After the first look I published last week of the Plugable NVMe Thunderbolt3 external SSD, now I have my full review and speed tests. I tested three ways: in exFAT formatting (as it comes from the factory), in HFS+ (which Apple likes to call “Mac OS Extended”) and in the latest and greatest APFS (Apple File System), which the newest is most appropriate for flash drives and SSDs with modern versions of macOS. Ahead you’ll see the results with each, with other comments about the SSD and the pros & cons of each formatting system.
Advantages of SSDs over mechanical drives
Compared to the magnetic, mechanical drives with which many of us first learned to use computers, SSDs (solid state drives) are typically more resistant to physical shock, generate less heat, run silently, and have quicker access time and lower latency. Although SSDs are still expensive per GB or TB than mechanical drives, they have fortunately become quite affordable compared to before.
A brief comparison of three disk formats
Although in recent history, we have had formats including FAT12, FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS, in this section I’ll briefly compare exFAT, HFS+ and APFS.
- exFAT (Extensible File Allocation Table) is a file system introduced by Microsoft in 2006 and optimized for flash memory such as USB flash drives and SD cards. macOS began supporting exFAT starting with 10.6.5. For general use, that makes exFAT an ideal lingua franca for external drives which need to be moved around manually (aka “sneaker net”) between macOS and Windows computers. Unfortunately, popular profesional video editing systems like DaVinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro CC used in a macOS environment (or even ProRes in a Windows environment) are known to have problems with exFAT. The Plugable NVMe Thunerbolt3 SSD external SSDs come from the factory formatted with exFAT, but can be easily reformatted to any of the below.
- HFS Plus or HFS+ (with or without journaling) is a file system developed by Apple Inc. It replaced the Hierarchical File System (HFS) as the primary file system of Apple computers with the 1998 release of Mac OS 8.1. HFS+ continued as the primary Mac OS X file system until it was itself replaced with the release of the Apple File System (APFS) with macOS High Sierra in 2017. The use of HFS+ is possible with Windows computers only by adding optional, third-party software to Windows.
- Apple File System (APFS) is a file system for macOS High Sierra (10.13) and later, iOS 10.3 and later, tvOS 10.2 and later, and watchOS 3.2 and later, developed and deployed by Apple Inc. APFS was designed with the goal to fix the main problems of HFS+. The use of APFS is possible with Windows computers only by adding optional, third-party software to Windows.
Speed tests with three different formatting systems
Below are speed tests done with the same Plugable NVMe Thunderbolt3 SSD unit supplied by the manufacturer. We thank Blackmagic Design for the free Disk Speed Test for video use, and to Memo Sauceda who fortunately has a MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt3.
Above, with exFAT (as the drive arrived from the factory) connected to macOS.
Above, with HFS+ journaled connected to macOS.
Above, with APFS connected to macOS.
Although they vary, all measurements are extraordinary. In the past, this type of performance would have required a much more costly RAID of mechanical disks, which would be much more complex, noisy and require much more power.
Conclusions and pricing
I am impressed with the Plugable NVMe Thunerbolt3 SSD external SSD for several reasons: build quality, the fact that it is silent, bus-powered (no external electricity required), speed and cool-temperature running. Hopefully, it will be just as reliable as other SSDs I have used. The Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe External SSD is available now for $299 for the 1 TB version and US$$499 for the 2 TB version (Amazon link) with a launch discount of $50 off the 1TB drive, and $100 off the 2TB drive.
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