The ever running war on who has the best thumb drive or memory card, is always saturated with so many options to choose from. The benefit of this, is it helps keep the prices down where possible and allows for a wonderfully open and free market. The disadvantage, is that sometimes it can be hard to figure out which one of those many option suits you best. If speed is what you yearn for, then a lot of those options are null and void as a majority of what’s out there ranges between 30MB/s and 95MB/s (possibly even less if you’re using some generic brand). Unless of course, the option is SSD.
When it comes to SSD, only a handful of companies have filled in the gap with USB flash drive (thumbdrive) solutions, and one of these companies is OWC (Other World Computing). SSD takes flash drives to a new level, as you are merging these two product markets together to create the perfect drive to carry around in your pocket for those with heavier computing needs. Photographers, video editors, musicians, gamers, and just about anyone else who wants things written quickly and accessed even faster. With SSD, those speeds above, turn into speeds closer to an internal SSD drive.
The Envoy Pro Mini by OWC achieves this very goal. An SSD crammed into a USB 3.0 flash drive that works great for both professionals and enthusiasts. It is manufactured to be just as durable as it is fast and the price feels about right compared to the rest of the market.
With an all metal aluminum design, the Envoy looks and feels like a tough character. Also a bit of mystery to it since it features a solid silver brushed metal color that covers the entire body. No major logos or anything to distinguish it by, outside of a little bit of text at the USB connector. It kind of feels like seeing a Secret Service agent walk by with a mysterious briefcase cuffed to their wrist (you kind of what to know what’s inside now). Or, if you prefer a less exaggerated description of it, it looks like a matching accessory you’d plug into a newer Mac laptop.
That being said, let’s move on to performance! I have a handful of flash drives located around and inside my desk. I have big names like SanDisk and Samsung and no names like…well, most those drives really don’t have a name printed on them. Some of them look like a typical drive, some slide open, some have a cap, some have a strap, some swing open, and some are even shaped like some of your favorite fictional characters (ie, Iron Man, Batman and even Hello Kittie). I handpicked just a few of them out for the image above (and this is just my desk).
As mentioned above, I could get anywhere from 30-90MB/s on average with these drives. The generic no name drives can generally run around 1-14MB/s on average (despite the USB spec they claim to be rated at). However, I can walk over to one of the demo labs and pull out an EMTEC SSD flash drive that blows all of these away (might as well just sweep them off the desk and into the garbage if I wanted to compare).
The OWC Envoy Mini itself is a wonderful addition to add to one of the labs for future tests and comparisons for this same reason. Even more so because it outperforms the EMTEC drives.
The drive itself shows up at around 111GB within the OS. It was about 4-5GB less than we had expected it to, but still not bad. We started it off in a Windows system which did not see the drive initially. Ignoring any software that might be on it, we repartitioned it and formatted it for Windows via Disk Manager, so that it would show up as an accessible drive. The process for getting Windows to recognize the drive is the same for installing any internal drive. The format we chose was exFAT so it could easily test between the Mac and Windows computers without having to reformat it each time. .
Transferring files between disks via multiple computers, we found ourself with mostly a solid average across the board. Moving files from an internal HDD (7200) to the USB drive, we saw an average of around 132MB/s. We moved the same files from an internal HDD to an internal SSD (SATA) and saw around 182MB/s (for comparison purposes). Moving the files from an internal SSD (SATA) and the USB drive resulted in the same average as before (132MB/s). All of this using USB 3.0 ports. So the average write speed for the Envoy Pro Mini seems to fall around the 132MB/s result.
Read speeds were much greater. Our average for moving files from the USB drive to an internal SSD (SATA) were around 380MB/s (USB 3.0 ports). Switching to a USB 3.1 port, we saw a small jump to 390MB/s. We tried but we couldn’t get the advertised 427MB/s on either Mac or PC, but our speeds were still better than the other SSD flash drives we had lying around.
Due to the successful speeds, the Envoy won us over quite a bit. The only downside we could find was heat. The drive heats up quite a bit when in use. Enough that it caught us off guard the first time we went to remove it. It isn’t to the point where it is going to burn you, but it will double quite well as a hand warmer when you’re finished with it. Although it isn’t going to burn you or cause holes to form in your pockets, that amount of heat generally isn’t good for anything electronic. It may not cause it to catch fire, but it will place a little more wear on its lifespan.
Finally, inside that little box it comes in, there is a lanyard with detachable clip so that you can wear it around your neck. There is also a short USB 3.0 extension cable in case you want to bring the port away from your PC or laptop just a bit (let’s say the port is in the back of a PC and you just want it to be slightly easier to access). There are also formatting instructions and links to where you can find free software, including drive tools.
The Envoy Pro Mini by OWC is a fantastic drive. It is quite fast, making it a hot item for any enthusiast or pro, and features a durable body so it can last through a lot of wear and tear. It does get a little hotter than we’d like, so there is a concern about how that may affect lifespan, but beyond that there isn’t really anything to complain about. It may be a little expensive, but it feels right compared to the other options out there, and the fact that SSD is simply expensive across the board.
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
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