by Josh Shaman

OWC Envoy Pro EX Review

The OWC Envoy Pro EX is a USB 3.0 bus-powered portable storage device that offers capacities up to 480GB and is pre-formatted and primarily designed for Apple systems, though PC users can reformat and use the drive as well. The OWC Envoy Pro is the bare unit, while the EX models add SSD storage using OWC's Aura 6G SSDs. OWC's intent when they engineered the Envoy Pro EX was to create storage for the MacBook family that is ultra-portable, high-performance and protected from potential user-damage. The Envoy Pro EX meets those criteria: it can easily fit in a pocket, it offers SSD memory for superior speed compared to HDD-based portable drives, and in using SSD the device has no moving parts and is safe from physical damage in its anodized aluminum body.

OWC's Envoy Pro EX offers a solution to those users who simply require a high performance option to store files that get accessed on multiple machines or as supplemental storage for those on MacBooks with limited internal storage. Certainly bulk storage options are abound that are based around hard drives, but those of course have slower access speeds, may not travel as well and are much bulkier than the very slim Envoy Pro EX. 

OWC pricing for The OWC Envoy Pro (0TB) is $79.99, Envoy Pro EX 240GB is $319.99 and Envoy Pro EX 480GB is $599.99. The Envoy Pro EX comes with a three year warranty that features a 48-hour turnaround time, and to add an even greater sense of security, OWC provides one free year of Tier-1 data recovery in the event of data loss.

OWC Envoy Pro EX Specifications

  • High-performance ASMedia 1053e chipset
  • USB 3.0 interface
  • Features
    • Bus-powered via USB 3.0 port (no AC adapter required)
    • Anodized aluminum finish
    • Fanless operation
    • Non-skid rubber feet
  • System Requirements
    • Mac Requirements: Mac OS 10.3 or later and an available and supported USB 3.0 port
    • PC Requirements: Windows XP or later and an available and supported USB 3.0 port
    • Linux Requirements: Linux OS versions and an available and supported USB 3.0 port
  • Environmental (Operating): 32°F (0°C) to 158°F Temperature (70°C)
  • Environmental (Non-Operating): -67°F (-55°C) to 302°F (150°C)
  • Acoustics: Idle (Typical) 0.0 bels, Seek (Typical) 0.0 bels
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 2.125" (53.98mm) x 4.5" (114.3mm) x 11.11 (0.4375mm)
  • Enclosure Weight (no accessories): 3.8 ounces
  • 3 Year OWC warranty and built in USA

Design and Build

The OWC Envoy Pro EX has an extremely rigid construction that feels strong enough to hold up to substantial physical impact. The design mimics that of the Apple MacBook family making it a perfect pair. The top of the ultra-portable Envoy Pro EX is all silver as is the rest of the body. The front features an LED indicator showing light blue when the device has power, and the back of the Envoy Pro EX houses the USB 3.0 port. Flipping over the Envoy Pro EX, the bottom has the product labeling and the rubber feet that grip the drive to a surface. OWC also includes a nice carrying pouch for when the Envoy Pro EX is in transit. Overall the design is quite elegant and is one of the best looking portable storage drives we've had come through the lab. 

It's worth noting that users won't be able to use the OWC Envoy Pro EX with USB 2.0; only USB 3.0. The OWC Envoy Pro EX doesn't support USB 2.0, nor does OWC recommend using it. This may be due to a lack of ability for the USB 2.0 port to power the Envoy Pro EX.

Performance

We utilized our Consumer Testing Platform to measure transfer speeds from the OWC Envoy Pro EX 240GB using its USB 3.0 interface. We started with 2MB sequential read and write testing in which the Envoy Pro EX came in at 244.76MB/s and 239.56MB/s respectively, while random large-block transfers measured 240.67MB/s read and 239.63MB/s write. These figures essentially top off at the limitation of USB 3.0 - not a reflection on the Aura 6G SSD's native capabilities.

To compare the OWC Envoy Pro EX 240GB to other flash-based portable solutions on the market, we've also tested the Iomega SSD Flash External 128GB as well as the LaCie P'9223 Slim SSD 120GB using their USB 3.0 interface. We began with the Iomega by looking at 2MB sequential read and write testing. There, the Iomega SSD 128GB posted 204.62MB/s for reads and 120.49MB/s for writes. In our random large-block transfers, it measured 201.92MB/s read and 107.09MB/s write. These numbers show that the OWC Envoy Pro EX provided far better write rates and more throughput for read activity as well, but the Iomega marks are reasonable given that it has been out for a couple of years now.

We then moved on to the LaCie. For 2MB sequential read and write testing, the LaCie P'9223 Slim SSD 120GB came in at 285.50MB/s and 188.70MB/s, respectively. For random large-block transfers, the LaCie 120GB SSD had marks of 273.65MB/s for read activity and 189.14MB/s for write activity. The LaCie SSD performed with the most throughput for read activity of the 3 drives coming in just above the OWC Envoy Pro EX 240GB SSD, while the OWC 240GB produced the greatest write activity transfer rates.

Overall the OWC product performed very well, with nearly identical small and large block performance over both reads and writes. The complete picture is very respectable, offering steady performance in every case near the top scores possible from the USB 3.0 interface. 

Conclusion

The OWC Envoy Pro EX is a USB 3.0 portable drive that utilizes an SSD to deliver high-end performance in a very small footprint. Our test model has a capacity of 240GB though users can opt for 480GB as well. This capacity is delivered by OWC's own Aura 6G SSDs which are backed by OWC's 3 year warranty that includes 48-hour turn around and 1 year of data recovery. The drive is also smaller than many popular smart phones currently available on the market, and it features an extremely durable aluminum enclosure that happens to look great too.

There are only things to like when it comes to the design of the OWC Envoy Pro EX. The enclosure has some super strength, and it looks just like an Apple product that matches superbly to MacBooks. In fact, if it had a white USB 3.0 cable and lost its OWC sticker, you might even confuse it with an Apple design. On top of that, the size really enables users to take the Envoy Pro EX with them anywhere: from travel bags to purses to pockets, it's slim enough to fit. When it came to test performance, the OWC Envoy Pro EX 240GB provided solid throughput around 240MB/s for both read and write activity in 2MB sequential and random large-block testing which was definitely impressive, though top-end speeds are somewhat limited by its USB 3.0 interface. Even so, it's the best overall performance portable storage device we've tested to date. 

Pros

  • Premium design
  • Rigid enclosure
  • Extremely portable

Cons

  • USB 3.0 limits the Envoy from greater throughput

Bottom Line

The OWC Envoy Pro EX is a fantastic choice for users that require ultra-portability and performance coupled with a superb design when looking for expanded capacity on the go.

OWC Envoy Pro EX Product Page

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