The Samsung Portable SSD X5 Review – Thunderbolt 3 and NVMe in a Premium Enclosure

The rising popularity of Thunderbolt 3, coupled with the emergence of NVMe SSDs in the compact M.2 form-factor, has enabled a new class of portable bus-powered high-performance flash storage devices. Samsung is launching their first Thunderbolt 3 SSD, the Portable SSD X5, today. Unlike the recent crop of affordable TB3 SSDs that use a PCIe 3.0 x2 NVMe SSD with a Phison controller, Samsung has gone in for a premium solution. The X5 places an OEM version of their 970 EVO NVMe SSD (3D TLC V-NAND and the Phoenix SSD controller) behind an Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 to PCIe bridge. The X5 is available in three capacities – 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB, at prices ranging from 70c/GB to 80c/GB. Samsung sampled us the 1TB version for evaluation.

The Samsung Portable SSD X5 is a 119mm x 62mm x 19.7mm external SSD. It features a bright red underside and a dark grey chassis, and is fully made of magnesium. Coming in at 150g, it is considerably heavier than the Patriot Evlvr (88g) and the TEKQ Rapide (135g). The main contributor to this heft is the solid internal heat sink. The X5 sports a single Thunderbolt 3 interface for both power and data. The port is enabled by the Intel JHL6340 Thunderbolt 3 Controller – note that this belongs to the Alpine Ridge family, and hence, works only with Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports.

The gallery below provides a closer look at some of the internal components. On the underside of the chassis, we find thermal pads for the Thunderbolt 3 controller and other components of the main board. On the other side, we have the heavy heat sink kept in place with appropriately positioned standoffs that are part of the top frame die-cast, along with a plastic frame that goes around the perimeter of the metal piece. There are thermal pads that take the heat away from the internal SSD and transfer it to the heat sink. The main board’s PCIe 3.0 x4 connector is used to interface with the Samsung MZBLB1T0HALR, a minor variant of the Samsung 970 EVO. The controller on the SSD (Phoenix) is the same as the 970 EVO.

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