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Transcend SSD18M (128GB) review: Transcend SSD18M (128GB)

Transcend SSD18M (128GB)

Justin Yu Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals
Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.
Justin Yu
4 min read

The Transcend SSD18M is an external storage device that uses a solid-state hard drive with no moving parts to keep data. The Intel X-25M internal drive came through the CNET labs last October and proved the benefits of SSD--faster access and boot times--but the Transcend SSD18M adds the extra bonus of portability. Our main gripe with the Intel was definitely the price, and while the 128GB Transcend sets you back $440, we think it's worth it for the small footprint, eSata/USB combo, and improved transfer speed.


Transcend SSD18M (128GB)

The Good

Small footprint; lightweight; fast transfer speeds; eSATA and USB 2.0 connectivity.

The Bad

Expensive; traditional external hard drives offer four times the storage space for 13 times less; proprietary cord required for eSATA connection.

The Bottom Line

Although the Transcend SSD18M solid-state drive is astronomically expensive, the price is balanced with its tiny footprint and impressive transfer speeds. It's easy to geek out on the beauty of the design, and even though hardcore nerds will love its versatility, the simple fact is that bargain-hunting consumers can get much higher capacities for a lot less, at least for now.

Design and features
The design of Transcend's SSD18M is so subtle and unassuming that others will likely have no idea what it is. The black plastic is finished with a glossy diamond pattern with a tiny Transcend logo in the corner. The entire device, including the eSATA and USB port on the side, is a tiny 80-millimeters long by 12.5-millimeters wide by 50-millimeters tall, and weighs just 50 grams--a benefit to SSDs that lack spinning plates and other moving parts that add significant bulk to hard-disk drives. Instead, SSDs like the SSD18M save data to more reliable NAND flash memory that also provides faster throughput and power consumption. Transcend offers the 1.8-inch SSD18M drive in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB capacities.

In addition to its light weight, the Transcend SSD18M is also durable; it recently achieved the U.S. Military's top drop-test standard, withstanding rigorous direct impact and fall tests. Even though we don't advocate the abuse of any device, you shouldn't worry about the dangers of throwing the drive into your bag with keys and other stuff rolling around inside. You can cover the larger eSATA port with a rubber foot to prevent dust and grime from entering, but the USB port remains exposed.

One drawback to the design of the drive is that the eSATA port isn't self-powered like the USB 2.0 port. To transfer data through eSATA, you have to use the proprietary cord that comes with it that features an additional USB prong on both ends to ensure adequate power to the drive. It's a bit of a hassle to use and you have to order a replacement off the Transcend Web site if you happen to lose it.

Cost per gigabyte
According to the Transcend Web site, the current retail prices for the SSD18M are $126, $233, and $440 for the 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB models, respectively. Compared with current external hard disks like the
Fujitsu HandyDrive that costs a quarter of the price ($110) for three times the capacity (400GB), it's safe to say that only early adopters who invest more in performance than cost value will consider purchasing an SSD. That said, the portable SSD18M is still significantly cheaper than the Intel X-25M SSD, so we'll hold off on complaining about the SSD18M's price until the rest of the market catches up with Transcend's competitive prices.

Cost per gigabyte (in dollars)

As expected, the Transcend is a clear winner of the read and write tests in both USB 2.0 and eSATA connections. While the USB benchmarks are only slightly faster than the hard disks and internal SSDs, the SSD18M really sets itself apart with the eSATA transfer speeds: 78.4 megabytes per second to write and 45.6 megabytes per second to read a 6.62GB folder, compared with the second best at 27.94MB per second read and 24.3MB per second to write. As we stated in the Intel X-25 SSD review, we're still waiting for prices to drop and capacities to go up before we fully endorse solid-state hard drives.

Speed test (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
eSATA write  
eSATA read  
USB read  
USB write  
Transcend SSD18M
Fujitsu HandyDrive
Transcend StoreJet 25F
Clickfree Portable Backup Drive

It's worth noting that at the time of this review, SSD technology remains in the early stages of adoption with primary backing in the Netbook market. We reported earlier this year on Anandtech.com's in-depth critique of SSDs (excluding Intel's X-25M) and their tendency to suffer performance degradation after long-term use, depending on the firmware and the controller chipset. Anandtech placed a chipset from JMicron at fault in many non-Intel drives. This Transcend driver uses a more recent JMicron chipset that , according to the company, fixed the issue.

Anandtech's article was the result of six months of research, a longer period of time than we (or most other review sites) devote to single product reviews. In our admittedly limited testing timeframe for this Transcend drive, we can only take JMicron's word that it has stabilized the long-term usage issues of earlier products that used its chipsets. If we hear or experience anything regarding long-term slowdowns of SSDs using this newer batch of JMicron circuitry, we'll update this review accordingly.

Service and support
Although the drive is physically protected from bumps and spills, Transcend still warranties the SSD18M with two years of parts and labor protection, as long as you don't disassemble, modify, or otherwise misuse it. The two-year life span is better than most external hard disks that only offer one year, but we've seen and prefer a three-year warranty to ensure the physical integrity of portable devices that see a lot of travel.


Transcend SSD18M (128GB)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9Support 7