We all have external hard drives and over the years learned that USB 2.0 never lived up to the needs of mass storage. The transfer rates for USB 2.0 were just too slow to comfortably move large files in a timely manner. How many times can a person live through moving 40GB of data and it takes half of the day? A few months ago the successor to USB 2.0 made an appearance on retail motherboards and USB 3.0 has now trickled down to entry level boards.
USB 3.0 is capable of transferring data faster than the SATA II interface, so for the most part we expect to see performance that is on par with SSDs running similar controllers. So far we have not had luck with this assumption, but NEC has a new driver for their USB 3.0 controller and I am told it fixes the SSD shuddering issue with USB 3.0; we shall find out today.
Previous experience aside, today's article is all about the new N002 128GB USB 3.0 Portable SSD from A-DATA. A-DATA has been on a roll with their solid state products; just recently we reviewed their first SandForce controlled SSD, only the second we had come across with the new SF-1200 controller. The A-DATA N002 at first glance appears to be a standard SATA II Indilinx Barefoot based solid state drive. Once you get a glimpse of the side, though, you see the USB 3.0 power and data port and that is when things start to get interesting.
Over the last year we saw many Indilinx based drives ship with USB 2.0 ports and for a short time we thought this would become standard. At the time SSDs were much more expensive than what anyone would even consider spending on an external product, but the capability was there and you could use a standard SSD with a USB 2.0 connector as a very small external drive. One would still have to try to live with the 30 - 35MB/s data transfer rates from USB 2.0, but the drive would be small.
Pairing USB 3.0 with an Indilinx Barefoot in a mostly standard 2.5" form factor drive that can be either ran off of SATA II or USB 3.0 is kind of like the holy grail of portable storage at this point. Let's take a look and see if the hype matches the reality.