Samsung T3 portable SSD review: better than ever

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SSDs are awesome, and so is USB-C. What could be better than a combination of the two? That’s the idea behind the Samsung T3, a portable SSD that operates over the USB 3.1 standard for extremely file transfers and access times. We liked the formula with the initial Samsung T1, so let’s see what new features the T3 brings to the table!


Pros

  • Bonafide SSD speeds
  • Super portable; plug and play
  • Works on PCs and Android
Cons

  • Expensive (£300 for 1TB)
  • Not as fast as internal SSDs
  • Cable remains unsightly

Summary and Score

score8-gif-200The Samsung T3 is a technological marvel, allowing extremely rapid access to full terabyte of data in a super-slim portable package. The inclusion of encryption and Android compatibility are nice bonus features too. It’s not cheap, but you certainly get what you pay for.

Support XSR: Buy for $494.48 from Amazon.com
 

Specifications & Design

  • Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Sequential Read Speed: Up to 450MB/s
  • Encryption: 256-bit AES
  • Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.8 x 1cm
  • Weight50 grams
  • Warranty: 3 years

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The Samsung T3 is sleek and stylish for a portable hard drive, with a two-tone plastic design in grey and black. It’s certainly larger than the average USB pen drive, but it’s still small enough to fit easily in a small pocket or sit safely in your bag. As it uses flash storage, you don’t have to treat it with kid gloves either; it should stand up to quite some abuse compared to a mechanical drive.


 

Benchmarks

The Samsung T3 will be going against some tough competition, including the value-focused Sandisk Z410 and enthusiast grade drives from Samsung and Corsair. That includes the Samsung 850 Evo, which we’ve now tested in both M.2 and 2.5-inch forms, and is coincidentally also the drive at the heart of the T3.

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We’ll be testing the Samsung T3 in our new test rig, which has a Core i5 6600K processor, 16GB of Crucial DDR4 RAM and runs Windows 10. We’re plugging into the USB 3.1 Type-A SuperSpeed port in the back.

Thanks to NZXT for providing the Manta case and Kraken X61 liquid cooler. Thanks to Samsung for providing the Evo 850 M.2 boot drive. Thanks to Zoostorm and Crucial for providing the DDR4 RAM.


CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark has been one of my favourite benchmarks for evaluating storage speeds for a while now, thanks to its varied incompressible workload and extremely readable results. Here’s the 3.0.3 x64 version of the benchmark; all results are in MB/s.

CDM 3 Read Seq 512K 4K 4K QD32
Samsung T3 386 351 33 35
Sandisk Z410 508 357 13 146
Samsung 850 Evo M.2 502 447 45 368
Samsung 850 Evo 513 472 38 408
Samsung 840 Evo 515 473 35 397
Corsair Neutron GTX 450 376 27 328
CDM 3 Write Seq 512K 4K 4K QD32
Samsung T3 357 352 69 77
Sandisk Z410 407 355 97 250
Samsung 850 Evo M.2 474 394 113 316
Samsung 850 Evo 504 479 68 352
Samsung 840 Evo 500 390 86 313
Corsair Neutron GTX 480 468 69 158

Screenshot 2016-06-12 00.15.22

We can see that the T3 is not quite as fast as Samsung claim, hitting 386 MB/s in its fastest result, the sequential read test. Write speeds are pretty strong throughout, but the poorest performance comes as the queue depth increases. This isn’t too surprising, given that delays due to the USB connection will be compounded here.


AS SSD Benchmark

AS SSD is another benchmarking tool quite similar to CrystalDiskMark, which uses predominantly incompressible data across a range of workloads including sequential tests, random performance and access times. First three numbers are MB/s and access time is in ms.

AS SSD Read Seq 4K 4K QD64 Acc. Time Score
Samsung T3 345 24 32 0.100 91
Sandisk Z410 501 11 145 0.045 206
Samsung 850 Evo M.2 493 40 328 0.093 417
Samsung 850 Evo 516 34 382 0.059 467
Samsung 840 Evo 513 32 330 0.059 413
Corsair Neutron GTX 507 25 334 0.068 N/A
AS SSD Write Seq 4K 4K QD64 Acc. Time Score
Samsung T3 367 56 71 0.055 163
Sandisk Z410 407 78 215 0.237 333
Samsung 850 Evo M.2 475 95 251 0.075 393
Samsung 850 Evo 497 66 299 0.051 415
Samsung 840 Evo 497 69 207 0.054 326
Corsair Neutron GTX 473 62 295 0.062 N/A

Screenshot 2016-06-12 00.04.14

The Samsung T3 shows again fairly decent performance given that it’s connected over SSD, with scores within 150 MB/s of our fastest drives. The access times are significantly higher though, and again we see a very poor result in the higher queue depths compared to the other drives. This indicates that performance will worsen considerably when multiple file operations are queued (like a traditional hard drive).


ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO produces rather less comprehensible results than CrystalDiskMark, but still provides a good test of compressible data transfer. It also provides a lot of data points; I’ve selected six from across the range. Settings were the default: 256MB total length and queue depth of 4, testing from 1KB to 8MB. All results are in MB/s.

Atto Read 1KB 4KB 64KB 256KB 1MB 8MB
Samsung T3 18 67 329 371 377 404
Sandisk Z410 78 247 518 531 536 533
Samsung 850 Evo M.2 83 286 537 553 552 553
Samsung 850 Evo 80 269 538 551 558 558
Samsung 840 Evo 94 280 535 551 555 555
Corsair Neutron GTX 15 61 336 452 530 540
Atto Write 1KB 4KB 64KB 256KB 1MB 8MB
Samsung T3 20 71 315 365 366 388
Sandisk Z410 69 184 419 423 426 428
Samsung 850 Evo M.2 79 251 510 526 525 525
Samsung 850 Evo 83 255 519 529 534 534
Samsung 840 Evo 81 260 515 527 533 534
Corsair Neutron GTX 15 142 474 470 493 498

Screenshot 2016-06-12 00.08.42

Trends continue in the ATTO benchmark, with the drive showing decent performance at high block sizes, and worse performance at lower sizes. This is unsurprising for a USB-connected drive, even for an SSD.


HD Tune Pro

We conclude with HD Tune Pro, a benchmark which produces three scores for average read speed, read access time, and burst read rate.

HD Tune Pro 5.50 Read Average Access Time Burst Rate
Samsung T3 269 MB/s 0.090 ms 171 MB/s
Sandisk Z410 358 MB/s 0.035 ms 140 MB/s
Samsung 850 Evo M.2 321 MB/s 0.087 ms 221 MB/s
Samsung 850 Evo 370 MB/s 0.044 ms 250 MB/s
Samsung 840 Evo 358 MB/s 0.041 ms 231 MB/s
Corsair Neutron GTX 340 MB/s 0.059 ms 231 MB/s

Screenshot 2016-06-11 23.59.38

The average speed is again some distance behind the internal SSDs we’ve tested, and there’s a bit more variance in that speed as well as you can see by the jagged graph. The access time is also on the high side.


 

Wrap-up

The Samsung T3 provides a pretty strong account of itself in our tests, showing that it can still deliver good performance even if it’s a bit slower than an internal drive. For a supremely portable drive that works on Windows, Mac and Android, that’s no mean feat. If you can afford the high price, the T3 certainly delivers.

Support XSR: Buy for $494.48 from Amazon.com

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About William Judd

Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @wsjudd or on G+.

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