Samsung T5 review
A hugely fast portable SSD, but it's also one of the most expensive
We've been hugely impressed with Samsung's internal SSDs, as they've pushed the boundaries of what's possible, both in terms of speed and capacity. Now the company is turning its attention to the portable market with the T5 SSD.
Traditionally, the downside of having a USB-connected SSD has been that the interface isn't fast enough to really make the most of it. Not so with the T5, as it uses the latest USB 3.1 Gen2, which has a maximum throughput of 10Gbit/sec. Samsung's drive has a USB Type-C connector on it, but the company thoughtfully provides both a Type-C cable and a Type-C-to-Type-A cable, so that you can plug this drive into any computer.
As SSDs require less room than a mechanical hard disk, Samsung has made the most of this, and the T5 is very small measuring just 74x57x11 mm. At just 51g, this portable drive is exceptionally easy to slip into a bag and carry around with you everywhere. It's finished neatly in a metal case: blue for 250GB and 500GB capacities, and black for 1TB and 2TB. With no moving parts inside, the T5 is fairly rugged and certainly can take more punishment than an old-school mechanical drive.
Samsung T5 review: Size and Capacity
Inside is one of Samsung's own 1.8in SSDs, using the company's 64-bit TLC NAND. This gives three bits per cell, which makes the drive slightly cheaper to manufacture than if MLC (two bits per cell) or SLC (one bit per cell) were used.
As with Samsung's internal SSDs, the big news here is that capacities stretch up to a massive 2TB. In terms of cost, the 250GB version is the worst value, coming in at 50p per GB. Moving up the range, the 500GB, 1TB and 2TB drives have a similar cost per GB of around 38p. That puts this drive firmly into premium territory and means that the 2TB drive costs a whopping 777. Most people will find the 500GB one hits the sweet spot for price and capacity.
As flash memory has a finite write limit, manufacturers usually quote the number of writes for each cell before the drive fails. Samsung hasn't done this, but based on its previous products we're confident that the drive will last longer than you'll want to use it.
Admittedly, mechanical portable hard disks are a fair bit cheaper, so you need to decide on what you need: if it's pure capacity and performance isn't so important, then go mechanical; if you want better performance and a smaller drive, go with an SSD.
This drive has built-in 256bit AES hardware encryption, activated using the on-disk software. With encryption turned on, you can't access any files until you've entered the correct password, making the T5 a secure SSD for transporting important files.
Samsung T5 review: Speeds and performance
Samsung claims 540MB/sec read speeds and 515MB/sec write speeds for the T5. Write speeds are helped with a fast NAND cache to speed up writes; once this has been filled, writes speeds slow down. To get the best speeds out of this drive, Samsung recommends a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port; older USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports are slightly slower with a maximum speed of 5Gbits/sec.
Things are actually a little confusing, as USB 3.1 Gen 1 is actually USB 3.0 with all of the changes and updates made to the specification since launch. USB 3.1 Gen 2 is most likely known as USB 3.1 on motherboards, with the ports often labelled as SuperSpeed+. So, if your computer has USB 3.1 ports, then it should support the full 10Gbits/sec speed, but check the manual to confirm this.
We tested with USB 3.1 Gen 2, to test the T5 at full speed. We recorded 456.66MB/sec read and 365.64MB/sec write speeds in the huge files test; 455.58MB/sec read and 359.47MB/sec write speeds in the large files test; and 333.1MB/sec read and 288.45MB/sec write speeds in the small files test. Crystal Disk Mark confirmed similar performance with 553.6MB/sec read speeds and 518.6MB/sec write speeds in the sequential test. The random 4K read/write test usually pushes drives to their limits, but the T5 performed brilliantly, with read speeds of 298.5MB/sec and write speeds of 203.2MB/sec. That's the best performance that we've seen from a USB powered SSD.
Samsung T5 review: Verdict
Running on the latest USB ports, the Samsung T5 is the fastest portable SSD that we have ever reviewed. It's also rather expensive; shop around and you can find slower USB 3.0 (but still quick) USB SSDs for around 90 less for 500GB. This is the sole issue that might make you think twice about picking up the T5, but at least if you do drop the cash, you can be sure of receiving the best performance on the market.
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