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To evaluate the Portable SSD T1's performance, we connected it to a Haswell-based Z97 system using one of the Intel chipset's native USB 3.0 ports. We don't have an exact SATA match for our 500GB sample, so we drafted the 850 EVO 1TB to provide a frame of reference.

The original plan was to test the EVO not only with its usual SATA connectivity, but also with a SuperSpeed USB link using Thermaltake's BlacX 5G drive dock. That setup would have given us a nice sense of how the T1's USB translation compares to an off-the-shelf solution. Unfortunately, the dock suffered numerous disconnects during benchmark runs and even when trying to format the 850 EVO. We had to swap in an older 840 EVO 500GB to get our comparative USB results, and we ran that drive through the gauntlet in SATA mode for good measure.

Our first batch of results comes from CrystalDiskMark's sequential and random I/O tests. We used the QD32 test for random I/O.

As expected, the Portable SSD T1 can't keep up with the SATA drives. It's about 100MB/s behind with sequential transfers and much slower with random I/O.

The data suggest those deltas are largely the fault of the USB interface. Note how the 840 EVO's performance drops appreciably when that drive switches from a SATA to USB connection. The T1 is actually ahead of USB-bound EVO in most of our tests, though it falls behind with random writes.

Our second collection of results was generated with TR RoboBench, a slick utility developed by our in-house coder, Bruno "morphine" Ferreira. RoboBench copies files between the target drive and a wicked-fast RAM disk using Windows' multi-threaded robocopy command. We used eight threads, the robocopy default, and two sets of files. The media set comprises large videos, MP3s, and RAW images, while the work set is confined to much smaller documents, spreadsheets, and images.

The T1 largely hangs with its USB competition in the read speed tests, but its performance with smaller files isn't as good as that of the EVO-and-dock combo. As we saw in CrystalDiskMark, the SATA SSDs enjoy comfortable leads.

Before running RoboBench's write speed tests, we put the target drive in a simulated used state by filling it to capacity and then unleashing 30 minutes of random writes. The drive is then formatted, which invokes the Trim command to clear unused flash pages, before RoboBench does its thing.

The SATA drives maintain their lead, and they utterly dominate the T1 with smaller work files. That said, the Portable SSD isn't substantially slower when writing larger media files. It's also way ahead of the USB competition.

The 840 EVO's RoboBench write speeds are surprisingly sluggish when the drive is connected via USB, likely because our dock isn't passing the Trim command correctly. Trimcheck doesn't detect support for the command, and Windows sees the dock as a hard drive even with an SSD sitting in the bay. Those are hardly good signs for the SSD-specific feature.

Our data suggest the Portable SSD T1 executes Trim commands correctly, and trimcheck concurs. The T1 seems to take a little longer to clear flash pages than the 850 EVO, though. The first test after the format runs much slower than subsequent ones, a characteristic the EVO doesn't share.

Despite being extremely compact and practically weightless, the Portable SSD T1 offers up to a terabyte of speedy, shock-tolerant storage. Performance is as good as we've seen from a USB drive—and pretty darned quick compared to SATA gear. Just keep in mind that the USB interface clearly isn't ideal for heavy random I/O workloads. Good thing external drives typically face sequential transfers.

Now, miniaturization does come at a premium. Samsung prices the Portable SSD T1 at $179.99 for 250GB, $299.99 for 500GB, and $599.99 for 1TB, which is steeper than the going rate for the 850 EVO. The markup on the 500GB and 1TB variants is high enough to cover the cost of a nice external enclosure, and the three-year warranty is shorter than the five-year coverage that comes with the EVO.

DIY alternatives can't match the portability of the T1's tiny chassis, though. Trim support isn't guaranteed, and neither is integrated encryption. There's definitely something to be said for the pocketable, all-in-one approach.TR

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