SSD in a Thumb Drive Exceeds Expectations

OWC has been a key participant within the storage business over the previous few many years, notably for Apple customers. The corporate’s lineup of transportable flash-based direct-attached storage gadgets has an important status out there, due to their deal with efficiency consistency for skilled workloads. OWC can also be recognized for being upfront about their merchandise’ capabilities underneath worst-case situations.

Again in 2016, the corporate launched the OWC Envoy Professional Mini – a USB 3.0 Kind-A thumb drive with speeds of as much as 410 MBps. The lineup topped out at 240 GB. Not too long ago, the corporate resurrected the product lineup with an entire re-design. The new model is available in capacities between 250 GB and 1 TB, and may assist USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) speeds. It sports activities each Kind-A and Kind-C interfaces in a modern and compact thumb drive kind issue.

The high-performance thumb drive phase has been dominated for the final a number of quarters by Kingston’s DataTraveler Max, due to its first mover benefit. Kingston launched the Kind-C model first and adopted it up with a Kind-A variant a number of quarters down the road. This overview takes an in depth have a look at the efficiency and worth proposition of the 1TB model of the brand new OWC Envoy Professional Mini, with a specific deal with the way it stacks up in opposition to the incumbent chief within the phase.

Introduction and Product Impressions

Bus-powered direct-attached storage gadgets have grown each in storage capability and speeds during the last decade. Due to fast developments in flash expertise (together with the appearance of 3D NAND and NVMe) in addition to sooner host interfaces (comparable to Thunderbolt and USB 3.2 Gen 2×2), the market has seen the introduction of palm-sized flash-based storage gadgets able to delivering 2GBps+ speeds.

The thumb drive kind issue is enticing for a number of causes – there isn’t any separate cable to hold round, and the casing may be designed to incorporate a keyring loop for portability. Distributors comparable to Corsair and Mushkin briefly experimented with SATA SSDs behind a USB bridge chip, however the thermal answer and dimension made the UFDs barely unwieldy. The introduction of high-performance native UFD controllers final yr from Phison and Silicon Movement has made this class viable once more. On the Phison entrance, we reviewed the Essential X6 in August 2021, but it surely was not a real thumb drive. Silicon Movement has loved important success on this market phase, due to the recognition of the Kingston DataTraveler Max collection (with separate SKUs for Kind-C and Kind-A drives). A number of months again, OWC introduced again their Envoy Professional Mini into the market with an entire re-design in a bid to wrest share within the high-performance thumb drive class.


The brand new OWC Envoy Professional Mini goals to distinguish itself from different high-performance thumb drives primarily based on the next features:

  • Twin interface assist in a single unit (each Kind-A and Kind-C)
  • Decreased width to maintain adjoining USB ports free to be used
  • Aluminum enclosure for solidity and improved thermal efficiency
  • Removable lanyard assist, and interface ports safety when not in lively use

Regardless of its thumb drive form-factor, the OWC Envoy Professional Mini takes full benefit of its USB 3.2 Gen 2 connector by promising speeds of as much as 946 MBps. It’s obtainable in three capacities – 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB. The corporate sampled us their 1TB model, and we got down to put the drive via our direct-attached storage check suite.

Previous to going into the economic design and efficiency, a have a look at the package deal contents is warranted. OWC contains the lanyard within the field. It’s a removable one – the lanyard with the thumb drive on the finish may be worn across the neck or connected to a bag. Nevertheless, the clasp nearer to the drive finish may be simply indifferent for connecting it to the host system. The corporate additionally features a fast begin information and a key for a 1-year subscription to Acronis Cyber Defend House Workplace.

The core element of the Envoy Professional Mini is a straightforward Kind-A flash drive with a muted blue LED indicator behind a plastic tab on the finish. This element has screw holes on which two Torx screws may be mounted. The opposite predominant element is the Kind-A to Kind-C adapter that adopts the same design type to the core element. This adapter contains two slide areas inside which the screw holes are aligned previous to placing the Torx screws in place. The areas are lengthy sufficient to permit the core element to swivel round and full a 360° rotation. Despite the fact that the screw holes are symmetric (permitting the core element to be positioned the wrong way up as properly), just one orientation of the element permits for it to attach correctly with the Kind-A receptacle within the adapter. On the different finish of the adapter element is the Kind-C male port with a cap that permits the lanyard to connect with it. This industrial design is introduced out within the gallery under.

OWC assumes that the customers of the OWC Envoy Professional Mini will not be tech savvy – truthful sufficient, if the intent is to cater to all kinds of shoppers. As soon as related to the pc, the thumb drive has one seen FAT32 partition which incorporates setup information (OWC Drive Information) for each Home windows and Mac working methods. Ordinarily, I might have gotten rid of all of the partitions and formatted the drive in exFAT to proceed additional. Nevertheless, to carry out the setup course of for the common shopper, I performed alongside for a bit.

The Drive Information codecs the thumb drive in NTFS for Home windows. At this cut-off date, we consider OWC must replace this to exFAT. There’s additionally the choice to go for the set up of the worth addition – ‘Acronis Cyber Defend House Workplace’ (the important thing for which is included within the package deal contents). This software program contains all of the options of ‘Acronis True Picture’ and extra (maintaining with the cloud-connected occasions). It’s tangentially associated to the precise {hardware} being bought – with the power to make backups and full pictures of exterior storage gadgets. Sadly, as with each software program of this type these days, the license is subscription-based, and the included secret is legitimate just for one yr.

Coming again to the product itself, the economic design is subjectively glorious, and the steel enclosure lends a stable really feel (not like the flimsy plastic building of the Kingston DataTraveler Max). Regardless of integrating each Kind-A and Kind-C interfaces, the unit is smaller in each size and width. The unit is thicker, however that does not negatively have an effect on utilization. Congestion is extra of a problem for horizontally aligned ports, and the Envoy Professional Mini is healthier off in comparison with every little thing else in its efficiency class.

There was no apparent technique to tear down the pattern past eradicating the Torx screws and separating the core and adapter elements. Sadly, this didn’t lead us any nearer to figuring out the controller and flash used within the product. Nevertheless, CrystalDiskInfo gives a fast overview of the capabilities of the storage machine. A have a look at the firmware model (UHFM00.3) and a cursory on-line search revealed that the OWC Envoy Professional Mini is powered by the Phison U17 controller.

S.M.A.R.T Passthrough – CrystalDiskInfo

The OWC Envoy Professional Mini assist S.M.A.R.T passthrough, as proven within the CrystalDiskInfo screenshot above. Moreover, we additionally confirmed working TRIM (regardless of it not making an look within the data deciphered by the device). The desk under presents a comparative view of the specs of the totally different direct-attached storage gadgets offered on this overview.

Comparative Direct-Hooked up Storage Gadgets Configuration
Downstream Port Native Flash 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2 NVMe)
Upstream Port USB 3.2 Gen 2 Kind-C USB 3.2 Gen 2 Kind-C
Bridge Chip Phison U17 ASMedia ASM2362
Energy Bus Powered Bus Powered
Use Case Pocket-sized SSD in a thumb drive form-factor with each Kind-A and Kind-C interfaces 1GBps-class, IP67-rated rugged and compact transportable SSD
Bodily Dimensions 17 mm x 80 mm x 11 mm 76 mm x 52 mm x 12 mm
Weight 26 grams 85 grams
Cable N/A 64.8 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Kind-C to Kind-C

Hooked up Kind-C feminine to Kind-A male adapter (resultant Kind-C to Kind-A cable size : 67.8 cm)
S.M.A.R.T Passthrough Sure Sure
UASP Help Sure Sure
TRIM Passthrough Sure Sure
{Hardware} Encryption Not Accessible N/A
Evaluated Storage ??? 3D TLC Kioxia (Toshiba) BiCS 4 96L 3D TLC
Value USD 130 USD 229
Evaluation Hyperlink OWC Envoy Professional Mini 1TB Evaluation OWC Envoy Professional Elektron 1TB Evaluation

Previous to wanting on the benchmark numbers, energy consumption, and thermal answer effectiveness, an outline of the testbed setup and analysis methodology is supplied.

Testbed Setup and Analysis Methodology

Direct-attached storage gadgets (together with thumb drives) are evaluated utilizing the Quartz Canyon NUC (basically, the Xeon / ECC model of the Ghost Canyon NUC) configured with 2x 16GB DDR4-2667 ECC SODIMMs and a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD – the IM2P33E8 1TB from ADATA.

Essentially the most enticing side of the Quartz Canyon NUC is the presence of two PCIe slots (electrically, x16 and x4) for add-in playing cards. Within the absence of a discrete GPU – for which there isn’t any want in a DAS testbed – each slots can be found. Actually, we additionally added a spare SanDisk Excessive PRO M.2 NVMe SSD to the CPU direct-attached M.2 22110 slot within the baseboard so as to keep away from DMI bottlenecks when evaluating Thunderbolt 3 gadgets. This nonetheless permits for 2 add-in playing cards working at x8 (x16 electrical) and x4 (x4 electrical). Because the Quartz Canyon NUC does not have a local USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port, Silverstone’s SST-ECU06 add-in card was put in within the x4 slot. All non-Thunderbolt gadgets are examined utilizing the Kind-C port enabled by the SST-ECU06.

The specs of the testbed are summarized within the desk under:

The 2021 AnandTech DAS Testbed Configuration
System Intel Quartz Canyon NUC9vXQNX
CPU Intel Xeon E-2286M
Reminiscence ADATA Industrial AD4B3200716G22

32 GB (2x 16GB)

DDR4-3200 ECC @ 22-22-22-52
OS Drive ADATA Industrial IM2P33E8 NVMe 1TB
Secondary Drive SanDisk Excessive PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD 1TB
Add-on Card SilverStone Tek SST-ECU06 USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Kind-C Host
OS Home windows 10 Enterprise x64 (21H1)
Due to ADATA, Intel, and SilverStone Tek for the construct elements

The testbed {hardware} is just one phase of the analysis. Over the previous few years, the everyday direct-attached storage workloads for reminiscence playing cards have additionally advanced. Excessive bit-rate 4K movies at 60fps have grow to be fairly widespread, and 8K movies are beginning to make an look. Sport set up sizes have additionally grown steadily even in transportable recreation consoles, due to excessive decision textures and art work. Retaining these in thoughts, our analysis scheme for transportable SSDs and UFDs entails a number of workloads that are described intimately within the corresponding sections.

  • Artificial workloads utilizing CrystalDiskMark and ATTO
  • Actual-world entry traces utilizing PCMark 10’s storage benchmark
  • Customized robocopy workloads reflective of typical DAS utilization
  • Sequential write stress check

Within the subsequent part, we’ve got an outline of the efficiency of the Kingston DTMAXA drives in these benchmarks. Previous to offering concluding remarks, we’ve got some observations on the UFD’s energy consumption numbers and thermal answer additionally.