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Samsung Portable SSD T3 Review

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SSD Testing Methodology

When we test storage devices, the two main metrics to consider are access time and transfer rate. Simply put, access time is the time is takes the storage device to start delivering data once the request has been received, while transfer rate is how fast (megabytes per second) the data comes once the transfer operation begins. With a hard disk, data transfer cannot begin until the disk’s head servo physically moves the read/write head to the correct track, and the rotation of the disk brings the designated sector under the head. Although modern servos are very fast, in the best case you’re still looking at several milliseconds to do this, while an SSD’s access time is always under a millisecond. The disadvantage is even worse if the data isn’t all in a contiguous space on the disk, since the head will have to be repositioned on the fly, leading to more delays.

Early consumer SSDs actually had slower transfer rates than the best hard disks, although their instantaneous access times more than made up for it. The zenith of consumer hard disk performance was probably reached in 2012 with the release of the Western Digital Velociraptor 1 terabyte disk. Spinning at 10,000RPM, this disk could under ideal circumstances (i.e. a synthetic bandwidth test) reach a sequential transfer rate of over 230MB/s. Keep this figure in mind as you read this review.

SSD Testing Disclaimer

Early on in our SSD coverage, Benchmark Reviews published an article which detailed Solid State Drive Benchmark Performance Testing. The research and discussion that went into producing that article changed the way we now test SSD products. Our previous perceptions of this technology were lost on one particular difference: the wear leveling algorithm that makes data a moving target. Without conclusive linear bandwidth testing or some other method of total-capacity testing, our previous performance results were rough estimates at best.

Our test results were obtained after each SSD had been prepared using DISKPART or Sanitary Erase tools. As a word of caution, applications such as these offer immediate but temporary restoration of original ‘pristine’ performance levels. In our tests, we discovered that the maximum performance results (charted) would decay as subsequent tests were performed. SSDs attached to TRIM enabled Operating Systems will benefit from continuously refreshed performance, whereas older O/S’s will require a garbage collection (GC) tool to avoid ‘dirty NAND’ performance degradation.

It’s critically important to understand that no software for the Microsoft Windows platform can accurately measure SSD performance in a comparable fashion. Synthetic benchmark tools such as ATTO Disk Benchmark and Iometer are helpful indicators, but should not be considered the ultimate determining factor. That factor should be measured in actual user experience of real-world applications. Benchmark Reviews includes both bandwidth benchmarks and application speed tests to present a conclusive measurement of product performance.

Test System

  • Motherboard: MSI Z170A GAMING M7 Socket LGA 1151
  • Processor: 4.0 GHz Intel Core i7-6700K Skylake CPU
  • System Memory: 16GB DDR4 2133MHz
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Pro

Storage Hardware Tested

The following storage hardware has been used in our benchmark performance testing, and may be included in portions of this article:

Test Tools

  • AS SSD Benchmark 1.6.4067.34354: Multi-purpose speed and operational performance test
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46: Spot-tests static file size chunks for basic I/O bandwidth
  • CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1a by Crystal Dew World: Sequential speed benchmark spot-tests various file size chunks
  • Iometer 1.1.0 (built 08-Nov-2010) by Intel Corporation: Tests IOPS performance and I/O response time
  • Finalwire AIDA64: Disk Benchmark component tests linear read and write bandwidth speeds
  • Futuremark PCMark Vantage: HDD Benchmark Suite tests real-world drive performance

Test Results Disclaimer

This article utilizes benchmark software tools to produce operational IOPS performance and bandwidth speed results. Each test was conducted in a specific fashion, and repeated for all products. These test results are not comparable to any other benchmark application, neither on this website or another, regardless of similar IOPS or MB/s terminology in the scores. The test results in this project are only intended to be compared to the other test results conducted in identical fashion for this article.

Note: Our existing library of SSD test results is entirely based on internal SSD drives, connected to a SATA 6G port or an m.2 port. The Samsung Portable SSD T3 is the first external solid state drive Benchmark Reviews has tested, and since it’s a USB 3.0 device, we know going in that it will not provide the same level of performance as internal SSDs. I will discuss this at length in the Final Thoughts section of this review.


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3 comments

  1. BeX

    Driver needed for Mac? See warning for previous model at
    Mac Owners Should Hold Off on New Samsung T1 Flash SSD
    http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/mac-owners-should-hold-off-on-new-samsung-t1-flash-ssd

    Can it be used to boot Mac and work from it all day long?

    RAID 0 inside as in SanDisk’s 1.92TB Extreme 900 Portable SSD? That is the best way to lose data (2x probability or more). One disk fails (or controller), all lost.

    1. David Ramsey

      The T3 drive comes with the necessary software to run it on a Mac, included the SAT driver mentioned in your link. I tried the drive on a Mac and had two minor issues: the first time I ran the installer, it installed the security software, but not the SAT driver, so the drive was inaccessible. Running the installer again brought up the option to install the SAT driver. Second, the “T3 Login Activator for Mac” utility you need to unlock an encrypted drive doesn’t “see” the T3 if it’s connected when you boot the Mac– you need to unplug the drive and then plug it in again.

      I copied over 200GB of video files to the drive (simply by dragging them over in the Finder) and saw a transfer rate of about 1GB every 7 seconds, or about 140MB/second.

      I don’t see any way to use the T3 as a boot drive for the Mac, since their installer will not install the security software and SAT driver on the T3 itself. You might be able to hack around this by manually transferring a preconfigured system folder, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In any case, an internal SSD would be much faster than a USB 3 SSD.

      1. BeX

        Thanks. I guess you mean when using the T3 security software. I guess, no problem when not using it.

        Sure an internal SSD could be faster, but booting from external Thunderbolt or SSD is very convenient as Mac to Go (like Windows to Go) to carry your stuff and boot from Mac at work and home.

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