Samsung recently launched its latest portable USB 3.1 SSD drive called SSD T5. It comes more than a year after the SSD T3 (there isn’t a T4), which was praised by independent reviewers. The new SSD T5 builds on the same core strengths: tiny size, leading speed and massive 2TB of maximum capacity (our unit is the 2TB version).
The main difference between the two is the USB 3.1 (Gen 2, 10 Gbps) support (up from from USB 3.1, Gen 1, 5 Gbps) which maxes out at a theoretical 540 MB/sec instead of 450 MB/sec previously. We took the SSD T5 for a spin.
The Samsung SSD T5 has a near-identical design as the SSD T3. There’s a -0.02” difference in width, but that is pretty much it. For practical purposes, the chassis is identical, and the new color scheme is the main differentiator. This means that the SSD T5 can also pack a maximum of 744.7 GB per cubic-inch, which makes it the densest portable USB drive on the market.
With the SSD T5, Samsung has slightly changed how it presents the toughness of the chassis. Instead of using a G-rating (G for gravity), Samsung only says that the drive can survive a drop of about 2 Yards (2-meter) high.
Because the weight of the device is very small (51g), the amount of force generated by a fall from this height is unlikely to break the chassis or the internal components.
In general, we consider the durability of portable drives to be a huge deal, but unfortunately, it’s hard to have a standardized test, and the samples are costly, so there’s no practical way to get enough sampling to have statistically representative data. Only the respective OEMs can do that, plus user feedback in the ratings.
Fortunately, SSD drives are much more resilient than mechanical drives (HDD). At this point, I have not heard of someone I know breaking one of these SSD T-Series during a normal use, and after handling the T3 for a while, I would be confident that the chassis’ durability won’t be a problem for the vast majority of users. The drive is more likely to be lost (hence the encryption) than destroyed.
USB-C 3.1, Gen 2, 10Gbps
The retail box contains two USB cables rated for 10 Gbps. One is USB-C to USB-A while the other is USB-C to USB-C to cover the most common cases. This is a nice touch. Now is a good time to remind you that the quality of USB C cable matters! As speed increases, cables need proper shielding and wire thickness to operate properly.
Regular cables usually used for charging will almost certainly drop the maximum transfer rate back to USB 2.0 levels. You can try at home if you own one of these high-speed 450MBps+ drives. I lost the original cable, and after trying a ton of USB-C cables I had at the office (I have a lot of them…), and none could sustain even 5Gbps speeds.
Performance: leading-edge, again
In our synthetic tests, the Samsung SSD T5 came very close to the theoretical 540 MB/s limit by reaching 511.7 MB/s and 510.8 MB/s in Sequential Read and Write in our tests. This is the real, “speed of light” (maximum speed) for this drive if you transfer large files with no other bottlenecks. In general, manufacturers are pretty diligent with the announced specifications.
You just have to be careful to differentiate between the connector (here, USB 3.1 gen2) maximum speed, and the drive’s maximum speed (theoretical) because the marketing wording is sometimes confusing on purpose.
Keep in mind that from one PC to another, there can be fluctuations in performance. Even on the same PC, different test runs can yield different numbers. The benchmark will show the maximum potential of the hardware, but nothing prevents the OS from doing something that may interfere. We run multiple tests to smooth things out.
These numbers are excellent for an external USB 3.1 drive (USB Gen 2 10Gbps). That is more than 2X the performance of my older internal SATA 6.0Gb/s SSD Drive. Depending on your current computer, external USB storage can be legitimately faster than internal storage sometimes– at least, if you have a proper USB 3.1 Gen 2 controller.
Understanding real-world performance
In a real use case, the actual speed depends on a lot on the types and size of the data/files you are working with (some SSDs use simple compression that doesn’t work well on JPGs and compressed files). During file transfer, the larger the files and the closer you get to the maximum theoretical speed (“Seq” number in the benchmark).
The smaller the files and the closer you get the to Random 4K read synthetic benchmarks performance (“4K” number in the benchmark).
That’s because every file transaction induces some system overhead (USB, USB, latency…). Increase the number of small files and the bigger the overhead becomes, and the farther away you will get from maximum theoretical speed. Fractions of a second can add up very quickly over thousands of files.
Buying a high-performing storage device opens the possibility of reaching higher performance when conditions allow. Copying large quantities of data is quite common these days, so this is not a thing for “professionals.” A photo on your phone can be 4MB big. In my phone, a 10 second 1440×1440 video for Instagram was 22MB.
Beyond speed: size, weight, capacity, and security
For an internal SSD tucked in a PC chassis, peak performance and “bang for the buck” might be the only metrics people are interested in. For a portable drive, Mobility, Resilience, and Security are important too, if not more than Speed.
For a product to be “Mobile,” it must be tough (as seen earlier) small and light, but not compromise on capacity or speed if possible. GB/cubic-inch and product volume in cubic-inch provide interesting lenses to position the Samsung SSD T5 in relation to other products.
Despite having been on the market for three years, the Samsung SSD T-Series remains mostly unchallenged when it comes to size, weight, and capacity. Challenging it on just one out of three is already not obvious, but this product has no competition when you take everything into account. Add performance on top of it, and there’s no competition left. Even the performance/price ratio of this product is excellent.
When you go around with 2TB of data, the loss of that data can easily be catastrophic. Because most people tend to pile up data without ever sorting it, there could be all kinds of files that should not be accessed by other people (health records, tax filings and more). The built-in (optional) encryption provides excellent protection. People are more likely to give up on accessing your data, then spending the time and money to crack the encryption.
Note: for some reason, it looks like Space characters are no longer allowed for passwords with the T5. This may be an issue for owners of T1 and T3 products, since the T5 login app will replace the previous versions which allowed for spaces. The fix is to change your old devices passwords before upgrading, or do it from another computer.
Competitive landscape: quite limited
Looking for worthy competitors to the Samsung SSD T-Series is not easy. When I went shopping for alternatives, few could compete in size, and only one could compete in performance. If you are intransigent on either of these qualities, the T-Series is an obvious choice. Still, here are some options:
Samsung T5 SSD 250GB $129.99
- The MiniPro 3.1 USB-C 256GB costs $129.20 and is noticeably larger, although it is one of the more compact competitors
- The SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable SSD 240GB costs $178, is a bit larger, is a bit slower, has weaker encryption, but does have ruggedness certifications such as IP55 dust and water resistance, so this might be a good differentiator.
- The Adata SE730 seemed interesting for its size (1.73 x 2.86 x 0.48 in) and price of $120. It is also IP55 rated and also has a Mil-STD 810G rating. Unfortunately, its real-world performance doesn’t seem to match its paper-performance, so users might want to prepare for a possible longer wait during file transfers.
Samsung T5 SSD 500GB $199
- The SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable SSD 480GB has seen its price slashed from $249 down to $152.99, which makes it a good alternative when it comes to prices. It won’t win in size or speed, but it is certified to withstand water splash and some dust.
- The PNY Elite 480GB USB 3.0 Portable SSD costs $160 but is much slower even if it can compete in size, with a chassis measuring 2.36” x 1.4” x 0.35”.
Samsung T5 SSD 1TB $399.99 and
- The SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD ($459.99) is much bigger than the SSD T5 (5.25 x 3.25 x 0.70 in), but it is one drive that should beat the SSD T5 in benchmarks because it has a RAID-like that boosts speed. If size and cost aren’t factors, this s a great performance-oriented drive.
As you increase the capacity, you will notice that the number of potential competitors drops drastically. At 1TB+ it becomes tough to find worthy competitors that could provide the same range of capabilities.
Conclusion: highly recommended
As the data shows, the Samsung SSD T5 (official page) is a product that easily earns our recommendation. It has all the attributes that make a portable drive great: high capacity, small, light, robust, fast, secure.
If budget is a concern, we have given you other options, although Samsung made it very hard to compete even on pricing, at least for this level of performance. In most cases, the price differential is small. The SSD T5 is a no-brainer choice. In hindsight, maybe I should have started the review with that…