It’s time to start basking in upgrades as flash media makes its yearly move toward higher capacities across the entire range of storage solutions available to both consumers and enterprise. Towards the end of last year, the biggest (affordable) thing on the consumer market was 64GB solutions (ie, thumb/flash drives, SD cards, etc) with 128GB being the more expensive but tempting option.
This year 128GB seems to have taken the spot of 64 and now 256GB is the more expensive yet tempting option. It won’t be long before you could store the entire Library of Congress (in digital form of course) on a single chip. Well, we may still have a ways to go since they have reported over 162 million items stored on their shelves. Even if each book was converted to digital form and the average file size was about half a MB (megabyte), which is an unlikely average, that would be about 79.1TB of information–and I think I’m running off topic a tad bit. For now, I should keep things more reasonable (and stay on topic) by saying we can enjoy being able to back up a lifetime of family pictures on a single flash drive now.
Emtec is one company that has recently launched such a solution and it comes in two forms. Both a flash drive and an external SSD. Both options are USB 3.0 and feature speeds that are far better than the flash drives you have been used to keeping in your pocket (for the most part). I’ll break it down into two sections to point out the pros and cons of each.
“The Flash Drive” (SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600)
The design of the flash drive is similar to many others. It features an all-plastic design with a removable cap that reveals the USB port underneath. There is also a small hole on one of the corners to attach a lanyard to. Their unique feature is a carbon fiber design on both faces of the drive (front and back). It appears to be a sticker possibly or an insert, placed under a thin sheet of clear plastic to give it a shiny appearance.
Its weight is comparable to most flash drives. Although we have seen a few drives slightly lighter than this (slightly), you will still forget it’s even in your pocket like any other. In fact, if you held one of the other drives in your hand, you’d barely feel the difference. It’s around the same physical size as any other drive as well. So no cons to point out in these categories.
What really matters is performance. EMTEC advertises up to 300MBps write speed and up to 400 for the read (accessing files from the drive). Usually, this isn’t always the case as this is based on perfect operating conditions. Usually, you experience speeds less (sometimes much less) than what the manufacturer promises (regardless of the company).
So we ran a number of tests to find average numbers. From moving large collections of small files, to a large collection of larger files to singular large files and of course, benchmark applications. We wanted to see true averages created by multiple scenarios vs one simple printed statistic on a box.
In our benchmarks using our application, we found the flash drive to have a max read speed of 159.19MBps with an access time of 1.06ms. This isn’t much compared to what’s on the cover, but it did beat out a handful of other drives we had laying around. Some of the USB 3.0 drives we tested resulted in a read speed of around 20-60MBps. So there is a brownie point so far for EMTEC.
Moving on, we took an Adata 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive and transferred 32GB worth of data directly to the EMTEC drive (drive to drive copy) to determine the write speed in such a scenario. It resulted in a 68-72MBps average for larger files in the collection of data and 10-15MBps for smaller files in the mix. A total transfer time of 6 minutes and 43 seconds. This wasn’t bad at all.
We then took a 25GB collection of larger files (4-6GB each in size) located on an internal 4TB Seagate HDD and transferred it to the EMTEC flash drive. We found an average rate of 105-110MBps with a total transfer time of just over 3 minutes.
From the same hard drive (Seagate), we transferred a 26GB collection of smaller files (2-6MB each in size on average) to the EMTEC drive and got a wide range for the write speed, of 2.82 to 49MBps. The total transfer time was about 28 minutes. Smaller files generally result in a chaotic range in speed which was normal, but we hoped for a major improvement compared to other USB 3.0 drives. We didn’t see this. However, a few of the other drives we tested found an average speed (in this scenario) of around 1-23MBps.
We took a singular dummy file we created that was around 12GB in size, on the same Seagate drive, and transferred it to the EMTEC to see what kind of write speeds we saw. The max speed we received was 164MBps. This is slightly more than the read speed we received via the application we use for drive stress tests I mentioned a moment ago.
All-in-all, although it didn’t perform to the expectations of the numbers on the box, it did perform to our expectations based on measurements taken from just about every other flash drive. It isn’t the world’s fastest flash drive, but at the moment, it does rank pretty high.
“The SSD” (SpeedIN’ SSD X600)
Smaller than most external drives, it appears to most likely feature an mSATA format of drive inside (judging by the size at least). There aren’t too many external drives on the market like it, and this would be the first that we personally tested (of its size). We were tempted to pop the case and determine if our theory was correct but opted not to (for now) since there aren’t any visible screws guaranteeing we can do it without breaking something.
The design of the drive is similar to the flash drive, in that it resembles most external 2.5″ drives (except this is smaller) and it features a carbon fiber-like design both front and back. There is a slight difference where both printed sides also feature a beveled design to the clear plastic layer.
There is a small hatch that opens to reveal the connection for the included cable, the other end plugging into your computer (or any other device that supports external storage).
mSATA isn’t the fastest format for data transfer out there, but it does allow for a smaller size. However, we were surprised they didn’t take a similar route as they did for the flash drive. Something that would have resulted in better read/write times. This is what brings us closer to our assumption of it being an adapted mSATA to external enclosure design vs simply making use of flash media inside with a USB interface (like the/a flash drive, but with a cable vs built-in male USB connector). Maybe they did this to allow for the encryption options and specific hardware inside. At least it still performs better than most thumb/flash drives.
It features a small exe file on the drive that opens to reveal EMTEC’s encryption software. It is very important that you do not delete this file. This is because half of the drive is encrypted. At first, Windows (the OS we used during our tests) reads it as 115GB. This is because there is a hidden encrypted partition. If you open the exe file and create a password, you can then begin using the software to customize the two partitions by adjusting their size or favoring one over the other completely. It’s also fair to mention that this will work with both this and the flash drive obviously. It’s just that we might have manually formatted the flash drive before testing without preserving any files that might have came on it by default (oops). Thankfully, it is set to use the full 256GB on the public partition by default (you can also copy the exe file over as well).
That leaves us with the topic of performance. We performed mostly the same tests as we did the flash drive so that we could also have a cross-comparison between the two within the results.
Once again, we took a 25GB collection of larger files (4-6GB each) and transferred them over to the SSD. We used the same source drive, the 4TB Seagate HDD. The average rate fell between 57 and 66.4MBps and took exactly 7 minutes to accomplish.
We then took the same 26GB collection of smaller files as we did last time (2-6MB each) and did the same. This time we saw a transfer range of 5.64 and 54MBps and a total task time of 22.5 minutes, which is similar to yet slightly faster than the flash drive (which was nice).
Finally, we took the larger file and transferred it to determine max write speed. When we first initiated the transfer, we got a speed of around 106MBps. It quickly fell to an average of about 66.4MBps steady, through the remainder of the transfer.
We then tested the drive against our application to find a max read speed of 156.92MBps (quite similar to the flash drive) and an access time of 0.63ms. Very good results as they compared closely to the flash drive. When it came to the transfer of files though, the flash drive wins.
Both of these drives are also available as 128GB, with the SSD also sporting a 512GB model.
Both drives performed quite well, although the thumb/flash drive delivered better results. Both performed better than most of the comparable drives we have lying around and we felt pretty positive with the outcome of things. You won’t see speeds similar to a true full-size SSD–at least in our experience. For example, one of our test SSDs sitting around (512GB Seagate) was briefly brought into the mix, but the results were unfair to include (let’s just say the Seagate won). However, these are made to be mobile and plug-and-play. Now if you took the Seagate SSD and stuck it into an external enclosure, now we’d be talking. So maybe that’s where EMTEC will go in the future. For now, we have these, and they do pretty well to create a name for themselves.
We found the price of the SSD to be around $110 online, which feels about right–for now until we get to the holidays. The flash drive, however, is still making its way to the market it appears, so you have a limited selection on where you can find it (ie, Tigerdirect, MacMall, etc). It appears they are charging $253.99 for it, which I’d say is not representative of our score we have chosen to give the combined two devices. We feel it should call close somehow to the SSD ($129-139, maybe). So hopefully, once it continues to move forward onto the market, we will see a better price tag.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
|Capacity Options||128, 256, 512GB|
|Advertised read speed||Up to 320MB/s *|
|Advertised write speed||Up to 70MB/s for 128GB; up to 100MB/s for 256 and 512GB *|
|Compatibility||Universal compatibility USB 3.0, backwards compatible with USB 2.0|
|OS compatibility||Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, / Mac OS X10.4 or higher / Linux 2.6.31 or higher|
|Product dimensions||94 x 54 x 12 mm, 50g|
|Capacity Options||128GB, 256GB|
|Advertised read speed||Up to 400 MB/s *|
|Advertised write speed||128GB : Up to 200 MB/s – 256GB : Up to 300 MB/s *|
|Compatibility||USB 3.0, backwards compatible with USB 2.0|
|OS compatibility||Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP / Mac OS X / Linux 2.6.31x|
Are you a manufacturer or distributor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.