for either Windows or Mac OS X.
What's It Good At?
Phwoar, this is one fast flash drive. It trounces the Sandisk Extreme PRO and Lexar Jumpdrive P10 that I benchmarked it against, and by a significant margin too. It does so thanks to Samsung's TurboWrite software/firmware layer, which initially safes file transfers into the fastest flash segments (distributing that data across a single layer of each of the T1's flash memory for maximum speed) and then moves those files from that buffer into the slower but larger capacity memory segments in the background on its own time.
Samsung T1 Portable SSD (500GB): Performance (3 Tests)
Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 435MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 417Mbps
In a real world test filling up the T1 with a bunch of data and pulling it back off, too, the T1 performed very well. Over a 480GB file transfer of sequential files from 1-5GB in size, the Samsung Portable SSD T1 managed an average write speed of 178MBps and a read speed of 380MBps.
The Samsung T1 Portable SSD also offers encryption if you're using it on a Windows or Mac OS X PC, through the initial software setup. It uses AES 256-bit encryption, too — though any encryption is obviously only as strong as your password is and as your password security procedures are — and that makes it just about as secure as any portable hard drive that you can buy. This is a great extra for a flash drive that's probably going to hold a lot of your most important files.
It's also just really nice to look at and hold. The T1's design, dimensions and smoothly rounded shape makes it feel like a cross between a Zippo lighter and a pack of cigarettes, and it fits more easily in a jacket or pants pocket than your smartphone or wallet does. It's super small for the amount of storage that you're getting, and it's one of those devices that just feels special when you pick it up or plug it into your PC. The included short-length microUSB 3.0 cable is a nice touch, too — it's just as long as it needs to be.
What's It Not Good At?
Interestingly, despite the T1 being a Samsung SSD and being based upon the 850 Evo, it doesn't support Samsung's Magician management software and doesn't support the RAPID performance-boosting mode that Magician endows on the 850 Pro and 850 Evo alike. RAPID caches data in your system's RAM before transferring it back and forth, massively improving small and medium-size transfers (exactly what a portable drive should be used for, right?) but it doesn't look like it's going to play nicely with the T1's USB 3.0 interface.
Similarly, TRIM isn't supported — it's the fault of Windows and Mac OS X for not issuing TRIM commands through the USB 3.0 interface, although apparently Samsung is developing a brute-force workaround. Whatever the cause, it does mean that the SSD's drive performance will taper off as it gets full, and garbage collection not happening means that it may get a (tiny bit) slower over time. It's only if you wanted to use the T1 as a portable Windows boot drive that this would be a real issue, though.
If you want to use the password software for the T1 SSD, too, you'll need to be using a Windows PC or a Mac to actually log in and unlock your hard drive. You won't be able to encrypt your data if you want to use the T1 as an external mass storage device hanging off a router, or if you want to plug it directly into your TV to watch a movie or downloaded TV show, or any of a bunch of similar common usage scenarios. For this reason, I don't intend to use the T1's password feature, but your mileage may vary.
It's an expensive proposition to buy yourself a Samsung T1 solid state drive if you're not able to write it off as a business expense, although the drives are not disproportionately more expensive per gigabyte than a comparable performance USB thumb drive. If you need as much storage as you can get, it's probably actually a smart choice to buy the $799 1TB model and pay the lowest cost-per-gigabyte upfront.
Should You Buy It?
Samsung's $269-plus T1 portable SSD is a unique device in the flash drive and solid state drive worlds alike; it's small enough to be carried around with your keys and wallet and phone like a USB thumb drive is, but it's just as fast as the best SSDs out there and can withstand just as much punishment.
Just about the only problem with the T1 is its initial price. Even for the cheapest 250GB version, a $269 RRP is a lot of money to pay for what is an exceedingly fancy flash drive. If you want more storage, you'll have to shell out near twice as much for the 500GB, but you do get a pretty decent discount on the 1TB version. My money would go on the 500GB; it's large enough that no regular USB thumb drive can compete with it, so it's a more unique device.
If you want a tiny USB storage drive that you can take with you anywhere — and that's including a conveniently tiny cable, since the two are a package deal — that also offers ridiculously fast transfer speeds, then the Samsung Portable SSD T1 is exactly what you need.