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Samsung's Portable SSD T3 reviewed

2TB in the palm of your hand
— 3:57 PM on July 22, 2016

Our SSD coverage is typically geared towards drives for the system builder, but today we've got a welcome break from tearing down another 2.5" SATA drive. Samsung's 850 EVO SSD has enjoyed widespread success since its introduction a while back, but the company isn't resting on its laurels.

With the Portable SSD T3, Samsung has gone ahead and stuffed its TLC V-NAND into a tiny, pocketable chassis. Following in the footsteps of its previous portable SSD, the T1, the T3 comes in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB capacities. However, it also paves new ground with a whopping 2TB version at the top of the line. That 2TB monster is the one we've got on hand to test.

The deceptively diminutive 2TB T3 measures 2.9" by 2.3" by 0.4" (73.6 by 58.4 by 10.2 mm), a slight increase over the 2.8" by 2.1" by 0.36" of its predecessor. In practical terms, the thing is still freakin' tiny. It's so small I'd almost be worried about losing it if I were carrying it around town with me. Just take a look at it alongside its 2.5" cousin, the 850 EVO 2TB.

Slightly larger dimensions aren't all that set the T3 apart from the T1. The T3 ditches the all-black, textured plastic shell of its older brother in favor of a metal body. Aside from the sleek look, the metal gives the T3 a reassuring heft. The numbers reflect that fact: the T3 weighs in at 51 grams, a noticeable increase over the 38 grams of the T1. It certainly feels like a premium product.

That premium feel is welcome, since the Portable SSD T3 commands a premium price over its 2.5" brethren. While prices on the T3 have fallen since its launch, you'll still need roughly $750 to take a 2TB T3 home with you from your choice of retailer. That's more than the price tag on the entire budget build in our last System Guide. The faint of heart and light of wallet need not apply here.

What do all those dollars buy you? To start, what they don't buy you is a speed increase over the T1. Due to the undecipherable quagmire of USB naming conventions, the "USB 3.1 Gen 1" port on the T3 is only rated for up to 450MB/sec, the same speed that the T1 offered through its USB 3.0 port. That also means the USB Type-C physical connector on the T3 is there for convenience rather than speed. Just because the Portable SSD T3 is rated for the same performance doesn't mean it's the same drive, though, so let's crack it open and have a look inside.

After a mildly harrowing disassembly, the T3 bares all. The controller is the same MGX controller found in the 850 EVO and the Portable SSD T1, so let's move on to the flash itself. The 850 EVO 2TB had its NAND distributed among eight packages, but Samsung packs this drive's 2TB capacity into just four packages—two on either side of the PCB. That impressive density comes courtesy of Samsung's newer 48-layer TLC V-NAND, which replaces the older 32-layer stuff found in the T1.