If I think back, years and years ago, I can remember my first external hard drive. It was hardly what someone would call portable, housing a full on 3.5” hard drive in an unwieldy enclosure that needed both USB and power connections. Soon after we had smaller 2.5” externals with the little laptop drives in them and that was it for a long time, even after the first solid state drives hit the market. With the prices on SSDs finally dropping and becoming more reasonable the market has been hit with tons of portable SSD options that are fast and furious - but what if you need something faster? NVMe drives (Non-Volatile Memory Express) are the fastest of solid state drives and portable enclosures over USB-C are starting to hit the market. Orico sent us over one to take a look at and I dropped the Kingston A1000 I reviewed a while ago in it to see how the performance stacks up when you remove the drive from a PC.
- MSRP: $39.99 (Amazon)
- Product Model: PCM2-C3
- Material: Aluminum alloy
- Color: Silver
- Output Interface: USB3.1 Type-C
- Scheme: JMS583 (10Gbps)
- Transmission speed: USB 3.1 GEN2 10Gbps
- Capacity: 2TB Max
- Installation: Screw Fixing
- Supported System: Windows / Mac / Linux
- SSD Support: NVMe ONLY (NO SATA or AHCI support)
Unboxing and Installation
Orico’s NVMe enclosure comes packaged in a simple box with all the tools you need to get yourself set up and ready to go, including a small jeweler's screwdriver. It should be obvious, though it’s worth noting, that the enclosure does NOT come with an NVMe drive - you need to have one ready to go and it only takes NVMe; no SATA and no AHCI support for this model.
The enclosure itself slides open to reveal the small motherboard inside with the M.2 slot. I found it odd, but the instructions reveal that you need to remove the board completely from the enclosure to properly install the drive. A screw mount isn’t attached to the board so you need to slot in the drive, then hold the small screw mounting… thing in place and put the screw in from the underside of the motherboard to secure the NVMe in place. It was simple enough to do, I just felt it was a rather odd process compared to how M.2’s are traditionally installed on PC motherboards. Moving on, the board with drives are simply placed back into the enclosure, to top slips back into place, and gets secure with a small screw. The only thing left to do is pick between the USB-C to USB-C cable or the USB-C to USB type A cable.
For the test results you’ll see, it’s the best case scenario I could get out of the drive. I’m using the USB-C to USB-C cable, plugged directly into my motherboard’s rear I/O. When I used the front I/O I got speeds almost 200 MB/s less in Crystal Disk Mark. The theory I came up with is that results are going to vary based on a number of variables, one of which is travel distance of the data from the drive and the physical location of where that data arrives on the motherboard to the CPU on the motherboard. I also noticed speed differences when using different USB-C to USB-C cables, leading me to believe that cable resistances and quality may play a part as well. These things didn’t matter when speeds were slow enough with old drives but now that we are pushing the limits of the 10Gbps threshold of USB 3.1 GEN 2 (1000MB/s or so) they can make a difference. I may be completely wrong, it’s happened before, but these are my best educated guesses.
If you’re familiar with SSD benchmarks, especially NVMe drives, you’ll know that there is usually a large gap between read and write speeds. For example the A1000, when on the motherboard in my PC, pulls a read of 1607 MB/s and a read of 1018 MB/s. Not the fastest drive out there but it was meant to be a budget NVMe that was at least considerably faster than 2.5” SATA drives. After being put into the Orico enclosure, however, there’s not even a 20MB/s difference between the speeds. This is because the limiting factor is no longer the drive, but the bandwidth of our USB channel. Regardless of the loss of speed compared to the A1000 being untethered, the NVMe in the Orico enclosure is still pulling almost double the speeds of traditional 2.5” SATA drives. It would be completely plausible to game off a portable NVMe and do so with faster speeds than people without an NVMe at their disposal.
Moving on to real world we the gap start to close a little bit. Using my reliable Witcher 3 folder you can see in practical folder transfers we don’t actually get double speeds over SATA, though we do get roughly 40MB/s of a speed increase, which is no small amount when you’re transfer large amount of data. I did mention, however, that it would be plausible to game off the Orico enclosure so I chose a few MMOs off the standard set I test and put it to the test.
For the MMO load time test I chose Elder Scrolls Online, World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2. The Kingston A1000 I have isn’t an overly large drives and in addition to that those three games are the MMOs I play on my laptop (though the testing was done on my PC) so I had ulterior motives if I’m being completely honest. The NVMe performed faster than the 2.5” SSDs in every case tested though if we are being fully honest the difference is usually only about one second, with less than a second difference being noted between the A1000 in the enclosure and slotted on the motherboard.
The Orico NVMe M.2 Enclosure is a solidly built tech goodie. The aluminum feel premium and makes the $40 price tag easier to swallow, along with the fact that two USB cables and a screwdriver are included. The only thing I can see holding the Orico back from success is simply the practicality of having an NVMe as an external drive. Being limited to 10Gbps due to current USB 3.1 GEN 2 restrictions, a lot of the speed appeal of the NVMe is lost as overhead, so it’s going to depend on each person to decide if buying an NVMe M.2 at a higher premium is worth it for their use. If you’re going to be playing games on multiple computers, or constantly transferring large files for some mysterious reason and want the speeds I can most definitely see the appeal. However, for the average person that needs an external drive the milk just isn’t worth the squeeze.
- Considerably Faster than even Internal 2.5” SATA SSDs
- Premium Feeling Aluminum Build
- Came with a screwdriver!
- NVMe installation was a weird process
- Portable NVMe isn’t practical for most people
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.