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Samsung T5 Portable SSD Review

By Christopher Coke on October 11, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Samsung T5 Portable SSD Review

As gamers, there are times when we need fast external storage. Whether that’s to connect to our game consoles, to transfer files between PCs, or to have a portable game drive to take on the go. Today, we’re looking at the Samsung T5 Portable SSD. It’s about the size of a credit card and offers full USB 3.1 Gen 2 connectivity, but does real-world performance match on-paper promise?


Specifications

  • Current Price: $92.79 (250GB), $89.99 (500GB), $169.99 (1TB), $279.99 (2TB)
  • Capacities: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Interface: USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps), backwards compatibility
  • Dimensions: (WxHxD):74 x 57.3 x 10.5 mm
  • Weight: 51 g
  • Read Speed: Up to 540 MB/s
  • Write Speed: Up to 520 MB/s
  • UASP Mode: Supported
  • Encryption: AES 256-bit hardware encryption
  • Security: Samsung Portable SSD Software
  • Certification: CE, BSMI, KC, VCCI, C-tick, FCC, IC, UL, TUV, CB
  • RoHS Compliance: RoHS2
  • Warranty: Limited 3-year

Samsung T5 Portable SSD: A Closer Look

Samsung is no strangers to portable SSD. Their T-line has been pushing the boundaries of portable speed since its introduction with the T1. At that time, MMORPG wasn’t reviewing hardware nearly so much as we are today, so we missed out on trying prior models. When the opportunity arose last month for us to take a look at the most recent T5, I jumped at the opportunity.

One of the biggest issues plaguing gamers today is storage space. With AAA games now ofter surpassing 100GB, it comes at a premium. Combined with free monthly games from PlayStation Plus and Xbox Games Pass and the paltry 500GB to 1TB stock hard drives quickly find themselves full. As someone who hates having to delete games I’m not done with, it drives me batty. If you have a data cap, it becomes an even bigger problem once it comes time to redownload those games.

Long ago, I discovered the value of external storage. I run external backups on my PCs and an external hard drive on my game console. In exploring that, though, I also figured out that external drives aren’t all created equally. A Kingston drive, which was actually remarkably expensive at the time, only lasted three months before the heat of being near the console destroyed it (or so it seemed). Others have proven more reliable but do nothing for load times.

Enter the T5. Unlike many of the external drives on the market, the T5 is a solid-state drive. It uses the USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) standard which promises to allow full read and write speeds aligned with internal SSDs you’d use on a gaming PC. In fact, the spec sheet lists a transfer speed of 540 MB/s when connected over Gen 2. It’s backwards compatible, so if you don’t have the latest port it will still work but obviously won’t be able to achieve those peak speeds afforded with the extra connection bandwidth. It’s also available in capacities of 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB.

The prices have also dropped dramatically since the T5’s first release in 2017. The 1TB version we were sent can be had for only $169.99, a steep reduction from the original $399 launch price. The 2TB version, which originally retailed for $799 is now only $279. This brings the cost per gigabyte down to $0.14 - 0.18, which is remarkably good.

Between the size and speed, the T5 looks like a good fit for gamers, content creators, and everyone in between. Let’s take a look at how it performed in our tests.

Benchmark Testing

For our testing, we ran the drive through our usual battery of assessments, which includes synthetics, file transfers, and game load times. The majority of our PC testing was done over a Gen 2 connection, as designed, but I did run a quick speed test over a Gen 1 port to see what kind of impact backwards compatibility would have on the drive. Unlike other SSD reviews we’ve completed, the game load testing was done using an Xbox One X as use with game console’s is how Samsung positioned it to us and how we planned to use it.

Since the T5 is the first external SSD I’ve reviewed for the site, I’ll be comparing it against an assortment of internal SSDs. If the Gen 2 speed claims hold true, there should be little if any discernable difference.

The first test we conduct is ATTO Disk Benchmark. It assesses sequential read and write performance to provide a theoretical best-case scenario. Since many manufacturers use ATTO to determine their promised speeds, it makes for a useful benchmark to crosscheck manufacturer's claims.

The performance on the T5 is impressive and offers best-case speeds that are competitive with internal SSDs.

When this same test was ran using a USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, speeds experience a notable drop. Sequential read speeds when ran with backwards compatibility came in a 412 MB/s read and 367 MB/s write.

Next, we turn to CrystalDiskMark. Unlike ATTO, CDM assesses both sequential and random performance at multiple levels. CDM tends to be a bit harder on drives in its sequential testing, so we typically see speeds drop across the board.

If ATTO provides the “best case” scenario, CDM provides us with the worst in its 4KQ1T1 tests. These benchmarks assess random access with a Queue depth of one, meaning the drive in unable to prepare for future bits of data to increase its speed. This is a valuable assessment to explore both ends of the spectrum. As the Queue depth increases to 8 and 32 bits, speeds increase to provide us a more realistic approximation of the kind of performance we’ll see on a day to day basis.

Again, we see the Samsung T5 delivers very competitive speeds. It does fall slightly below internal drives on sequentials but considering that we’re connecting over USB, it’s quite impressive. Random speeds to take a bit of a drop in these tests, however.

Moving onto our file transfer test, we track speeds when transferring a 20.9GB Skyrim directory loaded up with mods and addons. In this test, we see an initial burst of speed followed by an evening out process. This directory is large enough to burn out most cache stores and sufficiently heat the drive up enough to elicit thermal throttling.

Despite the size of the drive, the T5 did quite well here. It wasn’t the fastest drive but it did do well with the USB Gen 2 connection. Impressively, it thoroughly beat the Kingston UV900.

Finally, we come to the most interesting and meaningful of the tests. In a direct comparison against my Western Digital My Passport 2TB external hard drive, the Samsung T5 completely changed the early game loading experience. The tests here compare the first full load from the main menu (or the end of the final splash screen in GTA V) to being dropped into the game.

The results speak for themselves. The biggest improvement was found in Red Dead Redemption which more than cut load times in half. All of the four games saw big improvements that approached, and certainly felt like, they cut load times in half. It’s a difference you can feel, similar to loading Windows onto and SSD for the first time.

What’s not recorded here is that the entire startup sequence is improved. Splash screens, disclaimers, everything. So, even though that load time may not be half for some of the tested games, the total wait time was more than halved across the board.

Final Thoughts

While the games I was able to test with were limited and the benefits of SSD storage vary game to game, the T5 provided big results where it mattered most: gaming. As we approach the end of the generation, load times are becoming more painful than ever. If you’re ready to give your console new life, this is a great way to accomplish it.

Pros

  • Performance similar to internal SSDs (Over Gen 2)
  • Small, very portable
  • Built-in encryption for sensitive data
  • Big improvement to game load times

Cons

  • Still falls a bit behind internal SSDs
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.
Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight