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Transcend Information ESD200 portable SSD review: A tiny portable storage powerhouse

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The Good The Transcend ESD200 portable SSD is supercompact and superfast.

The Bad The drive's capacity caps at just 256GB, and its bundled software is useless.

The Bottom Line Compact and fast, the Transcend ESD200 is an excellent storage and backup extension for your USB 3.0-enabled laptop.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9
  • Support 7

The good old portable-storage concept turns over a new leaf with the Transcend Information ESD200 portable solid-state drive.

It's the first I've seen that's based on a 1.8-inch internal drive, making it much more compact than traditional 2.5-inch-based counterparts. On top of that, it uses an SSD as storage and offers the best performance I've seen.

The new drive is not perfect, however. It offers a limited amount of storage space and is rather expensive, costing about $160 and $300 for 128GB and 256GB, respectively. Its software and backup features are also mediocre at best.

Still, if you're looking for a superfast little portable drive to accompany your USB 3.0-enabled laptop, the new Transcend ESD200 is an easy recommendation. Those who don't care about top speed, just getting a larger drive -- both physically and in terms of capacity -- at lower cost, should also check out the ones on this list.

Drive type 1.8-inch external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 128GB, 256GB
Capacity of test unit 128GB
Dimensions (LWH) 3.6 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.4 inch
Weight 1.9 ounces
OSes supported Windows 2000 or later, Mac OS 10.4 or later
Software included Transcend Elite utility and backup

Superportable design
Portable bus-powered external drives are not new, and most of them use a standard 2.5-inch internal drive. That said, even the most compact of them can't be smaller than the 2.5-inch drive itself. It's a different story with the ESD200. The new unit uses a 1.8-inch internal drive on the inside and for that reason it's slightly shorter and narrower than a deck of playing cards, and just half the thickness. The drive is also very light -- you can easily slip it inside your pocket or a purse.

The Transcend ESD200 is the fastest and most compact standard portable drive on the market.
The Transcend ESD200 is the fastest and most compact standard portable drive on the market. Dong Ngo/CNET

This new level of portability does come with a minor catch: the capacity. The ESD200 is available in only 128GB and 256GB capacities. While these are large enough to carry a sizable iTunes library with you on the go, other 2.5-inch drives can offer up to 2TB of storage space.

For users of the MacBook Air and similar ultrabooks, the new drive can still double or triple the laptop's storage space, making it also perfect as a portable Time Machine backup drive.

On one side, the ESD200 has a standard Micro-USB 3.0 port. There's a standard USB 3.0 cable included that's the only wire you need to use the drive, since it handles both data and power connections.

The drive comes with a small pouch that keeps it from being scratched up during travel. Out of the box, it's formatted using the FAT32 file system and therefore works with both Windows and Mac immediately, for both writing and reading. FAT32 can't store files that are larger than 4GB, however, so if you want to carry large files, such as HD movies, on the go, you might need to reformat the drive into NTFS or HFS+ to be used exclusively with Windows or Mac, respectively. The reformatting, if needed, is very easy and fast and would be the only setup process you'd need.

The drive is just about the size of a deck of playing cards, but much thinner.
The drive is just about the size of a deck of playing cards, but much thinner. Dong Ngo/CNET

Mediocre backup feature
If you want to use the ESD200 strictly as a portable drive, you should have no problems. However, it may be a little tricky if you want to use its software and features.

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