Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD review

Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD review
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Do you need Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD? If you’re a professional video editor or photographer who wants to celebrate a banner year by blowing some of your extra cash on extremely fast, stylish external storage for a Mac, the X5 is begging for your bucks, and it should serve you very well. Everyone else in the market for an external SSD should stick with the Portable SSD T5, or another USB-based option that will fetch far more gigabytes per dollar. Find details in Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD review.

Some of the main representatives are the Samsung T5, the SanDisk Extreme and the WD My Passport SSDs, but all of these drives are capped at around 550MBps so, the natural step forward was to go towards NVMe and Thunderbolt 3, but this transition has proven to be very costly.

Pros & Cons

PROS

  • Extremely fast data transfer speeds, thanks to Thunderbolt 3 and PCIe NVMe interfaces.
  • Multiple capacity options.
  • Sleek design.

CONS

  • Expensive.
  • Heavy.
  • No USB support.
  • Difficult to connect to Windows PCs.

Price

The drive is available in 500GB (which we’re reviewing here), 1TB and 2TB models for $219 (AU$ 347, around £175), $399 (AU$630, around £319) and $695 (AU$1,100, around £555) respectively.

Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD comparison

ProductSamsung X5 500GBSamsung X5 1TBSamsung X5 2TB
Capacity (User / Raw)500GB / 512GB1000GB / 1024GB2000GB / 2048GB
Form Factor119 x 62 x 19.7 mm119 x 62 x 19.7 mm119 x 62 x 19.7 mm
Interface / ProtocolThunderbolt 3Thunderbolt 3Thunderbolt 3
ControllerPhoenixPhoenixPhoenix
DRAMN/AN/AN/A
Flash64-Layer V-NAND64-Layer V-NAND64-Layer V-NAND
Sequential Read (PC)2,800 MB/s2,800 MB/s2,800 MB/s
Sequential Write (PC)2,100 MB/s2,300 MB/s2,300 MB/s
Sequential Read (Mac)2,410 MB/s2,430 MB/s2,440 MB/s
Sequential Write (Mac)1,730 MB/s1,730 MB/s1,730 MB/s
EncryptionAES 256-bit hardwareAES 256-bit hardwareAES 256-bit hardware
EnduranceNot ListedNot ListedNot Listed
Part NumberNot ListedNot ListedNot Listed
Warranty3-Years3-Years3-Years

Compare Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD vs SanDisk 2TB Extreme Pro

SAMSUNG X5 Portable SSD 2TB SanDisk 2TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD SAMSUNG T7 Touch Portable SSD 2TB
Hard Disk Size2.0 TB2.0 TB2.0 TB
Hardware InterfaceThunderboltUSB Type CUSB 3.1 Type C
Item Dimensions4.70 x 0.80 x 2.40 inches0.41 x 2.28 x 4.36 inches3.40 x 2.20 x 0.30 inches
Size2TB2TB2TB

Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD review

Build lighter

Magnesium, Samsung added, is much lighter and more durable than aluminum and steel. Although aluminum has better thermal conductivity, the company concluded that magnesium is the optimal metal solution to meet all three conditions: weight, durability and heat dissipation.

Design

The device is fairly heavy at 150g, triple the weight of the Samsung T5, and at 116 x 60 x 18mm, it can best be described as portable rather than miniature. The X5 has an oblong pebble-like shape, and sports an internal heat sink, a protection guard, a full metal body and what Samsung describes as a glossy finish and a non-slip bottom mat, which happens to be red in color.

Ports

There’s a single USB Type-C port next to a white status LED, and you get a 45cm Thunderbolt cable in the box. Overall, this is a premium product built to last (it can withstand drops of up to 2m). It is not IP68 rated though, so make sure you don’t drop it in any liquid.

No USB

The Portable SSD X5 is not officially compatible with USB of any kind. You must use it with a Thunderbolt 3-equipped PC or Mac. In fact, just for kicks, I tried to connect it to a USB Type-C port on a Windows machine, to no avail. The system knew that something was plugged in, but it would not recognize it as a drive.

PCI

Not only does it use Thunderbolt 3, but it also makes use of the PCI Express (PCIe) NVMe interface, which means that its data transfer rates are stratospheric compared with even the likes of our current Editors’ Choice for external SSDs, Samsung’s own Portable SSD T5.

File format

By default, the Samsung X5 is formatted as ExFAT, but, if you format it to NTFS, the drive gains the TRIM support on Windows 10 which can make a difference for the drives longevity and increases the performance of the X5 by targeting smaller chunks of memory (called pages) instead of deleting whole blocks of data (which is both slow and can wear down the memory chips). If you are going to use the Samsung X5 with a MacBook, then you can choose between APFS or HFS+

Software

The drive’s included software is minimal. Don’t expect any free backup utilities, but then again, using this lightning-fast drive as a backup disk would be a waste of its potential. You do get a Windows and macOS app called Samsung Portable SSD that allows you to update the drive’s firmware and select a password to activate the built-in AES 256-bit hardware encryption. Password protection is a good idea, but beware that encrypting the drive could have a small negative effect on performance; I tested the drive without a password.

Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD Performance review

The device is exFAT formatted and comes with Samsung’s own portable SSD software which includes optional password protection and AES 256-bit hardware data encryption (handily, that means there will be no performance penalties for enabling encryption).

benchmark tests:

  • CrystalDiskMark: 3412MBps (read); 1884MBps (write)
  • Atto:  2452MBps (read, 256mb);  1925MBps (write, 256mb)
  • HD Tune Pro: 1587MBps (read); 0.031ms (access time)
  • AS SSD: 1561MBps (seq read); 1618MBps (seq write)

Samsung claims read speeds of up to 2.8GBps and write speeds of up to 2.3GBps (up to 2.1GBps for the 500GB model) thanks to the drive’s ability to use all four PCIe lanes. That’s still far from the theoretical limit of Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps or 5GBps) but it’s still plenty enough for transferring those pesky multi-Gigabyte files.

4K video content transfer

You could transfer a ton of video footage very quickly with this sort of throughput. For example, in its own testing, Samsung was able to move a single 20GB file of 4K video footage from the Portable SSD X5 to a PC in just over 10 seconds, which is four times faster than the T5 is capable of. Moving a 20GB 4K video file back to the drive results in even greater speed gains, according to Samsung: just over 11 seconds, or five times faster than the T5’s speed on the same task.

Alternate of Samsung portable X5 2TB NVMe Thunderbolt 3 SSD

Last but not least, Dell sells a 1TB SSD Thunderbolt 3 drive for $640 (around £490), so that’s more expensive than the HP effort. However, Dell usually has a number of coupons running throughout the year, including one for a 17% discount at the time of writing.

System vendors also seem to have jumped on the TB3 wagon. HP has a 1TB drive, the P800, for $452 (around £350), with similar read/write speeds to the Plugable Technologies model we just mentioned. It comes with a three-year warranty but again has an integrated TB3 cable which is a disadvantage in our book.

The Patriot Evlvr has just been released but has read and write speeds far less impressive than the X5. That said, read and write speeds of 1.6GBps are still impressive, especially with suggested retail prices of $300 (around £230) for the 500GB model and $500 (around £385) for the 1TB drive.

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