by Adam Armstrong

Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD (1TB) Review

The Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD (TBT3-NVME1TB) is a quick and easy way to add NVMe storage to one’s device. The portable drive is designed with those that need faster speeds in mind, including content creators and gamers. The Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD is offered in multiple capacities, however, we will be looking at the 1TB for this review.

By leveraging Thunderbolt 3 technology, Plugable is able to skip the SATA III interface and directly interface with the CPU via PCIe (as NVMe technology does). Of course, this is a step up from most portable drive technology that leverages USB 3.1 and USB-C ports. Plugable claims that users can see speeds as high as 2.4GB/s read and 1.8GB/s write with no external power source. The drive can offer higher speeds and lower latency than some on-board storage.

Coming with a 3-year warranty, the Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD 1TB can be picked up today for $300.

Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD (1TB) Specifications

Host Interface  Thunderbolt 3
USB-C without Thunderbolt 3 and 
​USB-A systems not supported
Capacity 1TB
Sequential read 2,400MB/s
Sequential write 1,800MB/s
OS Support macOS Sierra and later
​Windows 10, 8.1, 7

Design and Build

The Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD is a fairly small portable drive, about the size of the palm of one’s hand. It is built out of black aluminum giving the device some heft preventing damage in the case of a drop. The Thunderbolt 3 cable is integrated which is good that it can’t be lost accidently but if something happens to it the drive is no longer usable without repair. The top of the device has Plugable branding, the Thunderbolt logo, and an LED light to indicate use. The sides are built to dissipate heat.

The bottom of the device has information such as certifications, model number, and a QR code that takes those that scan it to the product page. 

Performance

To test the performance of the Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD we ran BlackMagic on a current generation MacBook Air and leveraged a HP Zbook G6 15” for Windows testing.

On BlackMagic the drive hit nearly what it quoted to hit with 2,303MB/s read and 1,688MB/s write.

For IOMeter we tested the Plugable against the Samsung X5, another portable NVMe SSD that leverages Thunderbolt 3 all at a QD1 load. When looking at its 2MB sequential speeds the Plugable was able to hit 1,339MB/s read and 714MB/s write compared to the X5’s 1.928GB/s read and 1.013GB/s write. For 2MB random speeds we saw the Plugable with 1,280MB/s read and 682MB/s write compared to the X5’s 1.225GB/s read and 1.055GB/s write. 

For Random 4K the Plugable was able to hit 9,582 IOPS read and 1,405 IOPS write compared to the X5’s 10,732 IOPS read and 23,592 IOPS write. It is worth noting that the Samsung SSD does come in at about 50% more expensive than the Plugable, looking at today's pricing.

Conclusion

The Plugable Thunderbolt 3 (TBT3-NVME1TB) is a portable NVMe SSD that has an emphasis on performance. The drive is designed for those that need the most back for their buck for their given fields. The performance is delivered through the integrated Thunderbolt 3 cable. The device is sturdy enough to take a few bumps and bangs along the way, but if something happens to the cable, it is done for. 

For performance we compared it to the only other NVMe portable drive that leverages Thunderbolt 3 we’ve tested so far, the Samsung X5. The Plugable was able to put up some impressive numbers including 2.3GB/s read and 1.7GB/s write in BlackMagic, sequential 2MB was 1.3GB/s read and 714MB/s write, random 2MB saw 1.3GB/s read and 682MB/s write. Random 4K gave us 9,582 IOPS read and 1,405 IOPS write. The X5 scored better in every category but costs 1.5x as much as the Plugable.

The Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD (1TB) is a great portable drive for those that need a lot of speed for a good price. The issues to be aware of is that the cable is integrated and would render the device useless if damaged, and its lack of support for USB-C without Thunderbolt. 

Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD at Amazon

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