Samsung’s T1 and T3 SSD were and remain some of my favorite drives on the market. The T5 is no exception, but once again offers a slight improvement over the earlier models. What makes the T5 so great isn’t just its speed, but also the fact that it’s one of the smallest portable SSDs you can buy.
At just under a centimeter thick and hardly a couple inches long, the T5 comes in capacities from 250 GB to 2 TB, with 250 and 500 GB models coming in a blue color and the larger models coming in black, all of which continue the excellent, high-quality, uniform aluminum casing that began with the T3. As with that predecessor, the T5 leaves the T1’s traditional USB connection behind for a new, smaller, more modern USB-3.1 Type-C connection. But fear not: the box includes both a standard USB-C to USB-C cable as well as a USB-C to USB-A cable, which is a nice touch.
Aside from a color change and some slight external changes, the T5 is very similar to the T3. Performance gains are modest but helpful as the advertised transfer speed of 540 MB/s represents a 20-percent increase, although real-world speed increases vary. Transferring an approximately nine-gigabyte folder with 19 individual movie files yielded a read speed of about 364 MB/s and write speed of 413 MB/s with the optional but included hardware-based encryption enabled. Without using encryption, the drive reached slightly faster speeds of 395 MB/s and 419 MB/s for read and write speeds, respectively. Of course, the slower than rated speeds are because of the inefficiencies of writing multiple files. Under the proper circumstances, such as during transfer of a large, single file, transfer speeds reached much closer to the 540 MB/s rated speed. Indeed, it's a nice improvement to the T3.
While a newly announced circular Bolt B80 SSD from Silicon Power claims it is the thinnest SSD on the market, it in fact is not yet on the market (price is even unannounced), and the Samsung T5 SSD’s height, surface area, and volume are all even less than that of the B80. However, the B80 is the only portable SSD of its kind to include both shock protection and water resistance compared to just the former with the T5 thanks to the rubber cover on the B80's USB port.
If physical size is an absolute priority, the PNY Elite Portable SSD appears to be the smallest readily available external SSD on the market at just 2.36” x 1.4” x 0.35” compared to the T5’s 3” x 2.3” x 0.4”. Still, that’s a moot point if you need more than the maximum 480GB of storage of the largest PNY Elite SSD.
When considering the 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB T5 models, the Samsung option still provides the best size-to-capacity ratio, and it does this with an industry-standard three-year warranty. The size of the T5 even makes for a convenient connection to the drive, which is so light that you can drag your laptop from one workspace to another without the drive disconnecting from its own weight as it dangles below (although of course, I absolutely cannot and do not recommend you do this, even with the T5's dust and shock resistance). But the point is, it's lightweight and will fit into some jeans' fifth pockets. Not bad.
Another nice feature is the fact that this drive just does not get warm. I don't remember this being an issue with any previous models, either, but I am surprised at revisiting this with the new T5 model and discovering that it stays neutral or cool to the touch in any and all situations. I transferred data to the drive for quite some time. It's disconcerting enough to not hear a sound with these drives. But then for them to be cool after editing off of them and transferring back and forth for a few ours... Obviously, this is a nice plus, especially when you consider other drives (SSDs and otherwise) that heat up every single time. It's always nice when a drive stays cool and doesn't burn through your hands the way my portable Seagate 4 TB drive does with its massive dual 2 TB drives writing away in RAID 0. Staying cool undoubtedly helps longevity of the drive, too.
Solid state drives are still not cheap. The 2 TB model costs nearly $800, while you won’t save much in terms of dollar-per-gigabyte for the other drives. Still, the 2 TB, 1 TB, and 500 GB make the most financial sense. But you can save a tad more on the 250 GB model if your goal is fast, portable storage irrespective of capacity that will still let you edit a good-sized shoot at faster speeds on the go. The only unfortunate part of the T5's release for those fighting to find one is the lack of deals on the T3. In some cases and through some channels, the T3 remains inexplicably more expensive than the T5 (for some models). Just don't expect to save a ton on the slightly older technology just yet. The T5 is still the way to go for the time being. For what it's worth, the T5 is still slightly more affordable than the T3 was at launch for its respective capacities. So things are improving on the SSD front.
If I could afford it, I would travel purely with a handful of these smaller-than-candy-bar 2 TB SSDs. For the right person, this could save a significant amount of both space and weight in a packed bag. And if there’s a switch from traditional portable spinning disks to SSDs such as these involved, speed is just as much as a benefit as the newfound portability might be. Just as with the T3, the T5 is easily the most well-rounded portable SSD option for serious professionals who don’t want to wait hours for files to transfer or lug around pounds of hard drives on their shoots.