Solid state drives like the 2TB Samsung Portable SSD T5 ($799.99) buck the 2.5-inch form factor of their portable hard drive predecessors. Since SSDs don’t need to house a spinning platter, they’re a whole lot smaller and easier to slip into a small pocket. While our capacious 2-terabyte test drive may be too expensive if you who simply want to back up files from your laptop, its speed and capacity are suited to well-heeled digital packrats and graphics professionals.
As just 0.4 by 2.3 by 3.0 inches (HWD) and 1.8 ounces, the T5 is imperceptibly heavier and the same size as its predecessor, the Samsung Portable SSD T3. The 1TB ($399.99) and 2TB versions have a monochromatic black finish, while the 250GB ($129.99) and 500GB ($199.99) capacities are blue. It’s a lot more subdued than the smaller, gold Adata SE730 External SSD, and a bit more attractive than the relatively plain-looking OWC Envoy Pro EX, which has a greater length, but otherwise similar dimensions. All three of these drives will fit in a pocket more easily than the G-Technology G-Drive Slim SSD, a traditionally sized drive (0.39 by 5.08 by 3.23 inches). The T5’s case is aluminum, and there are no moving parts, and it’s rated to survive a tumble up to 6.6 feet.
The drive connects via USB-C, matching the G-Drive Slim, Adata SE730, and our current top pick, the Sandisk Extreme 900 (the Envoy Pro EX uses a legacy micro USB 3.0 port.) Like the Extreme 900 and G-Drive Slim, the T5 SSD comes with both USB-C-to-USB-C and USB-C-to-USB-3.0 cables, so you can use it with virtually all laptops and desktops. (The previous Samsung Portable T3 SSD and Adata SE730 don’t come with USB-C cables.)
Good Per-Gig Value
The 2TB iteration of the T5 SSD works out to 39 cents per gigabyte, which is reasonable compared with the higher per-gigabyte ratio of 52 cents for the Sandisk Extreme 900. The G-Drive Slim is comparable at 38 cents per gigabyte, but our current SSD co-champion, the Oyen Digital MiniPro 3.1 USB-C Portable Solid-State Drive, has the best ratio (29 cents per gigabyte at a 1TB capacity). To be fair, the MiniPro 3.1 is physically larger, more akin to a desktop drive than the smaller SE730, T3, and T5. Paying a little extra for the T5’s miniature case is worth it, particularly when you consider it’s $50 less than the T3 at the same capacity.
Software is relatively sparse. The drive includes the Samsung Portable SSD software utility, which activates and manages the drive’s built-in AES 256-bit encryption via password, but that’s about it. The encryption software works on Android tablets and phones, Macs, and Windows PCs. The T5 SSD is exFAT formatted, so it will work with all three operating systems out of the box. Samsung backs the drive with a three-year warranty, which is on par for this class of portable SSDs. Since there are no moving parts, there’s not a lot that can go wrong.
We tested using USB-C on a Windows PC and an Apple MacBook Pro, as well as using a USB 3.0 port on the Windows laptop. Samsung claims up to a 540MBps data-transfer rate. We were able to get close on the Mac-based Blackmagic hard drive test (505.6MBps read; 477.2MBps write) using the USB-C interface. With that throughput score, the T5 trounced the Samsung T3 (430MBps read; 376MBps write) and Sandisk Extreme 900 (425.8MBps read; 417.3MBps write), though the latter two were still incredibly speedy. For comparison, these three SSDs were also noticeably faster at writing than the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD (138MBps), the LaCie Rugged RAID (245MBps), and the G-Technology G-Drive slim SSD (290MBps).
The T5 SSD managed impressive results on the PCMark 7 secondary storage test on the USB-C (5,449 points) and USB 3.0 (5,371) interfaces. That topped the scores of the Sandisk Extreme 900 (4,980), the Samsung T3 (4,908), the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD (4,127), and the Adata SE730 (3,076). The only SSD that scored higher was the SanDisk Extreme 500 (5,649).
Likewise, on our drag-and-drop test, the T5 took just 3 seconds to transfer our 1.3GB test folder using USB-C, and an extra second using the USB 3.0 interface. That was faster than the Sandisk Extreme 900 (5 seconds), the Samsung T3 (6 seconds), the VisionTek USB Pocket (8 seconds), and the G-Drive slim (13 seconds). That’s a whole lot faster than a spinning hard drive, which typically takes from 10 to 20 seconds to transfer the same folder over USB 3.0.
A Big, Fast Drive for the Pros
The Samsung Portable SSD T5 corrects the T3’s most glaring omission by including a USB-C cable, and improves its dollar-to-gigabyte ratio and its performance significantly. At $799 for 2TB, it’s made for well-heeled hobbyists and graphics artists. But with it, you’ll have speedy access to a massive library’s worth of data that fits in your jeans pocket. It’s particularly handy for 4K video editors and photographers with huge archives. With more than twice the capacity, a (much) smaller body, and significantly faster performance than the Sandisk Extreme 900, it’s our top pick for portable SSDs. If you don’t have that kind of scratch handy, the Oyen Digital MiniPro is a less-expensive alternative, at $299 for 1TB in a much larger package. And if you don’t need an SSD, you can get a solid storage deal on a traditional external hard drive.