Price (RRP): $167.90 – varies according to $AU vs $US exchange rate
Manufacturer: Silicon Power
When embarking on my review of the Silicon Power PC60 portable SSD, I was worried whether it could be anything more than the briefest of articles. Just a description and a report on speed. Easy. But it turned out that there was something quite unusual about this device.
Review: Silicon Power PC60 portable SSD
- International Website here.
- Price: A$167.90 – varies according to $AU vs $US exchange rate
- From: amazon.com.au
- Warranty: 3 years
- Country of Manufacture: Taiwan
- About: Silicon Power was founded in Taiwan in 2003 “by a group of enthusiastic data storage industry experts”. It now has four international branch offices and continues to specialise in various forms of solid state storage.
About the Silicon Power PC60 portable SSD
The Silicon Power PC60 portable SSD is a simple plug-in USB Solid State Drive. It’s available in four sizes: 240GB, 480GB, 960GB and 1.92GB. The review sample was 960GB.
This presents as a nice flat package. The case is a plastic square, 80mm on a side and 11mm thick. One corner has a cut out for securing it, or perhaps inserting a wrist strap. The company says that the Silicon Power PC60 portable SSD has a shock-resistant design which “can withstand minor drops and bumps”. It weighs precisely 45 grams, or 59.4 grams with the included cable, according to my scales.
It has a USB Type-C connector, rated at USB 3.2 Gen 2. The included 30cm cable is terminated on the other end with a USB Type-A plug. If you want to use a longer cable, remember that not all USB-A to USB-C cables are made equal. Most aftermarket ones are only USB 2.0 rated, which will not give you the hoped-for throughput.
The SSD comes pre-formatted in good old FAT32. That makes it maximally compatible with everything, and that’s mostly how I used it. If, however, you’re definitely a Mac-only person, or a Windows-only person, it’d be sensible to reformat it as Apple File System or NTFS respectively in order to take advantage of the relevant operating system’s advanced capabilities.
The Silicon Power PC60 is rated at write speeds of up to 500MB/s and read speeds of up to 540MB/s. Nice. Windows reported the capacity as 1,023,958,122,496 bytes or 953GB. Using 1024 as the divisor, I calculated 953.6GB. The Mac report it as 1.02TB, but that’s because Macs use 1,000 as the divisor for file and disk sizes. Whatever. It’s big.
Testing the Silicon Power PC60
As is my wont, I eschewed speed test apps in favour of ad hoc, real-world-like tests. The reasons:
- Ultimate throughput depends as much on the computer into which the storage device is plugged as it does on the device itself. Do we know for certain that the computer isn’t the bottleneck? Using well-established speed tests implies a degree of comparability that is likely more misleading than useful.
- Not that I would ever suggest that any company would ever do this, but the more widely used a test is, the more tempting it might be for market participants to optimise their devices for just that test. Of course, that would never, ever happen.
- And, as I belatedly realised, the Windows copy dialogue can itself be a quite interesting record of how a file transfer proceeds.
I used three sets of data for my tests:
- A single 3.72GB video file – which is getting close to the maximum able to be accommodated by a FAT32-formated storage device. This minimises interruptions for updating directory information.
- A folder containing two subfolders and 78 large video files. It has a total size of 45.4GB.
- A folder with lots of subfolders and many, many mostly small files. It has 123 subfolders and 1,880 files, amounting to 1.65GB in total.
The procedures was simple: Copy the file from computer SSD to the Silicon Power PC60, plugged in via USB 3.0. (See what I mean? None of my computers support USB 3.2 Gen 2.) Then copy it back again. Time it both ways and we’d have write and read speeds.
Problem was, my results initially made no sense.
Silicon Power PC60 and Mac
I thought I’d just use a current model Mac Mini for the test. SSD in the Mac, USB 3.0 rated connections, all ought to be fine. I copied the single 3.72GB file from the Mac to the Silicon Power PC60. Across it went in 14.75 seconds. That worked out at a nicely snappy 259MB/s. Copying it back took just a touch over 9 seconds, for 412MB/s.
Then it was time for the 45GB folder. That took nearly 37 minutes. Average speed: just 21.0MB/s. That’s what you’d expect with USB 2.0. Copying it back took less than two minutes, for a speed of 413MB/s. That was weird.
Oh, I thought, maybe it was the FAT32 SSD format. That’s a relatively primitive Microsoft format. I reformatted to Apple File System and copied the 45.2GB folder over again to the Silicon Power PC60 SSD. It took 35 minutes and 36 seconds: 21.8MB/s. Just the slightest of differences.
Time to move over to a Windows computer, since that shows a bit more about what’s going on.
Silicon Power PC60 and Windows
I started again with the 3.72GB file to make sure everything was working fine. This ran very slightly faster than with the Mac: 14.11 seconds for a speed of 271MB/s. Copying back, the file flew from the Silicon Power PC60 to the SSD in the Windows computer in eight and a half seconds. That’s 449MB/s.
Then I copied the big folder. Several times. The time was between 17:49 and 20:35, or between 37.7MB/s and 43.5MB/s. The Windows copy dialog was instructive. Here are three screen shots of what was going on:
At times the copy was going fast – typically almost 300MB/s – and at other times slowly – usually around 19MB/s, sometimes as low as 5MB/s.
Was there something wrong with the Windows computer (and the Mac)? So I repeated with two other drives. One was an old 128GB SSD that used to be my desktop C: drive some years ago, which I’d popped into a USB 3.0 casing. The other was a fairly recent LaCie USB Type-C 1TB hard drive. Both ran much slower than the peak speed of the Silicon Power PC60, but were consistent throughout the copy for much snappier performance. The computer copied the large folder to the SSD in 4:42 and to the LaCie in 6:06.66 (ooh, spooky!). That is, they ran at 165MB/s and 127MB/s. Here are screenshots of the Windows copy dialogs for them:
Check, check and quadruple check
I spent a lot of time copying files and folders back and forth, trying to get a sense of what was going on. Copying from the PC60 to a computer was super fast. Copying large collections of data to it usually resulted in a pulsing pattern – although with a different arrangement of the pulses each time, as you can see from the screen shots above. Most of the time the single 3.72GB file copy was consistently fast, but one time, less than halfway through the copy, it went from fast to slow, and remained there for the rest of the copy:
In that case, instead of the usual 14+ seconds, the copy took 2 minutes and 22 seconds! That’s around 27MB/s.
I guess I should mention the other folder copy, the one with the 1,880 files. The time taken was 39.15 seconds to copy from the Windows computer to the Silicon Power PC60, for 43.3MB/s (copying to the LaCie drive was almost identical). All that file opening and closing takes time. Copying it back to the Windows computer from the Silicon Power PC60 took 26.2 seconds (64.6MB/s), which was slower than the 18.76 seconds it took to copy it from the hard drive (90.3MB/s). Here are the write characteristics:
Gadgetguy’s Take – Great capacity, good price, variable speed
The Silicon Power PC60 packs a lot of capacity into a slim case that is very easily pocketable. The weird pulsing of write speed – somewhat reminiscent of what you see with a lot of USB memory sticks – was disconcerting. I would not recommend that you use this SSD to transfer large collections of large files. You won’t know whether the copy will take a modest time, or twenty times that modest time. But for carrying large quantities of music or other data with you, the Silicon Power PC60 SSD is brilliant.