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Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe External SSD Review: Extreme Speed, Lower Price

If you're after Thunderbolt 3 speed without paying top dollar, this drive delivers.

(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

Plugable’s new Thunderbolt 3 NVMe external SSD offers great performance at a price undercuts the competition by hundreds of dollars. It's an excellent value, but there are some compromises that come with that cheaper price tag.

For

  • High-performance
  • Good looks and cooling
  • Competitive pricing
  • Up to 2TB capacities

Against

  • Short integrated cable

High-bit-rate video consumes large amounts of space pretty quickly and make getting your video on and off your storage a time-consuming task without the right gear. You'll have to pay a bit more for it up front, but the faster speeds from pricier products like the Plugable TB3 NVMe external can help reduce the time you spend waiting and help you direct that time towards doing actual work.

External storage can be rather boring to some, but it's an exciting topic for those who actually need it -- and need it to be fast. While I’ve  tested my fair share of external storage devices, most aren't as fast as this drive from Plugable.

Your typical external HDD can hit speeds of 130 MBps. And SATA-based external SSDs can edge over the 500 MBps mark. But with a PCIe Gen 3 x4 link directly to the CPU, Plugable’s new Thunderbolt 3 external NVMe SSDs can hit performance figures of up 2.8 GBps read and over 2 GBps write. And the Plugable drive come competitively priced to some of the other high-end storage devices on the market.

For basic backup tasks, most people just go straight for whatever the cheapest price per GB is at the time. For those looking for a bit more speed, SATA SSDs externals offer a big bump. But, for those who have a need for speed and want something to keep up with their internal NVMe SSDs for professional workflows, Thunderbolt 3 external SSDs are the way to go -- so long as the devices you use also have the requisite port.

There is a solid market for those who look to SSD-based externals to store and transfer their work data. And for videographers who constantly capture, transfer, and edit large files on a daily basis, there are serious benefits to be had by opting for the speediest portable external storage option available. Those users are the target market for this drive.

 

Specifications

ProductPlugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe 480GBPlugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe 1TBPlugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe 2TB
Pricing$199.99 $299.99 $499.99
Capacity (User / Raw)480GB / 512GB1024GB / 1024GB2048GB / 2048GB
Interface / ProtocolThunderbolt 3 / NVMe 1.3Thunderbolt 3 / NVMe 1.3Thunderbolt 3 / NVMe 1.3
Included Cable(s)Integrated 7″ / 18cm cableIntegrated 7″ / 18cm cableIntegrated 7″ / 18cm cable
Sequential Read2,400 MBps2,800 MBps2,800 MBps
Sequential Write1,800 MBps1,800 MBps1,800 MBps
Interface ControllerIntel DSL6340Intel DSL6340Intel DSL6340
NAND ControllerPhison E12Phison E12Phison E12
DRAMDDR4DDR4DDR4
Storage MediaKioxia 64L TLCKioxia 64L TLCKioxia 64L TLC
Default File SystemexFATexFATexFAT
PowerBus-poweredBus-poweredBus-powered
SecurityN/AN/AN/A
Dimensions (L x W x H)108 x 65 x 9mm108 x 65 x 9mm108 x 65 x 9mm
Weight170g170g170g
Endurance (TBW)800 TB1600 TB3200 TB
Part NumberTBT3-NVME480TBT3-NVME1TBTBT3-NVME2TB
Warranty3-Years3-Years3-Years

Features

Plugable’s TB3 NVMe comes in capacities of 480GB, 1TB, and 2TB, making it perfect for storing the latest high-quality video. The 1TB drive is capable of storing 155 minutes of ProRes 422 HQ 4K video or 175 minutes of DnXHR HQ 4K video,  and the 2TB model doubles that.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Priced between $200 and $500 depending on capacity, the Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe External SSD's pricing undercuts the Samsung X5, G-Technology G-Drive Mobile Pro, and a few other competitors, making it quite a value for its advertised specs. It also comes backed by a three-year warranty, which is slightly less than competitors but still fairly long.

Like its competitors, the Plugable drive is bus powered, so no extra cables are needed other than the integrated seven-inch Thunderbolt plug that comes tethered to the drive. Also like competing Thunderbolt 3 drives, this one will link up with the latest Thunderbolt 3 systems, but isn't compatible with USB. The drive comes preformatted as exFAT out of the box, so it is compatible with both Mac and PC, though our testing was completed while formatted as NTFS, to enable TRIM and for the sake of being consistent with other tests.

Closer Look

The device measures 108 x 65 x 9 mm and weighs in at 170 grams. The case is made of black anodized aluminum and aids in keeping the internal components safe and cool. It is also quite sleek looking, with cooling fins etched all around.

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Opened up, we can see that Plugable is using an Intel DSL6340 Thunderbolt 3 chip and a generic Phison E12 and Kioxia (formerly Toshiba) BiCS3 64L TLC NAND flash-based SSD. This is a pretty good all-around combo. 

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  • velocityg4
    Interesting but it's still cheaper to get an NVMe Thunderbolt 3 enclosure. Then install your own NVMe SSD. Especially so in the 1TB and 2TB brackets. It would be interesting to see how well those compare. Plus if they can keep an SSD within safe temps.
    Reply