/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Samsung Portable SSD T3 review: A future-proof portable drive

Dong_Ngo.jpg

If you love Samsung's Portable SSD T1 -- and you should -- you'll likely love the company's new Portable SSD T3 even more.

dsc8939.jpg
8.8

Samsung Portable SSD T3

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The Portable SSD T3 is super compact, rugged, fast and can have up to 2TB of storage space. The drive has a USB-C port, allowing it to work with more devices than other portable drives.

The Bad

The T3 is a tad larger and slightly slower than its predecessor, the T1, while costing more. Its three-year warranty is short for a storage device at this price.

The Bottom Line

Compact, rugged, fast and capacious, the Portable SSD T3 is an excellent portable storage device to take on the go.

I say "likely" because in testing, the new T3 was actually a bit slower than the previous model while costing slightly more, at $130, $230 and $430 for 250GB, 500GB and 1TB respectively (£99, £159 and £302 in the UK). That's compared to the current cost of $85, $158 and $349 for the T1 at the same capacities (£88, £149 and £250 in the UK).

To earn that premium, the T3 has a rugged new aluminum case and now comes with a USB-C port instead of the old Micro-USB 3.0 port. What's more, the new drive is also available in a 2TB capacity for $850, which is huge considering how small it is. (A UK price is not yet available, but that converts to around £590. Australian prices for the T3 are yet to be announced.)

That said, if you're looking for a tiny yet tough, secure and capacious portable storage device to accompany your mobile devices, be it a laptop or a USB-C-enabled tablet, the T3 is an excellent choice. But if you just want a fast and super compact portable storage device and don't care about it being rugged, the T1 is still a great deal, especially given its now lower price.

For more options on excellent alternatives, check out this list of the top portable drives on the market.

dsc8937.jpg

The Portable SSD T3 comes with a USB-C port.

Dong Ngo/CNET

Tiny and tough design

The new T3 is a tad larger than the T1, yet it's still small enough to be mistaken for a block of chocolate. A generous block of chocolate, sure.

The drive's sleek new aluminum casing, an upgrade from the plastic of the T1, allows it to be shock-resistant. Samsung says the drive can withstand up to 1,500 g's of force and survive a drop of up to 2 meters (about 6.6 feet). I did try dropping it a few times from above my head to a carpet floor and the drive was fine. Inside, the T3 has an integrated Thermal Guard feature that prevents overheating in extreme temperatures. All in all, it's safe to say that the T3 is a tough little thing.

Samsung Portable SSD T3 specs

Drive type mSATA-based portable drive
Capacity 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible) with an USB-C port.
Dimensions (L x W x H) 2.9x2.3x0.4 inch (74x58x10.5 mm)
Weight 1.8 ounces (51 grams)
Sequential speed Up to 450MBps via USB 3.0
Encryption support AES 256-bit
Security Password setting (optional)
Operating system Windows 7 (or later), Mac OS 10.7 (or later), Android KitKat (version 4.4 or later)
Warranty 3 years

On one side, the T3 has a USB-C port, as opposed to the usual Micro-USB 3.0 port, but the drive supports the USB 3.0 standard with a top speed of 5Gbps. It's also compatible with USB 2.0. The use of the USB-C port means when coupled with a USB-C cable (not included) it can work with the new MacBook, and all mobile devices that offer a USB-C port -- mostly Android tablets and a couple of phones for now. The drive includes a USB-C to USB-A cable, which allows it to work with all existing computers and their regular USB ports. (For more about USB-C, check out this post.)

As for storage, similar to the case of the T1, the T3 houses a Samsung mSATA 850 Evo. This means it has all the features of the 850 Evo product line.

dsc8970.jpg

The new T3 (top) is slightly larger than the T1.

Dong Ngo

Familiar features

The most important feature of the T3 is the use of 3D-vertical NAND flash memory, an increasingly popular technology in standard solid-state drive.

Traditionally, 2D-planar type NAND flash memory cells -- the storage units on an SSD -- lie flat on the surface of the silicon wafer. The T3's internal storage's flash memory cells are stacked in up to 48-layer vertical NAND, or V-NAND, (as opposed to 32 layers in the case of the T1,) which allows for significantly more cells in the same number of wafer bits. This greatly increases the density and essentially means more storage for less cost. The higher number of V-NAND layers will likely translate into slightly slower performance, however.

The T3 also supports Samsung's TurboWrite technology, which enables the drive to operate a portion of its flash memory in a simulated high-performance mode of single-layer-cell flash memory, as a buffer zone. During write operations, data is first written to this zone at high speeds, then, during idle periods, it's moved from the buffer to the primary storage region. The end result is much faster performance from the user's perspective.

Ready to work out of the box

The T3 is slightly easier to use than the T1. It's pre-formatted in the exFAT format, meaning it will work with both Windows and Mac computers immediately without requiring a setup process, which the T1 needed. The drive contains a small piece of software called "T3 Security Enabler" for Windows, Mac and Android. Basically it allows you to encrypt the drive with a password, which you will need to type in each time you want to access the drive.

pass.jpg

It's easy to create a password, but it's impossible to access the drive if you forget it.

Screenshot by Dong Ngo

Don't lose the password. Forgetting the password means you will lose all the data. This is because the drive supports AES 256-bit, currently the strongest encryption standard, and there's really no way around it.

Fast performance

I tested the 2TB version of the T3, finding it slightly slower than the T1 (of which I tested the 500GB version), likely due to the fact that the T3 uses Samsung's 48-layer V-NAND, while the T1 uses 32-layer V-NAND. In most real-world scenarios, however, the difference in performance between the two drives will be hardly noticeable. Both are very fast.

CNET Labs' USB 3.0 external drive performance

Samsung Portable T1 158.3 292.42Seagate Backup Plus FAST (RAID 0) 222.5 232.74LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt All-Terrain 155.7 227.43Samsung Portable T3 125.9 221.4Brinell Drive SSD 156.4 220.2Seagate Backup Plus Desktop 150.9 180.45G-Tech Gdrive EV ATC 119.0 138.73Sony HDD HB 121.7 128.06Seagate Expansion 125.2 127.93Seagate Backup Plus Slim (Summer 2015) 118.8 125.35Seagate Backup Plus (Summer 2015) 114.48 120.84Buffalo MiniStation Extreme 110.3 118.82Toshiba Canvio Slim II 118.8 118.49WD My Passport Ultra 118.5 117.87WD My Passport Ultra (Spring 2015) 110.2 117.34SiliconPower Armor A60 104.3 114.48Seagate Slim 110.4 111.49LaCie Christofle Sphere 105.5 111.43ioSafe SoloPro G3 109.1 110.8WD My Password Slim 107.7 107.89WD Elements 95.7 102.15
  • Write
  • Read
Notes: Measured in megabytes per second

Via USB 3.0, the T3 registered a sustained speed of 126 megabytes per second for writing and 221MBps for reading, reaching the top three on our chart. The drive also works with USB 2.0 and in this case it was actually faster than the T1, with a sustained speed of around 36MBps, which is as fast as it can be for a USB 2.0 connection.

As with the T1, the T3, while very fast, isn't as fast as Samsung claims (which is up to 450MBps via USB 3.0.) In my experience, however, I've never seen any drive that performed even close to the speed advertised by the vendor. That said, the T3 is indeed easily one of the fastest portable drives on the market.

Should you buy it?

As a standalone drive, the Portable SSD T3 is great. When compared to its predecessor the T1, however, it's a little more expensive while being a tad slower. That means, for now, if you don't care about USB-C compatibility or the new rugged design, the T1 is a better deal. The T3 is the drive that will last you many years, however, mainly because USB-C seems to be the way to go. On top of that, as its price gets lower (and it will), the 2TB capacity is definitely enticing.

A three-year warranty is disappointing, even though the T1 has the same deal. I do feel that with portable storage of this caliber, Samsung should back it up with at least a five-year warranty. After all, it gives some of its high-end drives, such as the Samsung SSD 850 Pro, 10-year warranties.

Still, if you need a portable that has everything, the T3 is what you've been waiting for.

dsc8939.jpg
8.8

Samsung Portable SSD T3

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 9Performance 9Support 7