Samsung X5: Super-fast storage

Samsung's new portable X5 solid-state drive (SSD) is lightning-fast.

It is not justbecause it connects to other computers via a Thunderbolt 3 port. The X5 might even be faster than the SSDs in many computers because, like the best-performing SSDs, it uses the NVMe interface. This interface is significantly faster than the Sata interface used in cheaper SSDs and hard drives.

The X5 has a sequential read speed of up to 2,800MB/s and a sequential write speed of up to 2,300MB/s.

Sequential speeds affect the time taken to copy a contiguous file, like a high-resolution video clip.

According to Samsung, the X5 takes just 12 seconds to transfer a 20GB 4K video file to a computer.

These speeds are not that far behind Samsung's best consumer SSD, the 970 Pro, which has a sequential read speed of up to 3,500MB/s and a sequential write speed of up to 2,700MB/s.

These theoretical speeds are much higher than the 540MB/s offered by last year's Samsung Portable SSD T5.

The new X5 is also physically larger than the T5. The former is roughly the size and weight of a small candy-bar phone while the latter is like a thick stack of credit cards.

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $559 (500GB), $999 (1TB, tested), $1,999 (2TB)

    INTERFACE: Thunderbolt 3

    WEIGHT: 150g

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

I like how the X5 looks. Inspired by a super car, it is glossy with streamlined curves. A slip-resistant bottom makes it easy to grip and less easily knocked off a desk. And even if you do swipe it off a desk, its magnesium alloy body is said to withstand a drop of up to 2m.

While the X5 and T5 seemingly use an identical USB Type-C socket to connect to a computer, there is a key difference. The X5 uses the Thunderbolt 3 interface, which has a bandwidth of 40Gbps compared with the T5's USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface (10Gbps). Higher bandwidth leads to faster data transfer speeds.

The caveat: Thunderbolt 3 is not compatible with the USB standard. Although you can physically plug the X5 into any USB Type-C port, it will not work unless that port supports Thunderbolt 3.

Thunderbolt 3 is not as widely adopted as USB Type-C, though premium notebooks, such as the Apple MacBook Pro and the HP Spectre, as well as top gaming laptops should be compatible with it.

In my test with the CrystalDiskMark benchmark, the X5 produces a sequential read speed of 2,652MB/s, which is close to its claimed speed. Its sequential write speed, however, was less impressive at 1,513MB/s.

Its random write performance, which determines the time taken to copy numerous small-sized files, is around 300MB/s, which is higher than the 200MB/s managed by the T5.

Given its high-end performance, the X5 is unsurprisingly pricey. My 1TB review set costs $999, which is about twice as expensive as the T5.

• Verdict: The X5's performance justifies its price, but its lack of backward compatibility means it is more suitable for professional users.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2018, with the headline 'Super-fast storage'. Print Edition | Subscribe