Samsung X5 SSD (Thunderbolt 3)9/10 (Expert Score)
Meta review: The general consensus is that the Samsung Portable SSD X5 is exceptionally fast for an external drive, but also very expensive.
At 40 Gbit/s or 5 GB/s, Thunderbolt 3 offers significantly higher theoretical bandwidth compared to the more common external interface, USB 3.1 Gen 2, which provides up to 10 Gbit/s or 1.25 GB/s. It is also much faster than the internal SATA 3.0 interface (0.6 GB/s) and everything else below four lanes of PCI-Express 3.0. In other words, Thunderbolt 3 SSDs such as the Samsung X5 can – at least in theory – perform on par with an internal NVMe M.2 SSD.
To make the most of a high-end Thunderbolt 3 SSD, you need a host that fully supports the interface via USB-C. The ports are USB Type C ports with an associated lightning icon. Only relatively recent laptops (e.g. MacBook Pro from late 2016 and onwards) and motherboards in the premium segment support the interface fully.
Samsung’s Portable SSD X5 is a faster alternative to the T5 series, which all use the more common USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface. As such, it comes at a higher price point and is aimed at users who require even higher transfer rates in a portable format. Samsung specifically targets content creators, as the transfer rates should allow for real-time work on 4K video, 3D renderings, and similar demanding chores. A 20 GB file should take no more than 12 seconds to transmit.
The SSD X5 is larger than the tiny T5 series at 4.7 x 0.8 x 2.4 inches (11.9 x 2 x 6.1 cm) compared to 2.3 x 0.4 x 3 inches (5.8 x 1 x 7.6 cm). It’s also heavier at 5.3 ounces (150 g) compared to the T5’s 1.6 ounces (45.4 g). It’s nevertheless a bit smaller than other Thunderbolt 3 SSDs such as the OWC ThunderBlade (1.42 lbs/676 g).
The X5 is available in 500 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB capacities.
Internally, the SSD X5 supports the NVMe protocol. The maximum write speed is 2,300 MB/s, and reads 2,800 MB/s, making it comparable to high-end PCIe M.2 SSDs and more than five times faster than any SSD using SATA 3.0.
Warranty and endurance
Samsung offers a 3-year limited warranty with the X5, which is less than the standard five years offered with the manufacturer’s internal SSDs. No endurance rating in TBW (terabytes written) is provided.
Looking at performance, the new X5 is able to more than double the performance of the most recently released portable SSD by the same company, the Samsung T5.
We couldn’t reach either of the maximum figures for the drive under testing in either the ATTO or AS SSD benchmarks but even so, 2,500MB/s for reads and 2,059MB/s for writes that we achieved from the ATTO benchmark are very impressive.
If you want the fastest possible portable storage for your Thunderbolt 3 Mac, the X5 is it.
For now, the Samsung X5 stands above all other bus-powered external drives in its class as the indisputable portable speed king.
- Extreme performance in a portable format
- 3-year warranty
Specification: Samsung X5 SSD (Thunderbolt 3)