Real-World Benchmarks and Performance Consistency

Our testing methodology for DAS units also takes into consideration the usual use-case for such devices. The most common usage scenario is transfer of large amounts of photos and videos to and from the unit. The minor usage scenario is importing files directly off the DAS into a multimedia editing program such as Adobe Photoshop.

In order to tackle the first use-case, we created three test folders with the following characteristics:

  • Photos: 15.6 GB collection of 4320 photos (RAW as well as JPEGs) in 61 sub-folders
  • Videos: 16.1 GB collection of 244 videos (MP4 as well as MOVs) in 6 sub-folders
  • BR: 10.7 GB Blu-ray folder structure of the IDT Benchmark Blu-ray (the same that we use in our robocopy tests for NAS systems)

Photos Read

For the second use-case, we take advantage of PC Mark 8's storage bench. The storage workload involves games as well as multimedia editing applications. The command line version allows us to cherry-pick storage traces to run on a target drive. We chose the following traces.

  • Adobe Photoshop (Light)
  • Adobe Photoshop (Heavy)
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Illustrator

Usually, PC Mark 8 reports time to complete the trace, but the detailed log report has the read and write bandwidth figures which we present in our performance graphs. Note that the bandwidth number reported in the results don't involve idle time compression. Results might appear low, but that is part of the workload characteristic. Note that the same testbed is being used for all DAS units. Therefore, comparing the numbers for each trace should be possible across different DAS units.

Adobe Photoshop Light Read

Workloads that go beyond the SLC cache size for the WD SN750 tend to even out things a bit across the three different devices in the comparison set. Different drives come out on top in different workloads, though, overall, the DIY configuration seems to have the edge, followed by the Plugable TBT3-NVME2TB. The OWC Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 performs almost as good as the Plugable drive across the board.

Performance Consistency

Yet another interesting aspect of these types of units is performance consistency. Aspects that may influence this include thermal throttling and firmware caps on access rates to avoid overheating or other similar scenarios. This aspect is an important one, as the last thing that users want to see when copying over, say, 100 GB of data to the flash drive, is the transfer rate going to USB 2.0 speeds. In order to identify whether the drive under test suffers from this problem, we instrumented our robocopy DAS benchmark suite to record the flash drive's read and write transfer rates while the robocopy process took place in the background. For supported drives, we also recorded the internal temperature of the drive during the process. The graphs below show the speeds observed during our real-world DAS suite processing. The first three sets of writes and reads correspond to the photos suite. A small gap (for the transfer of the videos suite from the primary drive to the RAM drive) is followed by three sets for the next data set. Another small RAM-drive transfer gap is followed by three sets for the Blu-ray folder.

An important point to note here is that each of the first three blue and green areas correspond to 15.6 GB of writes and reads respectively. Throttling, if any, is apparent within the processing of the photos suite itself. None of the three drives being considered today show signs of thermal throttling. Performance consistency is maintained across the 240GB+ of continuous reads and writes.

Performance Consistency and Thermal Characteristics

The temperature profiles across the three drives in the above graphs show that the Plugable drive is the quickest of the lot to cool down. It is likely that the OWC drive's bumper has some detrimental effect on the cooling prowess, but the drive is still kept well within thermal limits for reasonable use-cases such as the above consistency test.

Synthetic Benchmarks Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks
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  • patel21 - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    Does anyone know of a good m.2 ssd enclosure to make a usb A / usb C portable Drive.

    I have a 240GB SATA SSD, which I want to make into a portable drive.
  • OctaneZ - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    Yes, another pluggable product:
    Plugable USB C to M.2 NVMe Tool-free Enclosure USB C and Thunderbolt 3 Compatible up to USB 3.1 Gen 2 Speeds (10Gbps). Adapter Includes USB-C and USB 3.0 Cables (Supports M.2 NVMe SSDs 2280 2260 2242)
    ~$50 I ordered this in June of 2019 and through an Inland (Microcenter) 1TB Phison 12 (~$100)

    I get 550MB/s on it!
  • notashill - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    Be careful, it's not compatible with M.2 SATA drives which is what this person was asking about.

    But those microcenter NVMe drives really are a great bargain. $37/60/100 for 256/512/1TB. Though confusingly they have 2 1TB drives that are basically the same price and one is way faster (x2 vs x4).
  • patel21 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    You are right, this is for nvme m.2 drives only. Thanks for pointing it out.
  • regsEx - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    tones of them on ali

    Ugreen of high quality, for example. There are both SATA and NVMe on the page.

    Rest of them. Just make sure you are getting SATA one. NVMe has different M.2 keys.
  • vailr - Sunday, November 17, 2019 - link

    I'd recommend purchase of this type of item from Amazon instead of AliExpress, due to warranty support issues. A "Jeyi" brand unit was purchased from AliExpress & shipped direct from China, & there was no English language support available after it quit working. Amazon offers these (and other) brands of NVMe enclosures: TDBT, Ineo, Inateck. All in the $30 to $38 price range.
  • h4xolotl - Friday, November 29, 2019 - link

    The ones on ali you linked are all USB-C (not thunderbolt 3) drive enclosures.

    They're much slower
  • Valantar - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    I haven't used this specific drive, but my experiences with previous Orico enclosures have been excellent. Note that there's versions for SATA and NVMe, make sure to pick the right one.
  • dqniel - Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - link

    The Plugable drive is "only" $400 right now, which gives a pretty good price per GB.
  • Valantar - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    Looks like some good DIY TB3 cases are finally showing up. Not cheap, but decent at least:

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