We’ve been a fan of the Samsung S2 portable hard drives for some time, as they offer a cheap way of storing data “on the go” - a great way of making backups. A 2.5” hard drive is used to make this a truly portable unit device, as it requires no external power supply and is significantly smaller than traditional desktop drives. Even smaller 1.8” hard drives are available (as the S1 Mini), however these are more expensive and don’t extend all the way up to 1TB.
The latest S2 model to be released is a 1TB USB 3.0 version, which promises to increase data transfer speeds using the improved USB interface and an upgraded hard drive (7200 RPM, up from 5400). At the time of the review, the 1TB drive could be purchased for approximately $100/£70 and includes a carrycase and USB 3.0 cable.
The Samsung S2 USB 3.0 portable drive design is identical to previous versions – complete with a textured plastic base and a shiny gloss top. The same basic carrycase is provided, which should protect the body from scratches but sadly fails to include anywhere to store the cable. It would be nice to see an improved case come with future versions (perhaps an all-encompassing solution, rather than a slip-case).
Unless you’ve got a very recent PC, it’s quite possible that you’re system only supports USB 2.0 devices. However, don’t let this put you off, as the USB specification is backwards compatible and will function at the slower 2.0 transfer rates. You may not be able to achieve the maximum speeds, but you can future proof for your next system upgrade. In our test system, we used a PCI-E card to provide USB 3.0 support to our desktop.
As you can see from the image above, the new USB 3.0 Samsung S2 uses a different type of Micro-B connection – although these both terminate in the familiar USB connector (however, there are some subtle differences to this to support to the faster standard).
Performance and Conclusion
The biggest improvement that most end users will notice is when transferring large files, rather than lots of smaller files. The overhead and delay that sometimes accompanies transferring lots of small files still exists - however large files (i.e. Backups, Videos, high-res Photos etc…) will see a huge boost from USB 3.0 transfer speeds.
Most USB 2.0 hard drives will transfer at around 30-35MB/s (after overheads, bottlenecks and half-duplex), whereas a USB 3.0 hard drive could produce closer to 90-100MB/s (limited by drive performance). This can make a huge difference when making regular backups of a machine, reducing the time for a transfer down to a third.
We used h2benchw to benchmark both the 1TB USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 versions of the Samsung S2 drive to highlight the performance difference. The popular benchmarking software ran under Windows 7 to provide the data transfer rates:
Samsung S2 1TB USB 2.0
Write Average: 26.9 MB/s
Read Average: 31.8 MB/s
Samsung S2 1TB USB 3.0
Write Average: 90.9 MB/s
Read Average: 90.7 MB/s
The difference in both read and write speeds is very noticeable, both in terms of benchmarks and real-world testing. These two hard drives are used as backup drives, with the USB 3.0 S2 taking significantly less time to copy files.
Performance of the USB 3.0 Samsung S2 is exactly what you would expect from a latest generation portable storage device. The design builds on the successes of the previous S2 generations, providing a huge speed boost – whilst only costing a small amount extra (at the time of writing). Even if you have an older system, it may be worth investing in a faster external drive so that you can take advantage of the increased transfer speeds at a future date. USB 3.0 is much, much faster than USB 2.0 and no longer acts as a bottle neck on external hard drives. At this price/performance level, there are few drives that can match the Samsung S2.