Samsung’s line of portable SSDs has seen tremendous success, starting with the T1 in 2015. The company has regularly updated their PSSD range with the evolution of various fast interfaces and NAND flash technology.
Earlier this year, Samsung launched the Portable SSD T7 Shield, a sequel to the Portable SSD T7 (Touch) introduced in early 2020. Samsung mainly advertises the robustness/IP65 rating of the T7 Shield as a selling point compared to the regular SSD T7 and T7 Touch. Today’s review takes a look at the performance and value proposition of the Portable SSD T7 Shield. Our detailed analysis in the review below reveals another trick Samsung has up its sleeve that makes the T7 Shield a worthy successor (rather than just an addition) to the Portable SSD T7 family.
Introduction and product impressions
External bus-powered storage devices capable of 1GBps+ performance have become an entry-level in the market today. Rapid advances in flash technology (including the advent of 3D NAND and NVMe) and faster host interfaces (such as Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.2 Gen 2+) were key factors. Broadly speaking, there are five different levels of performance in this market:
2 GBps+ drives with Thunderbolt 3 or USB4, using NVMe SSDs 2 GBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, using NVMe SSDs or USB direct flash drive (UFD) controllers 1GBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2, using NVMe SSDs or direct UFD controllers 500MBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 1 (or, Gen 2, in some cases), using SATA SSDs Sub-400MBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 1, using UFD controllers
The Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield what we’re looking at today belongs to the third category in the list above, using an NVMe SSD behind an ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip. The configuration is quite similar to the Portable SSD T7 (Touch) in terms of the NVMe controller and the bridge chip. There are a few industrial design updates to protect the drive from dust ingress and splash water (IP65), and to give it an element of ruggedness. The standout visible from the outside is the addition of an elastomer covering (available in beige, blue and black) to the internal metal housing. The new housing also has a few ridges that run across the longer side.
Samsung includes two separate cables: one USB Type-C to Type-A and another Type-C to Type-C of about the same length. Disassembling the device is quite trivial after removing the four screws hidden on either side under the product label stickers and removing the elastomer cover. This reveals an aluminum metal housing. The plastic tray containing the actual PSSD board can then be slid out after removing the plastic piece opposite the connector end. Both plastic end pieces have grommets around their perimeter to ensure a tight seal and contribute to the IP65 rating. The motherboard is held to the plastic tray with four smaller screws. The connector on the motherboard has a red colored sealing tape to ensure that it does not become an entry point for external material.
A full teardown gallery is also shown above. It shows that one side of the board is covered with a thermal pad, despite there being no components on its side. Removing the thermal pad on the other hand reveals the controller and the flash packs. The SSD controller is the S4LR033 and the ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip sits next to it. The SSD subsystem in the PSSD T7 Shield is a DRAM-less system and is much the same as that of the T7 Touch – except for the flash packages. The two onboard flash chips have the K9DVGB8J1B tag (against the K9DVGY8J5A in our PSSD T7 Touch example). This part number decodes as: TLC, 6th Gen V-NAND (128L/136T), 512Gbit per die, 16 dies, 1TB for the whole package. This is the same NAND package used in Samsung 870 EVO SATA SSD.
The move from the 5th Gen 92L (96T) V-NAND in the T7 Touch to the 6th Gen 128L (136T) V-NAND provides a 10% improvement in latency and a 15% reduction in power consumption, according to Samsung claims . As we will discover later in this review, these aspects do emerge when we look at different evaluation results.
The review compares the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield 2TB to the other 2TB drives previously reviewed using our latest direct-attached storage test suite. We’ve also added the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch 1TB to the mix, though it doesn’t make for an apples-to-apples comparison. The list of PSSDs considered in this review can be found below.
Samsung T7 Shield 2TB SanDisk Professional G-DRIVE 2TB SanDisk Professional G-DRIVE ArmorLock 2TB Kingston XS2000 2TB Samsung T7 Touch 1TB
A quick overview of the internal capabilities of the storage devices is provided by CrystalDiskInfo. The Samsung PSSD T7 Shield supports full SMART passthrough along with TRIM to ensure consistent performance for the drive over its lifetime.
SMART Passthrough – CrystalDiskInfo Samsung T7 Shield 2TBSDP G-DRIVE 2TBSDP G-DRIVE ArmorLock 2TBKingston XS2000 2TBSamsung T7 Touch 1TB SDP G-DRIVE 2TBSDP G-DRIVE ArmorLock 2TBKingston XS2000 2TBSamsung T7 Touch 1TBSamsung T7 Shield 2TB
The table below provides a comparative overview of the specifications of the different portable SSDs presented in this review.
Comparative configuration of directly attached storage devices Aspect Samsung T7 Shield 2TBSDP G-DRIVE 2TBSDP G-DRIVE ArmorLock 2TBKingston XS2000 2TBSamsung T7 Touch 1TB SDP G-DRIVE 2TBSDP G-DRIVE ArmorLock 2TBKingston XS2000 2TBSamsung T7 Touch 1TBSamsung T7 PCIe 3.0 x4 Upstream Port USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (Male) Bridge Chip ASMedia ASM2362 ASMedia ASM2362? Power Bus Powered Bus Powered Use Case Lightweight 1GBps class portable SSD with focus on durability (IP65 rating) Rugged 1GBps class portable SSD, IP67 for capturing content on the go Physical dimensions 88mm x 59mm x 13mm 95 mm x 50 mm x 15 mm Weight 98 grams 91 grams Cable 45 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-C
45cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-A 49cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-C
48cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-A SMART Passthrough Yes Yes UASP Support Yes Yes TRIM Passthrough Yes Yes Hardware Encryption Yes Yes (256-bit AES, via SanDisk Secure App only) Evaluated Storage Samsung 128L (136T) V- NAND (6th Gen) SanDisk BiCS 4 96L 3D TLC Price
Review Link Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield 2TB Review SanDisk Professional G-DRIVE SSD 2TB Review
Before looking at the benchmark figures, power consumption and thermal solution effectiveness, a description of the test bed setup and evaluation methodology is provided.
Testbed Setup and Evaluation Methodology
Direct-attached storage devices (including portable SSDs) are evaluated using the Quartz Canyon NUC (essentially the Xeon/ECC version of the Ghost Canyon NUC) configured with 2x 16GB DDR4-2667 ECC SODIMMs and a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD – the IM2P33E8 1TB from ADATA.
The most attractive aspect of the Quartz Canyon NUC is the presence of two PCIe slots (electrical, x16 and x4) for plug-in cards. In the absence of a discrete GPU – which is not necessary in a DAS testbed – both slots are available. We even added a spare SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe SSD to the CPU direct-attached M.2 22110 slot in the plinth to avoid DMI bottlenecks when evaluating Thunderbolt 3 devices. This still allows two plug-in cards that work at x8 (x16 electrical) and x4 (x4 electrical). Because the Quartz Canyon NUC does not have a native 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 the Type-C port enabled by the SST-ECU06.
The specifications of the test bed are summarized in the table below:
The 2021 AnandTech DAS Testbed Configuration System Intel Quartz Canyon NUC9vXQNX CPU Intel Xeon E-2286M Memory ADATA Industrial AD4B3200716G22
32GB (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 Expansion Card SilverStone Tek SST-ECU06 USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C Host OS Windows 10 Enterprise x64 (21H1) Thanks to ADATA, Intel and SilverStone Tek for the building components
The test bed hardware is only one part of the evaluation. In recent years, typical direct-attached storage workloads for memory cards have also evolved. High bit rate 4K videos at 60 fps have become very common and 8K videos are starting to make an appearance. Game rig size has also steadily grown, even in portable game consoles, thanks to high-resolution textures and artwork. With this in mind, our direct-attached storage device evaluation schedule encompasses multiple workloads that are described in detail in the corresponding sections.
Synthetic workloads with CrystalDiskMark and ATTO Real-world access trails using the PCMark 10 storage benchmark Custom robocopy workloads reflecting typical DAS usage Sequential write stress test
In the next section, we have an overview of the performance of the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield in these benchmarks. Before we make closing remarks, we also have some notes on the power consumption and thermal solution of the PSSD.