What external storage should be: Samsung’s T1 Portable SSD reviewed
4.6Overall Score
Price (RRP): $269 (starting price): 250GB for $269, 500GB for $429, and 1TB for $799; Manufacturer: Samsung

Most of us rely on a USB drive of some form or another, but they’re not always the fastest. You can’t say that about Samsung’s portable solid-state drive, the T1, because it’s the fastest external we’ve ever seen.

Features and performance

External drives are almost always a hard drive in a box with a USB connector on one end, and a focus on plenty of megabytes and gigabytes for those bits and bobs you want stored, but a new type of device from Samsung isn’t focusing on storage size specifically, but rather storage speed.

That’s the point of the T1, one of the company’s first efforts in the world of external solid state drives, and one of the first we’ve ever seen.

It isn’t Samsung’s first take on the external drive market, mind you, as it has been there for some time, building and selling numerous external drives, not to mention the sheer volumes of internal drives and flash memory Samsung produces and sells.

But this time, the focus isn’t on a drive with a moving part inside a casing. Rather, it’s on a similar sort of memory the company uses in its internal solid state drives put inside one of those external cases it might choose to use for a notebook.

Essentially, it’s a solid state drive you use on the outside of a computer.

Why would you choose to use this over a conventional hard drive?

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There are a few reasons, but speed and size would rank at the very top, as a drive with no moving parts consisting of super-speedy flash memory would make the external drive very fast, while the size also plays into it.

With no moving parts and the drive consisting of a slim bit of silicon, Samsung can make the T1 trim, reducing the fat and putting the conventional external drive not just on a diet, but on notice, because the T1 is what drives can be when there’s not much more to them beyond storage.

Take the Samsung T1 out of its box and you’ll see what we mean.

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Looking at the T1, there’s not much to it, unless you’re used to little black boxes with softened edges barely weighing a thing, which we’re not.

Thirty (30) grams is what this weighs in at, far less than the 258 gram GDrive Mobile we’re normally carrying around, and with a smaller size, too.

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You can’t even compare the drives, with the Samsung T1 more like a thumb drive than an external hard drive, and marginally bigger than the Lexar thumb drive we’re usually reliant on.

That being said, the weight between the two can’t be far off, and we wonder if Samsung had room to shave off some plastic in the T1, as it more or less just feels like a light bit of plastic making up the room because of the size of the USB 3.0 plug.

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Interestingly, the weight of the T1 is so low, it manages to feel lighter than the shot USB 3.0 cable Samsung includes in the box, and weighs less than the tiny manual included in the box.

If anything, this is the lightest supply of 500GB we’ve ever seen. But if that’s not enough to impress you, don’t worry, because the speed will.

Really, that’s the feature you’re buying the Samsung T1 for, because it is literally a solid state drive inside of a small container, and it’s smaller than Samsung’s own solid state components.

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Plugged in, we tried moving 2GB of data and found it was handled in around four seconds.

Just think about that: four seconds is all it take to move over two gigabytes of data. Four. Not even fix.

As a comparison, our fastest external drive is the GDrive Mobile, and over USB 3.0, that takes it a little over 20 seconds, or closer to 21. That might not seem like a big issue, but when you’re talking about moving massive files, or even saving directly to a drive, Samsung’s solid-state T1 portable drive shows its speed easily, with a haste no other external drive can match.

To put it simply, the Samsung T1 is mind-blowing.

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Running Blackmagic’s benchmarking disk speed checker, we’re seeing very SSD-like speeds on offer, as the T1 turns out writing speeds of 405MB per second compared to the 28MB per second of our GDrive, and of 35MB per second for a Lexar 32GB thumb drive.

Even the Apple Fusion Drive inside our iMac can’t compete, and with speeds of around 235MB per second, the Samsung external SSD is almost twice as fast as what our iMac can do.

Yikes.

Our GDrive just can't keep up.

Our GDrive just can’t keep up.

Overall, it’s hard not to be impressed with what Samsung has built in its T1 external drive, with the company taking its already established foothold in the solid-state drive market and just making it a little more useful for everyone else, and by “everyone else” we mean anyone who wants an external drive, which is pretty much everyone out there.

But there are three things we noticed about the T1 that have to be acknowledged: setup, connections, and price.

First, the setup, and while regular external drives allow you to take the drive out and start using it, backing up until your heart and mind are content, the T1 SSD requires you to go through an app before you can do anything.

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It’s not a thoroughly complicated or difficult app, mind you, with compatibility offered for both a Mac and Windows PC, and the program asking you to name your new external drive and if you want some password security on it, formatting the drive for those specifics, usually to ExFat, which is a format we approve of since it will be compatible with both Windows and Mac for files over 4GB.

That being said, once you’ve gone through the setup, the drive is good to go, and ready to be loaded with files.

You’ll also find a small app installed on your computer whether you like it or not, activating when the drive is plugged in, and allowing you to see the space offered by the drive, serial number, and even if you want to add that extra layer of security with a password.

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Interestingly, the setup is easiest on a PC, which just works right off the bat, while the Mac version not only requires an extra not included driver, but also Samsung’s app. Once the app is loaded on either, you’ll find you can set the drive up, and even tie a password to it, which every Windows machine should be able to load the software of easily, while a different Mac (different because you didn’t set the drive up on that computer) will need to load the extra drivers.

That said, it’s pretty seamless and simple to use, and you can access the drive on either operating system once the password is in place, just don’t expect to look at a password protected Samsung T1 SSD on any other operating system, as you news that app to make it work.

Next up is connections, or more specifically, “connection”.

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Just like many an external drive, the only way to talk to the Samsung T1 is through the included short USB 3.0 connector, which is a perfect fit not just because it’s small and light, but because it even manages to outweigh the drive itself.

That being said, we’d have liked to see a USB Type C cable in the box, as it would provide people with uber new computers a way of getting the super-fast solid-state portable an easier way to get the drive plugged into their machine rather than going through a converter.

It stands to reason that Samsung will probably market this to the people who don’t mind spending on super new technology, and those are likely the same people who are spending big on devices like the Apple MacBook and Chromebook Pixel, both with the USB Type C connector.

Granted, the USB 3.0 connector is immensely useful, and fairly standard too, but given that the T1 feels like it was engineered for people with new ultralight computers keen to carry as little weight with them as humanly possible, a Type C connector would have made sense.

Maybe in version 2.0. Maybe.

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Finally there’s the price, and this is both a positive and a negative.

We’ll start with the latter, because at $429, most won’t see the value.

Dead set, this external drive offers 500GB for the cost of what a 4TB external notebook drive offers, which is a very different capacity altogether. That’s enough to stop a lot of people in their tracks, simply because most people expect to get a lot for their dollar these days, not less.

Though for what it’s worth, we actually expected the Samsung T1 would cost closer to $699 when we started reviewing it, and that leads us to the positive marks.

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Simply put, it’s a tremendous value for what you’re getting, amount to one of the smallest, lightest, and fastest drives you’ll ever see, because it is literally one of Samsung’s solid-state drives made portable.

That makes it super fast and super reliable, and that weight — or lack thereof — is just staggering.

So while you might baulk at the $429 tag price and go “nah, that’s not a value”, it’s more or less a first reaction, because the speed and quality provided outweigh that dollar-per-gig value.

Size differences between the Samsung SSD external portable and a conventional external portable.

Size differences between the Samsung SSD external portable and a conventional external portable.

Conclusion

While the $429 price might seem like a lot, especially in comparison to standard portable hard drives which can provide as much as 4TB — six times the storage — for roughly the same price, you can’t go past the speed, size, and weight of Samsung’s T1 portable solid state drive.

And if you can, you’re from the future, that’s all there is to it.

Samsung’s T1 is just simply amazing, and if you like your peripherals impossibly light and so very fast, fast enough that even The Flash would have trouble keeping up, the T1 drive has to be checked out.

This is what external drives should be. Highly recommended.

What external storage should be: Samsung’s T1 Portable SSD reviewed
Price (RRP): $269 (starting price): 250GB for $269, 500GB for $429, and 1TB for $799; Manufacturer: Samsung
So small, so light — seriously, the adaptor feels like it weighs more than the drive; Very, very, very, very fast; Offers password protection;
Expensive for the amount of storage on offer; No USB Type-C connector in the box; Requires an app to set up the drive; Mac setup requires a little extra care; Password protected drive will only work on an operating system the app has been designed to work with, which means Mac and Windows;
Overall
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4.6Overall Score
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