A Precursor To The Review
When we hear the term ‘rabbit hole’ in reference to anything photography related, it’s typically post processing, but I can assure you that should you want to find a solution to your data storage woes, it is a similar hole you may find yourself in.
Cloud storage has its place of importance, but isn’t always the most convenient/ideal method for photographers. Those who value security typically still prefer to store things locally and for those of us who are often on the move, having to depend on a strong internet connection can be a pain. Suffice to say that portable external drives still have their place.
Buying a high capacity external storage solution these days is relatively an inexpensive ordeal, where you can get terabytes upon terabytes for little over $100. While the price is good, the typical drives do have their downfalls in the areas of size, and speed. A standard HDD is going to give you data read/write speeds around 100MB/s (I’m aware this can vary) – regardless if it’s USB 3 or Thunderbolt. These drives, due to their moving parts are also more susceptible to damage if moved around a lot.
The answer to the problem was solid state drive (SSD) storage, which often solved the issue of size, and is tremendously faster. How much faster? Well, as an example, my 2014 iMac with a typical HDD has read/write speeds of around 130MB/s, and my 2015 Macbook Pro with a solid state typically gets 1250MB/s. That’s not a typo.
Granted, these drives when inside the computer and closer to the processor and all that are a lot faster than externals, but that’s another story. It just illustrates how much quicker SSDs can be, and if you’re a wedding shooter or any prolific shooter with large image libraries or you use Lightroom with massive catalogues, this can literally save you days over a year. But there’s often a roadblock, and that’s price for performance. If you want a fast external SSD, it can get expensive, as fast as the drive. Samsung, however, with its T1 has created an external SSD that’s small, chic and blazing fast.
Samsung T1 (250 GB)
Over the past few years, Samsung has become a true player in the SSD world, and in many ways, its MVP. Drives like the SSD 850 pro, I believe, are still the world’s fastest 2.5” SATA SSD and the EVO variant of it is almost as good at less cost, making it a tremendous value. How have they done it? It’s partially due to their proprietary 3D Vertical NAND (V-NAND) system that stacks cells in 3D-like layers.
Typically, SSD drives lay cells in a 2D-Planar style flat on the silicon wafer, but the T1 stacks cells up to 32 layers, allowing for more cells on the same number of wafers. This = higher density and greater storage for less cost and less space. This was proven a success with the 850 range and now shrunk into the mSATA form factor.
The T1 also utilizes Samsung’s ‘Turbowrite’ tech which allows the drive to operate some of the memory in a higher performance mode of single cell memory. It does this as a buffer really when the drive is in use, and at more idle times, the data is then moved to the other storage regions.
Those concerned about security will also like that it utilizes the AES 256-bit encryption (as common as it is) and has the option to require a password to access the drive’s contents. If you forget your password though, you’ll have to fully reformat. There is a basic set-up involved the first time around where you can set the password and all that, and it’s simple to go through. You just plug in the drive and follow the prompts. The software set-up is also attractive looking and makes it simple to do, so you’ll be up and running in about two minutes.
So what kind of speeds can you expect? Well, the drive uses an inbuilt USB 3.0 adapter, so throughput is a little limited compared to the internal versions, but limited to 450MB/s. That’s fast. In real world testing, I get around 405MB/s write and 435MB/s read. There’s always going to be a disparity between what’s advertised and real world performance, but this much is more than livable with.
And those of either MAC or Windows persuasions can rest happy knowing it uses the exFAT file system which means no reformatting needed for each type of computer since it works seamlessly between them.
It’s all the more amazing when you consider the size. It is tiny, disarmingly so. It’s smaller than a credit card at 2.8 inches long, .36 inches thick, and 2.1 inches wide – and it weighs an ounce. That’s right, a single ounce. Due to this weight and that there are no moving parts in it I’m quite sure you can drop it and be comfortable in knowing it will still work fine, though how much pressure it can withstand is another issue.
The design of the drive is attractive, as it comes in all black, with a textured exterior that makes it a solid grip in the hand, and gives a metal look though it’s all plastic. The packaging is quite nice too, reminiscent of Apple’s iPhone boxes even if it only comes with the drive, an info packet, and a cable.
The cable is a nice one for mobile use because it’s about the same length as the drive, but it is sturdy and not at all flimsy. This, however, is the one drawback to the system I can see because as it is so short, attaching it to a desktop is annoying, as the drive kind of hangs there, though it can hang there because it’s so light, and the cable is such a good fit. If you would like another cable, feel safe knowing that in my test, another, if not any other, USB 3.0 cable will work just fine.
There’s a little LED light near the female side of the USB that lights blue or red to denote what the drive is doing. It doesn’t draw much attention, and, in fact, the drive itself is so small it won’t draw attention other than people wanting to know what it is.
The build quality as I’ve eluded to is fine. It’s plastic despite the looks, but that’s ok with me, and it was machineD and polished nicely, and the cable is a good one. There’s no doubt that this was meant to be a product for the discerning, and it’s just that the price puts it in the reach of most anyone.
So what’s the cost of all this? Depends on how much space you want of course. I like smaller drives typically for the same reason I like smaller memory cards, so I don’t have all my eggs in one basket in case it falters. I have the 250GB version which will run you about $147, but there is a 500GB for $247, and a flagship 1TB for $497.
Only you can decide if this is good value to you or worth the cost. At $147, it wasn’t hard for me to decide on it and the manner in which it works, the time it saves me, along with the space, makes this what I think is a great value.
If you’re looking for a portable drive and you’re a photographer, I highly recommend SSD drives, and, in particular, this one. Sure, you can go and build one of your own using an internal drive with an enclosure but it won’t save you much. I’m highly impressed with the T1, and I think with it, Samsung has the best offering on the market. I’ll probably be purchasing more.
It comes with a three-year warranty, which could be longer, but three years is a long time, and SSDs tend to be more stable anyway. I highly recommend this as a portable storage solution. Even if you have an aging laptop, throw your Current Lightroom catalogue and original files on it and run Lightroom and you’ll see an improvement.
It’s a brilliant product. If interested, get yours here.