With the proliferation of high-speed external connectivity such as USB 3.2, USB 4.0, and Thunderbolt, it has become much easier to transform laptops into workstations capable of handling multi-terabytes of data within an acceptable performance envelope. Often, building a DIY external SSD leads to higher performance, resilience, and value.
The Sabrent USB Type-C Tool-Free Enclosure for M.2 PCIe NVME and SATA SSDs (that’s the official name) is a competitively priced external enclosure compatible with both SATA and NVME M.2 drives (2242/2260/2280 sizes). The broad compatibility is its first advantage because plenty of other enclosures work with NVME -or- SATA drives, but not both.
The maximum sustained data transmission rate is 10 Gbps with USB 3.2 and above (TB 3&4, USB 4), and it will go down if you use USB 3.1 and USB 3.0 as these older protocols have lower speeds. That translates into a theoretical rate of ~ 1000MB, driven by a controller believed to be the Realtek RTL9210B.
“COMPATIBLE WITH BOTH SATA AND NVME M.2 DRIVES”
1000MB/s is less than what internal NVME SSD drives can reach, but many real-world applications are limited by their computation speeds or other things than the drive itself. As such, many users will find the perceived performance to be comparable and frequently very acceptable.
We assembled the enclosure with a Sabrent Rocket Q NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 2TB SSD drive (approximately $250 on Amazon). As an external drive, it will perform below its peak internal-NVME performance (~3200MB/s). Still, it’s an excellent option for this type of application, and it comes with a free license of Acronis True Image, a disk-cloning and backup software that I have used for many years.
This Sabrent external SSD enclosure’s design emphasizes resilience, and it seems extremely hard to crush or break if you drop it, even from a multi-story home. I haven’t tried breaking it, but I have handled enough external storage to spot a solid one when I see it.
The fact that it is toolless also makes it convenient for frequent SSD swaps. I assume that it is a niche use case, but I like the idea of not even needing a screwdriver to assemble a functional external SSD drive.
Upon pushing the front button, the top cover pops out and gives you access to the SSD drive, which is locked in place by a (soft) rubber knob instead of the typical small Philips screw. Upon closing, a soft pad will firmly hold the SSD in place. That pad also serves as a heatsink that transmits that heat energy to the aluminum chassis, dissipating it.
If your app does heavy disk I/O (video export…), SSD drive can generate quite a bit of heat, and an excellent cooling system will help avoid performance throttling at the SSD level.
I tested the performance by connecting the 2TB enclosure to a Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen3 workstation as it could a realistic scenario (via Thunderbolt 3). As expected, the performance is right around 1000 MB/s, and that’s pretty much the maximum that the 10Gbps protocol will allow.
The random 4K performance is hindered by the external storage nature of this setup, so if you deal with a ton of small files, the perceived performance difference compared to an internal SSD would be more pronounced. Unfortunately, this is inherent to external storage systems, and there isn’t much that can be done at this point.
We’ve also confirmed that the speed is identical when going through the Sabrent Thunderbolt 3 DS-TH3C docking station, and we assume that’s true for other 10Gbps ports on other docking stations as well.
“PRICED VERY COMPETITIVELY”
Retailing for $26.99 at publishing time (was $39.99), the Sabrent USB Type-C Tool-Free Enclosure for M.2 PCIe NVME and SATA SSDs are priced very competitively. Not so long ago, I bought an unknown-brand NVME-only enclosure with a lesser design and built quality for ~$24.
I would clearly not make the same choice today, and this Sabrent enclosure is a no-brainer pick at that price point: I highly recommend it.