The perfect mobile storage solution?
External USB Drives have come down in price so significantly that purchasing a few terabytes of storage to store photos, media or backups is a decision made without much thought. Though, inexepnsive storage comes at a cost, and you’ll be paying that cost with slow read and write speeds. I’ve used USB HDD’s for several years and they are extremely convenient and generally reliable, but at times slow when accessing large sets of data (ex: Apple Photo Library). Plugable looks to offer an alternative to this form factor with a fast USB-C/Thunderbolt enclosure paired with NVMe flash storage. The combination of size, speed and improved reliability due to the nature of NVMe storage, is a simply amazing product.
NVMe Storage aka Non-Volatile Memory Express, is a storage technology that has been around for several years, usually found in mid to high end laptops and loved by gamers in gaming PC’s. There have been a variety of interfaces for NVMe storage including SSD, PCIe and more recently the M.2 interface. The Plugable enclosure relies on the more readily available M.2 NVMe SSD storage.
The first thing that comes to mind when holding the Plugable nVME drive is the feeling of a pack of Juicy Fruit gum sticks. The enclosure is long’ish, fairly thin and not that wide. Comfortable in a pocket, and easily transportable. It feels sturdy and rugged, I wouldn’t be too worried if this dropped on a non-carpeted floor.
The product itself is just an empty enclosure, with no storage included. With the easy to use tool-free design, you have the option to pair the enclosure with whatever M.2 storage you would like. You could go the route of a fast (and expensive) Western Digital Black NVMe stick or with a budget Intel NVMe stick which will, and in most (if not all) cases, out-perform all traditional external storage options on the market.
The Plugable USB enclosure uses USB-C and is compatible with Thunderbolt 3. During my usage I only used the device with USB-C to USB-C, though the box includes a USB-C to USB-A adapter for older devices that are not capable of USB-C.
Heat Dissipation and Thermal Throttling
NVMe SSDs are high performance drives that release heat while reading and writing data. The enclosure features exposed slots for airflow on either side as well as extruded aluminum fins for heat dissipation. Even with these features some SSDs may still enter a reduced performance state as they heat up, especially when under heavy load. This is most common with older NVMe SSDs with less efficient flash storage. During my usage I did not experience any thermal throttling with extended use, though the enclosure did get quite warm to the touch.
This pack of gum packs a punch when paired with some high speed nVME SSD storage (ex: Samsung EVO970). For this test I used Intel nVME SSD 6. Intel claims the drive can have write speeds as fast as 10gb/s and read speeds up to 100mb/s. I used Black Magic to test read and right speeds across a few other drives (see details below)
- WD My Passport
- Vantec USB 3.0
Choosing the right Storage Type
Upgrading from any traditional USB drive to a nVME USB 3.0 drive will be a huge increase in performance most SSD drive will out perform a traditional spinning disk which is why I wasn’t to concerned with choosing the Intel SSD6. Plugable claims of read/write speeds of 800MB/s which I was easily able to achieve.
COMPATIBILITY—M.2 NVMe SSDs (SSD not included). USB-C Gen 2 or Thunderbolt 3 hosts up to 10Gbps, USB-C Gen 1 and USB 3.0 systems capable of up to 5Gbps. Not compatible with M.2 SATA SSDs, M.2 PCIe AHCI SSDs, or other M.2 PCIe devices
Comparing the read/write speed of traditional USB Hard Drives to the plugable enclosure paired with an NVMe M.2 stick there is no comparison, NVMe storage is light years ahead of traditional USB HDD’s. The industry is slowly shifting towards this new interface, but the cheaper HDD’s are still around with large capacities and low read/write speed.
Tests performed were used with Black Magic Disk Speed Tests using the following storage devices.
- Plugable USB 3.1 NVMe Enclosure (USB-C) w/ Intel 660p NVMe storage
- Intel 660p NVMe storage (internal)
- Seagate – Backup Plus Slim 2TB External USB 3.0/2.0 Portable Hard Drive – White
- Samsung 970 EVO NVMe Storage (internal)
- Samsung 850 EVO SSD Storage
Varying from traditional USB 3.1 connections to on-board NVMe storage.
With the price of internal storage being high for Apple devices, adding additional storage using an external device is the direction many buyers take. Accessing that additional storage over a fast Thunderbolt connection paired with nVME storage grants you speeds closer to internal nVME storage interfaces with added mobility. I plan on using the the Pluggable External nVME Drive for accessing my active MacOS Photos Library and for additional media storage. Given the price of adding an additional 1Tbyte of storage to your Apple device can range to around $350 to $750 dollars purchasing the Plugable nVME External device for around $75 is a great deal paired with some solid nVME storage.