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

The supercompact Transcend ESD200 portable SSD is a powerhouse when it comes to external storage performance.

Dong_Ngo.jpg
Dong Ngo
Dong_Ngo.jpg
Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

5 min read

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

TranscendESD200K_(9).jpg
8.0

Transcend Information ESD200 portable SSD

The Good

The <b>Transcend ESD200</b> 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.

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.

Near the USB port, the drive has a One-Touch backup button. According to the user manual, to use this button, "You must first run the preloaded Transcend Elite software (located in the Transcend Elite directory of your SSD)". Sounds easy enough -- but in my trial, it was anything but, since out of the box the drive was empty with nothing preloaded to it.

As it turns out, you can download the software from Transcend's Web site, which I did. After copying the software onto the drive, I still couldn't figure out how to make it work with the button, and there were no further instructions.

The Transcend Elite software can do more than just backups and can work by itself without the One-Touch button. In my experience, it could use some huge improvement in terms of ease of use. It was quite hard to figure out how each of its functions worked, and there seemed to be several unnecessary steps needed to get one simple task done.

The Transcend Elite desktop software is so hard to use that it's close to worthless.
The Transcend Elite desktop software is so hard to use that it's close to worthless. Dong Ngo/CNET

In all, you should skip the drive's features and just use it as a blank medium.

Fast performance
The ESD200's performance more than makes up for its lackluster software and backup features. The drive is among the fastest I've seen as long as you use it with USB 3.0.

When used with USB 3.0, the drive registered sustained speeds of about 145MBps for writing and 213MBps for reading, easily topping the charts of portable storage devices. Interesting, it was even faster than the LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt, both when it was used with Thunderbolt and with USB 3.0.

CNET Labs external hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
Transcend ESD200 portable SSD
212.75 
145.7 
WD My Passport Ultra
117.87 
118.5 
LaCie FastKey
115.5 
87.1 
Lexar JumpDrive Triton
112.19 
90.8 
Seagate Backup Plus
110.1 
90.9 
LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
104.9 
87.7 
Toshiba Canvio Desk
103.74 
88.9 
Seagate GoFlex Slim
101.9 
82.4 
G-Drive Slim
100.3 
86.7 
HP Portable Hard Drive
83.65 
69.4 

When used with USB 2.0, the drive wasn't as impressive, however, registering just 26MBps and 32MBps for writing and reading, respectively -- slightly below the average. This means if your computer supports only USB 2.0, you will miss out a lot. Note that, generally, a USB 3.0 port is colored blue.

CNET Labs USB 2.0 external hard drive performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
LaCie FastKey
36.6 
28.8 
Seagate Backup Plus
33 
28.74 
WD My Passport Ultra
33.67 
28.4 
Seagate GoFlex Slim
37.3 
27.7 
LaCie Rugged Key
35.22 
26.6 
Transcend ESD200
32.15 
26.4 
G-Drive Slim
32.74 
25.6 
WD My Passport Edge
32.69 
25.1 

Having no moving parts, the ESD200 was completely quiet and produced no vibration, even during heavy loads. The drive also consumes less energy, making it an even better laptop companion, compared with platter-based portable drives.

Conclusion
Smaller than a deck of playing cards, the Transcend ESD200 packs more performance than portable drives a few times its size. Despite the mediocre bundled software and backup feature, the drive is an excellent buy for mobile users who have a small laptop or an ultrabook that supports USB 3.0.

TranscendESD200K_(9).jpg
8.0

Transcend Information ESD200 portable SSD

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 9Support 7
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