Samsung's new T5 portable SSD continues the company's trend of small, lightweight, portable solid-state storage -- and it's faster than ever -- but adds one very foundational extra included in the box. Oh, and it comes in blue. Apart from that, there's not a great deal of difference between this one and the old one. Not that that's a bad thing, of course.
What Is It?
Samsung says the $199-plus Portable SSD T5 is five times faster than most other external storage devices out there -- and that's accurate, with even the speediest 2.5-inch portable hard drives rarely topping sustained 100Mbps transfer speeds, where every variant of the T5 can hit 540Mbps thanks to USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) support.
It's more resilient than even the hardiest spinning-disk hard drive, too, purely because of the shockproof nature of SSDs' flash storage. A shock-resistant internal frame means the T5 should resist accidental drops from as far as two metres, despite only weighing 51 grams and being identically sized to the previous T3 at 74x57x10.5mm.
Samsung bundles AES 256-bit security software with the T5, password-locking the entire drive if you want it. You can also carry that same passworded access over to your Android phone or tablet, which the T5 can connect to also -- being an SSD and having low power requirements, it won't kill your phone's battery if you're watching movies from it on a long-haul flight.
Importantly for a USB Type-C drive, too, Samsung includes both a Type-C to regular USB (Type-A) cable in the box -- for hooking up your PC -- and a USB C-to-C cable for connecting your phone or any newer laptop like Samsung's own Galaxy Book. The drive includes a three-year warranty. The Portable SSD T5 is available in four capacities: 250GB for $199, 500GB for $329, 1TB for $649, and 2TB for $1249. The two smaller capacities are finished in a bright Alluring Blue finish while the larger two are Deep Black.
What's It Good At?
If you're a fan of MKBHD on YouTube, you might have seen one of his recent videos where he talks about the importance of USB-C -- and most crucially, the importance it has for a future where everything has the same high-powered connector like the chunky and comparatively low-tech USB Type-A rectangle has. But to reach that future, we have to start using it, and companies need to start embracing it -- like Samsung has. And lo, in the box of the T5, you get two cables. One USB C-to-A for your legacy PC (come on, Microsoft, I'm a utter Surface shill except for that), and one USB C-to-C for your up-to-date smartphone or tablet or laptop. It's a small inclusion, but it matters so much.
And yes, the Portable SSD T5 is a little bit faster than its predecessor, the T3. The T5 clocks Samsung's quoted read speeds of 540Mbps, right on the money, when you're transferring data from it to a USB 3.1-compatible PC with an appropriately fast internal drive inside -- I used my home PC with a Samsung 960 Pro M.2 SSD inside, more than capable of those rates. Write speeds are a bit lower at about 440Mbps. And you get the same transfer speeds whether you're using the smallest 250GB version or the range-topping 2TB, Samsung tells me, which is great since smaller SSDs are generally slower than their biggest siblings.
What's It Not Good At?
While the price of flash storage has, for the most part, dropped in the two years between the Portable SSD T1 and the Portable SSD T3 and now, the SSD T5 isn't any cheaper than the last model. In fact, it's more expensive, which is disappointing. It justifies that extra cost a little with a few extra features and that forward-looking USB C-to-C cable, but paying $649 for the 1TB and $1249 for the 2TB drive -- either one of the black ones, actually -- is a huge investment and likely one restricted to professional video editors and photographers. Blue for everyone else, then.
The biggest issue with the Portable SSD T5, though, is that not a great deal has changed since the T3. There's definitely no reason to upgrade if you have one of those, that's for sure -- and since it's been out for an entire year, the T3 is noticeably cheaper. You'll find it for $169/$269/$569/$1099 versus the T5's $199/$329/$649/$1249, and unless you really want that slightly increased read/write spee and that extra $10 USB C-to-C cable in the box, it might just be a more rational choice to buy the T3 even with the T5 out. Both drives are impressively fast, have good drop real-world drop resistance, work on your phone and laptop; there's not a huge improvement from one to the next.
Should You Buy It?
If you really like the blue and the black colour variants and you value having that Samsung USB C-to-C cable in the box, there's no reason not to buy the $199-plus Samsung Portable SSD T5; it's a good portable SSD! It's small and it's light and it's shock resistant. But so is the T3, and it's a bit cheaper in the same storage capacity.
With that in mind, the case for buying the Portable SSD T5 stumbles just a bit -- its strongest competition is from its own predecessor. The Portable SSD T3, if you can find one, is also great. Just make sure you buy one of the two; together they're by far the best portable SSDs on the market. Just there's not a great deal of difference between them.