Samsung’s SSD T1 was among the first drives like it, expanding on SSD features like speed and compact size to deliver an almost business-card-sized, ultra-fast drive that was perfect for the road. More robust in an all-new enclosure, the SSD T3 is the next advancement of the T1.
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Still relatively tiny, Samsung sacrificed an extra couple millimeters of its compact size (but just over a millimeter in thickness) to add shock resistance and greater durability to its business-minded drive. Featuring AES 256-bit hardware encryption alongside the new shock resistance makes this something for the ultimate road warrior — at least on paper.
One feature that we’ll see more and more with newer drives is the removal of a standard USB 3.0 connector in favor of a new reversible USB-C connector. Indeed, the SSD T3 supports USB 3.1 Generation 1. The truth is USB 3.1 Gen. 1 is the same thing as the old, standard USB 3.0, just renamed by the USB-IF organization. So, the protocol is the same, and the maximum theoretical transfer rate is the same still-speedy 5 Gbps (if not the 10 Gbps of USB 3.1 Gen. 2). In reality, this means very little for the drive. The actual speed of the T3 “only” goes up to 450 MB/s, so it’s unlikely the difference made by having included support for USB 3.1 Gen. 2 would have been anything other than negligible, since the connection would only be about two-thirds saturated.
As such, Samsung built the more compact USB-C connector port into the T3, but included only a Type-C to Type-A cable for attaching to the traditional USB ports. Given the relatively few computers currently out there with USB-C ports, this makes perfect sense. And anyone wanting to connect to such a port should have no problem getting their own cable. Either way, the cable will provide more than enough bandwidth to take full advantage of the SSD's speed.
Setting Up the SSD T3
I skipped the directions, of course, because if this can’t be used as easily and regularly as a standard hard drive, there’s no point in getting it as far as I’m concerned. Nonetheless, setup was simple, as expected.
Drivers, utilities, and the encryption setup software can all be installed from the device for Mac, Windows, or Android devices. While I did have some issues with Finder freezing and the Trash not being able to be opened or emptied, a simple ejecting of the drive, logout, and subsequent logging back in solved any issues I was experiencing. So, while those were some odd glitches, they’ve all completely subsided.
Setting Up a Password and the T3 Drive Utility
The T3 adds a shortcut to your desktop, but you can easily do without that. If you don’t encrypt your drive, you’ll never need it anyway. And if you do, a popup comes onto the screen to prompt you for your password automatically when you plug the drive in.
At this stage, the initial viewable partition (called “T3_Setup”) is all that can be viewed. Upon entering the password and unlocking the drive, it unmounts the setup drive and mounts the full drive. While OS X doesn’t love the way it does this, as it complains with a “[this disk] was not ejected properly” message during the unmount and remount process, it’s a small nuisance that I highly doubt has any consequence.
Of course, setting a password to encrypt your drive isn't at all mandatory. But it is a welcome feature for those with sensitive photos (i.e. creatives that do commercial work based on products under embargo, etc.).
Speed, Speed, and More Speed!
We’re all used to hard drive manufacturers’ advertised maximum read/write speeds being higher than actual results. The marketing and actual performance of the T3 is no exception, but I knew this going in. All things considered, this drive is no slouch.
At first, I tested a folder with 186 raw files at approximately 3.74 GB in total size. That transfer took 12.5 seconds. At 299 MB/s, that seemed a bit too slow compared to the advertised speed for the drive. A simple formatting of the drive to HFS+ and retest was in order: it was only fair to give it a real shot. As a side note for those wondering, you can completely reformat the drive from within Disk Utility (at least on the Mac) without messing with or losing the encryption capabilities.
Transferring the same 3.74 GB folder now took 9.5 seconds. This translates to a 394 MB/s transfer rate. A nice surprise was that this was just about the same rate in ether direction, read or write. Read speeds were perhaps a hair faster, but within an margin of error caused by my ability to react quickly enough with my thumb on the timer.
Meanwhile, a 7.62 GB movie with 26 individual files took 19.3 seconds. At a megabyte per second faster, it seems safe to say that a realistic speed to expect from the drive in real-world use is about just under 400 MB/s. Fair disclaimer: my Mac’s hard drive (an ultra-fast, stock 15” Retina MacBook Pro drive) is quick, but over 90 percent full. I would like to think that doesn’t matter so much with these relatively small folder sizes, but there’s no doubt that computers like to have a little more breathing room regardless.
Finally, testing the same aforementioned folders’ transfer rates with encryption on or off did not seem to have a significant effect on the transfer rates of files. If anything, the drive was slightly faster with encryption turned on. But again, the difference experienced there was negligible.
I won’t lie: the strange Finder glitches I had worried me at first. But then again, my computer does sometimes misbehave, and the glitches completely vanished after a likely much-needed refresh via logging out and logging back in.
Since I’ve been using it, the Samsung SSD T3 is everything I’ve wanted for a long time. It’s secure, more robust, and tiny (it fits easily into the fifth pocket in my jeans!). It’s honestly the perfect travel drive for me.
One thing I’ve wanted to do is find a thin, ultra-fast live work drive that I can take with me on the go and that’ll fit in my admittedly awfully expensive, but awesome This is Ground computer case. And while you may not be wanting to fit this drive into an extravagant case you bought just because you like it, there’s no doubt that I’d love nothing more than to carry two or three of these in my bag than deal with the weight of my multiple 4 TB Seagate Backup Fast drives. The two are completely different products, no doubt. But, it’ll be a nice change to keep those drives at home.
Could It Be More?
When you buy anything that is a more premium product at a more premium price, you would only hope that it would last longer. This is a huge reason why it’s nice that Samsung added additional shock protection in the T3. However, the drive is not water-resistant in any way. While I personally find water-resistance as an unnecessary luxury, it’s still quite nice to have the added peace of mind when on set anywhere near water. Data is our most important commodity these days, so it still would have been nice to have found a way to include some water resistance.
I say this mostly because the obvious competitor to the Samsung SSD T3 is the SanDisk 500 and 510 Extreme, the latter of which adds water resistance to its feature set. The 500-series includes 128-bit encryption compared to the 256-bit encryption of the T3, is slightly larger in the form of a square drive with sides as long as the longest edge of the T3, and only comes in 480 GB if you want the water-resistant 510. But it does give you that option if you’re a frequent beach-goer.
For everything else, the flexibility that the size and speed of the Samsung SSD T3 provides is hard to beat. It comes in 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB capacities in prices ranging from $129.95 all the way to $849.99 and is in stock and currently shipping.