A couple weeks back I unveiled the contenders in our planned battle for portable flash supremacy. Things have changed a bit since that simpler time, though, and my personal list of priorities has been, uh, trimmed.
This review was always going to be a longer term project. I’m aspiring to put my own spin on a mini version of Geoff’s iconic SSD Endurance Experiment. Albeit, one with a degree of portable wear and tear involved.
Since I’m off to a delayed start, and because I expect it’s going to be a long wait for more data, I want to share what I’ve got so far. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the setup.
The source of my ancient avatar, original work by my sister.
The hub is an ORICO 10-port USB 3.0 model. Here’s a rundown of what you can see in that image, sorted left to right in order of the USB port they are plugged into.
- Intel Optane Memory M10 16 GB & ORICO Transparent NVMe M.2 USB 3.1 Type-C Gen2 enclosure (plugged directly into my PC)
- Kingston Digital 60 GB mS200 mSATA SSD & ORICO external mSATA UASP SSD enclosure
- Samsung 840 EVO 120GB SSD & StarTech SATA to USB 3.1 UASP hard drive adapter
- Patriot 64 GB Supersonic Rage Series USB 3.0 flash drive
- PNY Turbo 64 GB USB 3.0 flash drive
- SanDisk Ultra CZ48 64 GB USB 3.0 flash drive
- Corsair Flash Voyager Slider X1 64 GB USB 3.0 flash drive
- Kingston Digital 64 GB 100 G3 USB 3.0 DataTraveler
All of that plugged into my PC made for an interesting Disk Management window. After all, I’m usually a single drive kind of guy (not counting OneDrive or network drives). Before I gathered my initial numbers, I made sure all the drives had just a single NTFS partition on them that used all the space on the drive. I also did a full format on them before testing, why not?
Drive capacities apparently not shown to scale.
For my first test with these new recruits I went back to some benchmarking comfort food, CrystalDiskMark 6. I intend to employ TR’s own RoboBench or something similar for longevity testing, though. I used my main rig to obtain these numbers, it runs Windows 10 Professional with all the latest updates for hardware and software. I’m not going to spell out the exact specifications in this piece, but you can check them out over here if you’d like. I set DiskMark to do nine passes at 500MiB for these tests, the same settings I’ve used in my other reviews.
Let’s look at some numbers (note the change to the x-axis as the tests change gears).
If you’re already thinking that it sure would be nice if Fish would add a cheap M.2 NVMe SSD into this mix, you’re not alone. I’m definitely fighting the review-feature-creep urge. We’ll see what happens. Anyway, I think the most interesting result here is the massive gap between the Optane’s read and write performance. I’m inclined to blame the controller in the enclosure, but without testing another… Gosh darn it, I’m going to have to buy another drive aren’t I?
Beyond that, it’s easy to see that if you’ve got an old SSD laying around you’ll get much better bang for your buck if you buy a $15 enclosure for it than buying a $15 flash drive. Speaking of the flash drives, the Patriot and the Corsair are the clear leaders in sequential performance, almost catching the mSATA drive in read speed and coming close to half its write speed.
I love the random 4K tests as a gut check for worst-case performance. With a queue depth of eight and eight threads to work with, there’s a massive throughput hit to everything—except for the Optane’s write speed. Hmm… Interestingly, one of the flash drives, the SanDisk Ultra, distinguishes itself with terrible but not tragic write performance. Frankly, I’m surprised the other drives even finished the benchmark.
As the number on the end of our x-axis continues to drop lower we can easily see why. At a queue depth of 32 and just one thread, the write speed on the Optane is still hitting the same wall but performance everywhere else is tanking. That said, even the over five-year old Kingston mSATA drive is whooping the flash drives from inside is aluminum UASP to-go box. The SanDisk Ultra’s meager 1.5 MB/s write speed is still remarkable among its peers, though.
With a queue depth of just one and a single thread to match, it doesn’t get much more worst-case than this—for performance anyway. Yeah, it’s not the most realistic test for a flash drive, but if a drive can handle this, you should be able to count on it handling whatever fiddly batch of files you want to move around with it. Notable developments are the Optane’s write speed finally stumbling and the SanDisk Ultra still cruising along with its mysteriously superior write speed. Finally, we have write speeds of the full-blown SSDs all surpassing the read speeds—caching at work.
That’s all I’ve got to share for now. If you must have a conclusion at this stage, mine would be that I like the plucky SanDisk Ultra the best of the flash drives. However, you’d be better served by digging an old mSATA drive out of your junk drawer and tossing it into a USAP-friendly housing. I’ll be back again once I’ve sufficiently abused these poor drives.