At a glanceExpert’s Rating
ProsUp to 8TB of capacitySmall and ruggedFar faster than hard drivesConsOnly 5Gbps USB (400MBps)Silicon-like jacket attracts small dirtOur Verdict
Though not the swiftest of USB drives, the small, rugged Samsung T5 Evo compensates with up to 8TB of affordable capacity. If you’re not in a hurry you’ll love the space it provides for your stuff.
The Samsung T5 Evo is a ruggedized, good-looking portable SSD, but what sets it apart from the crowd is that it’s available with up to 8TB of capacity. That, folks, is a lot of space.
The T5 Evo is slow for a modern external SSD, though it beats a 2.5-inch hard drive for performance and the ability to withstand abuse by a country mile. If you’re looking for scintillating speed, look elsewhere. If you’re about capacity, look here.
Further reading: See our roundup of the best portable hard drives and SSDs to learn about competing products.
Design & Features
The T5 Evo is a USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) external SSD that measures approximately 3.75-inches long, by 0.6-inches thick, by 1.57-inches wide. That length includes a 0.4-inch metal loop at one end that you can use for attaching a lanyard or the like.
The drive weighs around 113g and feels solid in the hand. It’s also covered with a sure-grip, silicon-like jacket and is shock-rated up to 1500Gs should you lose your grip anyway.
Though it feels great in your hand, the soft sleeve did seem to attract small particulate matter with a vengeance.
Alas, the jacket also has a propensity for attracting schmutz, aka small particulate matter (see below). This picture was snapped after using a microfiber towel and canned air.
For aesthetic reasons and not to belabor the point, I cleaned up this next image of the T5 Evo’s non-business end.
Samsung was mum about the type of controller and bridge chip used in the T5 Evo (as per normal) — however, as you might suspect with a maximum capacity of 8TB, the NAND is 176-layer QLC.
QLC stands for Quad Level Cell and can hold 4 bits of data per cell. The reason QLC tends to be slow writing is that it takes a significant amount of error checking to make sure that the proper voltage level (one of 16!) has indeed been written.
Samsung also provides its Portable SSD software (first image below) so you can turn the T5 Evo’s native AES-256 encryption on and off and password protect it.
The more capable Samsung Magician software (second image below) also displays various information such as the amount of data that’s been written to the drive.
Samsung’s portable SSD app allows you to enable and disable secure encryption.
Note that the amount of data written shown below may seem high for a new drive, but we generally fill the drive at least once in our testing (the following image was taken before testing was complete). Normal usage will garner a far lower number.
Samsung’s more powerful Magician software provides information on drive usage.
Samsung warranties the T5 Evo for three years, which is a bit parsimonious compared to the five years Crucial and others offer on their external drives. It’s also deemed limited, which is par for the course, but the company didn’t provide any TBW rating (terabytes that my be written over the life of the drive) pertaining to the limits.
The company does state that physical damage is not covered. I don’t blame them. You’d have to run over this thing with a tank or incinerate it to kill it.
You’d have to run over this thing with a tank or incinerate it to kill it.
The T5 Evo is 5Gbps (Gen 1) USB 3.2 meaning that no matter what’s inside, it’s basically capped at 550MBps. The only other similar-performing drive to grace our latest test bed is Teamgroup’s C212 thumb-sized SSD.
The C212 is actually a 10Gbps drive that only reached Gen 2-appropriate speeds with smaller data sets, not the 64GB we use with CrystalDiskMark 8.
Sequential throughput in CrystalDiskMark 8 was roughly on par for a 5Gbps USB SSD. But random write performance was a bit off. This might be at least partially due to the density and amount of NAND.
While hardly up to the standards of most USB SSDs on the chart, the T5 Evo was on target for a 5Gbps unit.
Basically, the T5 Evo is about capacity rather than stellar performance, as you can see in the charts. The 10Gbps Samsung T7 Shield, and 20Gbps T9 are far, far faster. As is the current cream of the performance crop: Crucial’s X10 Pro.
Random performance doesn’t depend nearly as much on bus speed, so the severe drop-off in single queue performance was a bit of a surprise. Then again, it still far outperforms spinning platters.
Of course the T5 Evo was off the general pace with our 48GB file transfers, but any 5Gbps SSD would perform at roughly the same speed. We simply don’t see many of those anymore, hence their absence from the performance graphs.
The TV Evo was on par for a 5Gbps USB drive in our 48Gb transfers, but slow in the overall scheme of things.
Being an 8TB drive really helped the T5 Evo as it wrote our single 450GB test file. It maintained its roughly 400MBps pace until we threw another 1.5TB at it. At that point, writing dropped to around 195MBps and stayed there.
The T5 Evo wrote steadily at just under 400MBps. Having 8TB of NAND meant it would never run out of secondary cache in this test. Speed off cache is around 195MBps.
Outside of an initial copy, few people will write 1.5TB of data at any one time, so take that with a grain of salt. With time to recover secondary cache, you should rarely see the performance drop.
Price & Availability
Pre-launch, Samsung quoted us an MSRP of $190/£159.99 for the 2TB version, $350/£294.99 for the 4TB, and $650/£538.99 for the 8TB T5 Evo.
By comparison, the far faster Samsung T9 (which isn’t available in an 8TB SKU) is just $10 more in the 2TB version (or the same price in the UK) and, at the time of this review, actually $100 less/£15 cheaper at 4TB from Samsung’s own Amazon store. We also spotted no-name 8TB SSDs for around $550.
Obviously, something will have to give price-wise if the T5 Evo is to sell on anything other than brand loyalty, so keep an eye out. We expect the prices to drop rather rapidly.
The T5 Evo is due to go on sale in December.
The retail box for the 8TB T5 Evo that Samsung sent us. Kudos for not cheaping out, Samsung!
Should you buy the Samsung T5 Evo?
If affordable capacity from a top-name vendor is what you seek, then you should target the T5 Evo. It’s no barn-burner, but it’s certainly fast enough for most tasks, and there’s no arguing the amount of digital stuff it can fit. The case becomes even more compelling if Samsung drops the prices to competitive levels, as I expect will happen.
This review originally appeared on PCWorld.
How we test
External drive tests currently utilize Windows 11, 64-bit running on an X790 (PCIe 4.0/5.0) motherboard/i5-12400 CPU combo with two Kingston Fury 32GB DDR5 4800MHz modules (64GB of memory total). Both 20Gbps USB and Thunderbolt 4 are integrated to the back panel and Intel CPU/GPU graphics are used. The 48GB transfer tests utilize an ImDisk RAM disk taking up 58GB of the 64GB of total memory. The 450GB file is transferred from a 2TB Samsung 990 Pro which also runs the OS.
Each test is performed on a newly formatted and TRIM’d drive so the results are optimal. Note that in normal use, as a drive fills up, performance may decrease due to less NAND for secondary caching, as well as other factors. This can be less of a factor with the current crop of SSDs with far faster late generation NAND.
Caveat: The performance numbers shown apply only to the drive we were shipped and to the capacity tested. SSD performance can and will vary by capacity due to more or fewer chips to shotgun reads/writes across and the amount of NAND available for secondary caching. Vendors also occasionally swap components. If you ever notice a large discrepancy between the performance you experience and that which we report, by all means, let us know.