Samsung Portable SSD X5 Review

If you have a fairly recent PC or Mac with a Thunderbolt 3 port, and you want/need some very high performance external storage, one of your best choices will be an external Thunderbolt 3 drive, especially one that uses an M.2 NVMe NAND flash drive with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface. A good example is the Samsung Portable SSD X5. This drive comes in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities. These currently range in price from $217.99, to $447.99, to $897.99. This may seem expensive (and it is), but these prices have been nearly cut in half compared to when this drive was first available in August 2018.

From the exploded view in Figure 1, it appears that you might be able to disassemble the Samsung enclosure and swap in your own M.2 NVMe drive (which I am sure would void your warranty). This would let you put in any M.2 NVMe SSD that you wanted. I am not 100% sure this is possible though.

Samsung X5

Figure 1: Exploded View of Samsung Portable SSD X5

You will also need a machine with a Thunderbolt 3 port, preferably with PCIe 3.0 x4 bandwidth so that you get the full performance that the drive can deliver. Figure 2 shows the CrystalDiskMark results for this drive in my recent HP Spectre x360 13 AP0023DX laptop, which has an TB3 PCIe 3.0 x4 port.


Figure 2: 500GB Samsung Portable SSD X5 in TB3 PCIe 3.0 x4 port

With Windows 10 version 1809 or later, it is also very important that you set the write-caching policy to what you want it to be for that drive. The new default for external drives is Quick removal, which is safer, but disables write caching in Windows. If you want better write performance, you should enable write caching for the drive as you see in Figure 3.


Figure 3: Windows 10 Write-Caching Policy

Another important factor is exactly what type of Thunderbolt 3 port and PCIe 3.0 interface you have in your laptop or desktop machine. I have a two-year old Dell Precision 5520 laptop that only has a PCIe 3.0 x2 interface for its USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port. This effectively cuts your maximum sequential performance in half compared to a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface. You can see these results in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Performance Effect of PCIe 3.0 x4 Interface

Figure 5 shows the CrystalDiskMark results for a 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 NVMe drive in my HP Spectre x360 laptop. That drive is an incredible value right now, giving great performance for less than $250.00. Flash NAND SSD prices have been in steep decline over the past year. I vividly remember paying $620.00 for a 1TB Samsung 960 PRO M.2 NVMe drive in November 2017.


Figure 5: 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 NVMe SSD in HP Spectre x360

Samsung Portable SSD X5

Figure 6: Samsung Portable SSD X5

This drive is still somewhat pricey, and it does get warm under a heavy load, which happens with all M.2 drives. The built-in heatsink in the enclosure should help with that, compared to an M.2 drive inside a laptop.

Still, if you want TB3 level performance from an external drive and you have a new enough machine to support it, it is nice solution.

New HP Spectre x360 Laptop


Earlier this week, I bought a new HP Spectre x360 13-AP0023DX convertible laptop at Best Buy. I have often criticized Best Buy as a bad place to buy a computer, but in this case I ignored my own advice for some good reasons. First, this was a great deal for $1050.00. This particular laptop has an Intel Core i7-8565U “Whiskey Lake” processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB Toshiba XG5 M.2 NVMe SSD, a 13.3” IPS 4K touchscreen, Intel UHD 620 integrated graphics, two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, and one USB-A 3.0 port. Second, I was planning on swapping out the 512GB Toshiba M.2 NVMe drive for a bigger and faster 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus.

The Best Buy computer buying experience has dramatically improved over what it was several years ago. Back then, if you bought a computer, they would doggedly insist that a “Geek Squad” tech needed to unbox your machine, power it on, and “configure” it for you. That service might have been well suited for a non-technical person, but since I am my own Geek Squad, I didn’t need or want it back then.

The main remaining problem with buying a laptop from Best Buy is that their machines will have whatever bloatware the OEM decided to add to their standard Windows 10 Home image. You can try to uninstall everything you don’t want, or you can just install a fresh copy of Windows 10 Professional. If you go with the latter route, you will also need to download and install all of the HP and Intel-specific drivers from the HP Support website. You will probably need to update your main system BIOS and any other firmware that is out of date. You can avoid most of this hassle if you buy a laptop from a Microsoft Store, where they use a very clean, bloatware-free image on their machines. This is called Microsoft Signature Edition.


After getting everything reinstalled and fully updated, I ran a few quick performance tests. This machine is pretty speedy from a CPU and storage perspective. Since it has two PCIe 3.0 x4 Thunderbolt 3 ports, I can use some very fast external storage if I need to. I do wish it had 32GB of RAM.

The purpose of this machine is to be a backup for my main work laptop (a 15” Dell Precision 5520), just in case I ever have problems with it when I am on the road. It only weighs 2.8 pounds, and it came with a touch pen that you can use to draw with as a tablet. It also has a 12-hour battery life, which is very handy. This machine is actually faster than my two-year old Dell Precision 5520 with an Intel Xeon E3-1505M v6 processor.


Figure 1: Intel Core i7-8565U Information

This processor compares pretty well to the old (Q3 2015) Intel Core i7-6700K desktop processor, which is pretty impressive for a mobile processor with only 15W TDP. I have confirmed that it is using Intel Speed Shift in combination with Windows 10. This means that it throttles up it’s clock speed much more quickly.


Figure 2: Intel Core i7-8565U Benchmark Results

It was pretty easy to get to the SSD, after removing six small Philips screws that are hidden under two rubber strips on the bottom of the machine. After swapping out the OEM Toshiba SSD for the 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD, I ran CrystalDiskMark, with the results shown below.


Figure 3: CrystalDiskMark 6.0.2 Results

I am very impressed by the 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus. I am still waiting for the 2TB model to become available.


Figure 4: 1TB Samsung EVO Plus

Here are a few reviews of this machine:

HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2019) Review

HP Spectre x360 13 (2019)

HP Spectre 13 review

Initial CrystalDiskMark Results for Intel Optane 900p

I have been building a new desktop workstation based on an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X processor (which I will be describing in much more detail in a subsequent blog post). I am planning on using one of the brand new 480GB Intel Optane SSD 900p PCIe cards as my boot drive. Initially, I installed Windows 10 Professional, Version 1709 on a pretty lackluster OEM 256GB Toshiba M.2 NVMe drive that I had lying around. My plan is to clone that drive to the Intel Optane 900p.

I also have a couple of 1TB Samsung 960 PRO M.2 NVMe cards in this machine, so I thought I would run a couple of quick CrystalDiskMark tests on the two drives. One thing to keep in mind is that CrystalDiskMark is not the best synthetic benchmark to use to show off the strengths of the Optane 900p.

Traditional NAND-based SSDs excel at very high queue depths that are not usually encountered outside of synthetic benchmarks (especially for random read performance). Optane 900p SSDs perform extremely well for random reads at low queue depths. This gives you outstanding responsiveness and performance where it is going to be most noticeable in daily usage.

You can see part of this effect in the bottom row of CDM test results for reads, where the Optane 900p is doing about 4.3X more 4K IOPS than the Samsung 960 PRO at a queue depth of 1. A better test for this will be Microsoft DiskSpd, which can also measure the latency during the test run.

Here are some of the primary advantages of the Intel Optane 900p compared to current NAND flash storage.


    • High random read and write performance
    • High performance at low queue depths
    • High simultaneous read and write performance
    • High read and write performance at small capacity points
    • High performance maintained as the drive fills with data
    • Higher endurance than current NAND technology



Figure 1: 1TB Samsung 960 PRO with Samsung NVMe driver



Figure 2: 480GB Intel Optane 900p with Intel NVMe driver