A year ago, Samsung introduced the first of its portable SSD drives and it was called the Portable SSD T1. It was an extremely compact portable external hard disk drive that made use of the company’s cutting-edge V-NAND technology.
V-NAND or vertical NAND, is a relatively new type of memory that aims to overcome the problems of existing 2D planar NAND architecture. In order to create higher capacity drives, one way is to squeeze the cells in 2D planar NAND closer together. This causes problems because as cells are squeezed closer together, interference can occur. The alternative is to store more data per cell, but this results in decreased performance and also endurance. V-NAND overcomes these problems by simply stacking the cells on top of each other. It’s a simple and elegant solution.
Thanks to V-NAND, Samsung was the first to offer 2TB SSDs to consumers, in the form of their SSD 850 Pro and SSD 850 Evo. Now, they are taking that capacity point to their portable external drives, and have also given it upgrades in the process. The result is the new Portable SSD T3 that you see here.
In terms of design, the Samsung Portable SSD T3 is very comparable to the T1. Like the T1, the new T3 is incredibly compact, and only just about the size of a typical name card. If you are a stickler for details, the T3’s exact dimensions are: 74 x 58 x 10.5mm. Nitpickers will point out that the T3 is larger, but let us assure you, the differences are negligible. Both drives will easily slip into your pockets. The only difference insofar as design is concerned is that the T3’s chassis features metal components to improve heat dispersion.
That said, the same design issue that plagued the original T1 is present in the T3 as well. We are referring to the supplied USB cable. In fact, the supplied cable is even longer in the T3 and it makes the T3 more cumbersome to carry around. Like we mentioned before, an integrated retractable USB connector would have been a much more elegant solution.
Inside, the T3 uses components found on Samsung’s SSDs. There’s a MGX controller - the same found in the SSD 850 Evo - and four NAND packages which are made up of Samsung’s new high density 48-layer 256Gbit TLC V-NAND - that’s how they managed to cram 2TB into a drive the size of a name card.
While last year’s T1 only supported USB 3.0, the new T3 supports USB 3.1, but only up to 5Gbps. Another difference is that the T3 uses a USB Type-C connector, whereas last year’s model had a micro-USB connector. It doesn’t really affect performance and or usage (since the bundled cable still terminates in a USB Type A connector), but it’s something users should take note, especially if you forgot to bring the bundled cable along with you.
In terms of performance, the new T3 drive supports UASP just like its predecessor. UASP or (USB Attached SCSI) protocol is a standard aimed at improving USB 3.0 performance by transferring data and commands in separate "pipes" and executing multiple commands in parallel. So if you have a compatible system (most modern systems running Windows 8 and Mac OS X 10.8 and above should support UASP), one can expect better performance. Claimed sequential read and write performance is 450MB/s, which isn’t that far off from regular SATA-based SSDs which manage around 500MB/s.
Like the T1, the T3 has an emphasis on security and supports 256-bit AES encryption. The T3 is compatible with PCs, Macs and even Android devices. The first time you load the T3, it will prompt you to select a password. Thereafter, the security program will automatically run whenever you insert the T3. For Android devices, users will need to download the Samsung Portable SSD Android app from Google Play. In any case, without the password, users cannot access contents on the T3, and it’s worth noting at this point that the password cannot be reset on your own. If you happen to forget it, the only solution is to bring it down to the service center and have it reset by Samsung. Of course, doing so also means losing all your data. This all or nothing approach sounds a little drastic, but it’s actually the most secure.