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Adata's SE730H 512GB portable SSD reviewed

Durability meets next-gen speeds

The TR storage labs have seen an influx of external drives of late. In the last couple of months, we reviewed Adata's nigh-indestructible SD700 and Samsung's blazing-fast Portable SSD T5. Today, we've got a drive that seeks to combine the best parts of each of those drives into one complete package: Adata's SE730H 512GB.

As we mentioned when the drive was first announced, the SE730H is a revision of the previously-released SE730. The two drives are identical feature-for-feature. The only difference is an internal switch from planar MLC to 3D TLC flash. Like the SD700, the SE730 and SE730H meet IP68 specifications for dust-proofing and short-term submersibility. They also meet the same MIL-STD-810G 516.6 standard for shock resistance. But most importantly, the SE730 and SE730H leave 5 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1 behind in favor of 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2.

The SE730H brings its speed and toughness to bear in an extraordinarily compact, oblong package. The SD700 was already quite portable, but the older drive looks ungainly alongside the 2.8" x 1.7" x 0.4" footprint of its successor. Samsung's petite enclosures have long had a leg up on the competition, but Adata seems to have caught up—the SE730H weighs a mere 1.1 ounces. The SD700's weather-proofing was only applicable when its rubber port cover was in place, and the same applies to the SE730H. The newer drive's cover, however, is a rigid plastic affair that takes a solid tug to displace.

Fortunately, the SE730H isn't rated to resist pliers and screwdrivers, so we broke it down to have a look inside. Inside, it's not all that different from the SD700 (which was based on the SU800). The same Silicon Motion SM2258 controller is again paired with Micron's TLC 3D NAND. This time around, the USB bridging duties are handled by a VL716 chip from Via Labs. The major difference between the SD700 and the SE730H, then, is the upgrade from the JMicron USB 3.1 Gen 1 bridge controller to the Via Labs Gen 2 chip. Let's hope that's all it takes to unlock T5-like speeds from the SE730H.

The SE730H is available in either 256GB or 512GB capacities and either gold or red finishes. Regardless of capacity or color, Adata's warranty covers the drive for three years. The drive hasn't hit e-tail yet, but Adata is setting the price targets at $160 and $260. That's a bit steeper than the other externals we've reviewed, but if the SE730H can deliver suitably high performance in its impenetrable shell, it may just be worth it. Let's find out.

TR RoboBench — Real-world transfers
RoboBench comprises real-world transfers with a range of file types. Developed by our in-house coder, Bruno "morphine" Ferreira, this benchmark relies on the multi-threaded robocopy command build into Windows. We copy files to and from a wicked-fast RAM disk to measure read and write performance. We also cut the RAM disk out of the loop for a copy test that transfers the files to a different location on the SSD.

Robocopy uses eight threads by default, and we've also run it with a single thread. Our results are split between two file sets, whose vital statistics are detailed below. The compressibility percentage is based on the size of the file set after it's been crunched by 7-Zip.

  Number of files Average file size Total size Compressibility
Media 459 21.4MB 9.58GB 0.8%
Work 84,652 48.0KB 3.87GB 59%

The media set is made up of large movie files, high-bitrate MP3s, and 18-megapixel RAW and JPG images. There are only a few hundred files in total, and the data set isn't amenable to compression. The work set comprises loads of TR files, including documents, spreadsheets, and web-optimized images. It also includes a stack of programming-related files associated with our old Mozilla compiling test and the Visual Studio test on the next page. The average file size is measured in kilobytes rather than megabytes, and the files are mostly compressible.

RoboBench's write and copy tests run after the drives have been put into a simulated used state with 30 minutes of 4KB random writes. The pre-conditioning process is scripted, as is the rest of the test, ensuring that drives have the same amount of time to recover.

Let's take a look at the media set first. The buttons switch between read, write, and copy results.

In our single-threaded tests, the SE730H is crazy fast. As we saw with Samsung's Portable SSD T5, USB 3.1 Gen 2's 10Gbps of theoretical bandwidth allows external drives to put up speeds on par with SATA 6Gbps internal drives. The SE730H trades blows with the editor's-choice-winning Portable SSD T5 drives in these tests.

When eight threads are at play, the SE730H is still extremely fast, but the Portable SSD T5 family enjoys a consistent lead over the Adata drive. Let's see how it does with the work set.

Again, the SE730H puts up amazing numbers at a queue depth of one, proving just as good as Samsung's best. At 8T, the SE730H falls behind just a tad, especially in the read test. In that particular test, the SD700 beats both T5 drives and the SE730H, despite its USB 3.0 connection and lower theoretical bandwidth.

Overall, the SE730H is right on target with the high performance bar set by Samsung's T5 portable SSDs. With irreproachable speeds and a certifiably durable exterior, the SE730H has everything going for it.

That's it for performance testing. Flip the page to read about our test methods, or skip ahead for our closing thoughts.