The portable SSD market has expanded significantly in recent years. With USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) becoming the de-facto standard for USB ports even in entry-level systems, external storage devices that use the interface have flooded the market.
OWC has established itself as a supplier of computer peripherals and upgrade components (primarily for the Apple market) in the last 30 years. Their line of portable SSDs, under the Envoy brand, includes both Thunderbolt and USB-C offerings. The Envoy Pro EX Thunderbolt 3 and Envoy Pro EX USB-C have combined leading performance with a sleek and modern industrial design. Late last year, the company introduced the OWC Envoy Pro Electron – a portable flash drive similar to the Envoy Pro EX USB-C in performance, albeit in a much smaller form.
This review presents the processing results of our updated test package for directly connected storage devices on the OWC Envoy Pro Elektron 1TB drive.
Introduction and product impressions
External data storage devices that are bus-powered and have 1GBps + performance have become the entry-level offer in today’s market. Rapid advances in flash technology (including the advent of 3D NAND and NVMe) as well as faster host interfaces (such as Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.2 Gen 2+) were key factors. Generally speaking, there are five different levels of performance in this market:
- 2GBps + drives with Thunderbolt 3, using NVMe SSD
- 2GBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, using NVMe SSD or direct USB flash drive (UFD) controllers
- 1GBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2, using NVMe SSD or direct UFD controllers
- 500MBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 1 (or Gen 2, in some cases), using a SATA SSD
- Drives below 400MBps with USB 3.2 Gen 1, using UFD controllers
The OWC Envoy Pro Electron we are looking at today belongs to the third category on the list above, using the M.2 2242 NVMe SSD behind the ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip. The compact housing is all-metal, and the drive has IP67 for protection against dust entry and immersion in water.
The OWC includes one Type-C to Type-C cable along with a permanently attached Type-C to Type-A adapter in the package. Disassembling the unit is pretty trivial, with four Torx screws under the rubber bumper that need to be removed.
The interior look, rubber eyelets for entry protection and thermal pad placement is very similar to the Sabrent Rocket Nano we reviewed last year, but the main board has a significant difference – the ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip instead of the JMicron JMS583. In addition, the industrial design of the Envoy Pro Electron is subjectively more elegant than the regular rectangular block design of the Rocket Nano. Both portable SSDs reuse their branded Phison based M.2 2242 NVMe SSDs inside the chassis. In the case of the Electron, it is the OWC Aura P13 Pro.
The review compares the OWC Envoy Pro Electron 1TB with other 1TB drives we reviewed earlier using our 2021 direct storage test package.
- OWC Envoy Pro Electron 1TB
- Akasa AK-ENU3M2-04 (SK hynix Gold P31 1TB behind Realtek RTL9210G bridge)
- Akasa AK-ENU3M2-03 (SK hynix Gold P31 1TB behind ASMedia ASM2362 bridge)
- Kingston DT Max 1TB
CrystalDiskInfo provides a brief overview of the internal capabilities of storage devices. The OWC Envoy Pro Electron supports full SMART pass-through, along with TRIM to ensure consistent drive performance over its lifetime.
|SMART Passthrough – CrystalDiskInfo|
The table below presents a comparative overview of the specifications of the different storage bridges presented in this overview.
|Comparative configuration of directly connected storage devices|
|Downstream port||1x PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2 NVMe)||1x PCIe 3.0 x2 (M.2 NVMe)
1x SATA III (M.2)
|Upstream Port||USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C||USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
|Bridge Chip||ASMedia ASM2362||Realtek RTL9210B-CG|
|Power||Bus Powered||Bus Powered|
|Use case||Robust and compact portable SSD marked IP67 class 1GBps||M.2 2242/2260/2280 SATA / NVMe SSD aluminum housing
Do-it-yourself portable 1GBps SSD with a USB flash drive-like shape
Integrated male ports type-A and type-C
|Physical dimensions||76 mm x 52 mm x 12 mm||130 mm x 26.5 mm x 12 mm|
|Weight||85 grams||36 grams (without SSD)|
|Cable||64.8 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-C
Connected type-C female to type-A male adapter (resulting cable length type-C to type-A: 67.8 cm)
|N / A|
|Hardware encryption||N / A||Dependent on SSD|
|Evaluated Storage||Kioxia (Toshiba) BiCS 4 96L 3D TLC||SK hynix P31 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD
SK hynix 128L 3D TLC
|Price||229 USD||GBP 40|
|Review the link||OWC Envoy Pro Elektron 1TB Review||Review by Akasa AK-ENU3M2-04|
Test bench setting and evaluation methodology
Directly connected storage devices (including portable SSDs such as the OWC Envoy Pro Electron) are evaluated using a Quartz Canyon NUC (essentially, the Xeon / ECC version of the Ghost Canyon NUC) configured with 2x 16 GB DDR4-2667 ECC and P SODIMM- these. x4 NVMe SSD – IM2P33E8 1TB from ADATA.
The most attractive aspect of the Quartz Canyon NUC is the presence of two PCIe slots (electric, x16 and x4) for additional cards. In the absence of a discrete GPU – for which there is no need for a DAS test platform – both slots are available. In fact, we also added a spare SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe SSD to the CPU directly connected to the M.2 22110 slot on the motherboard to avoid DMI bottlenecks when evaluating Thunderbolt 3 devices. This still allows for two additional cards running on x8 (x16 electric) and x4 (x4 electric). Since the Quartz Canyon NUC does not have the original USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port, Silverstone’s SST-ECU06 add-in card is installed in the x4 slot. All non-Thunderbolt devices were tested using a Type C port enabled by SST-ECU06.
The specifications of the test table are summarized in the table below:
|AnandTech DAS Test Panel Configuration 2021|
|System||Intel Quartz Canyon NUC9vXQNX|
|CPU||Intel Xeon E-2286M|
|Memory||ADATA Industrial AD4B3200716G22
32 GB (2x 16GB)
DDR4-3200 ECC @ 22-22-22-52
|OS Drive||ADATA Industrial IM2P33E8 NVMe 1TB|
|Secondary drive||SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD 1TB|
|Additional card||SilverStone Tek SST-ECU06 USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C Host|
|YOU||Windows 10 Enterprise x64 (21H1)|
|Thanks to ADATA, Intel and SilverStone Tek for building components|
Testing hardware is only one segment of evaluation. In recent years, typical memory loads for directly connected memory cards have also evolved. High-speed 4K videos at 60 fps have become quite common, and 8K videos are starting to appear. Sizes for installing games have also grown steadily even on portable game consoles, thanks to high-resolution textures and artwork. With this in mind, our evaluation scheme for portable SSDs and UFDs includes multiple loads which are described in detail in the relevant sections.
- Synthetic workloads using CrystalDiskMark and ATTO
- Real-world access tracking using the PCMark 10 storage benchmark
- Customized workloads of robocopy that reflect the typical use of DAS
- Sequential writing stress test
In the next section, we have an overview of the performance of the OWC Envoy Pro Electron in these scales. Before we make concluding remarks, we have some observations on the power consumption numbers of the plant and the thermal solution.
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