The Bottom Line
- + Compatibility
- + Portability
- + Low power
- - None
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Introduction & Drive Details
We've been seeing a new wave of fast native USB portable SSDs as of late, and we love it. Nothing beats a portable storage device that delivers up to 20Gbps throughput and offers backward compatibility going all the way back to the dawn of USB 1.1. Even though there are faster portable storage devices than what native USB can muster, we find these to be overall less desirable than something with supreme compatibility, like the subject of today's review.
As we see it, what good is a fast portable SSD if it's not universally compatible? Works on one host device but not another; nothing is more annoying as we see it. This is why we love native USB and prefer it over anything with a bridge chip. At its heart Corsair's EX100U portable SSD is controlled by Phison's PS2251-18 U18 USB 3.2 Gen2 x2 UASP controller:
Native USB eliminates the need for a bridge chip to interface with the host device. Universal compatibility across all USB revisions is made possible by the U18's ultra-low power requirements. Sufficient power to operate the EX100U can even be delivered by low-power USB 1.1 ports. Impressive. Super compact, universal compatibility across all USB revisions and up to 20Gbps throughput, this is portable storage done right.
The Micron TLC arrayed 2TB EX100U is currently selling for less than 10 cents per gigabyte which is quite a bargain as we see it. Corsair advertises its EX100U series as capable of up to 1,600 MB/s throughput over a USB 3.2 Gen2 x2 interface.
CDI identifies our test subject as UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol) interfaced.
The lightweight, compact device is smaller than a credit card and constructed of high-quality materials. Both USB-A and USB-C cables are included. Additionally, and worth noting, the device is preformatted as exFAT, so it is out-of-the-box compatible with Mac, PC, and gaming consoles.
Synthetic Benchmarks: CDM, ATTO & Blackmagic
Results here demonstrate outstanding and higher-than-advertised sequential throughput, whether serving data to the host or programming data to the device. 4K Q1T1 random results are similarly impressive.
ATTO demonstrates our test subject hits full stride at 256KB transfers. We like the smooth pattern the drive is delivering, and no hiccups along the way is always great to see.
The EX100U appears to be an excellent choice for video duties.
Real-World Testing: PCMark 10, 3DMark SSD Gaming & Transfer Rates
PCMark 10 Data Drive Benchmark
The Data Drive Benchmark is designed to test drives that are used for storing files rather than applications. You can also use this test with NAS drives, USB sticks, memory cards, and other external storage devices.
The Data Drive Benchmark uses 3 traces, running 3 passes with each trace as follows:
- Copying 339 JPEG files, 2.37 GB in total,?into?the target drive (write test).
- Making a copy of the JPEG files (read-write test).
- Copying the JPEG files to another drive (read test).
We won't fault the EX100U much for this as it is a very unlikely use case scenario for this type of ultra-portable device.
3DMark SSD Gaming Test
UL's newest 3DMark SSD Gaming Test is the most comprehensive SSD gaming test ever devised. We consider it superior to testing against games themselves because, as a trace, it is much more consistent than variations that will occur between runs on the actual game itself. This test is in fact the same as running the actual game, just without the inconsistencies inherent to application testing.
In short, we believe that this is the world's best way to test an SSDs gaming prowess and accurately compare it against competing SSDs. The 3DMark SSD Gaming Test measures and scores the following:
- Loading Battlefield V from launch to the main menu.
- Loading Call of Duty Black Ops 4 from launch to the main menu.
- Loading Overwatch from launch to the main menu.
- Recording a 1080p gameplay video at 60 FPS with OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) while playing Overwatch.
- Installing The Outer Worlds from the Epic Games Launcher.
- Saving game progress in The Outer Worlds.
- Copying the Steam folder for Counter-Strike Global Offensive from an external SSD to the system drive.
Gaming is a performance metric that matters to the majority of DIY consumers, especially to the enthusiast crowd that TweakTown caters to. We are now including gaming performance as a part of our external SSD reviews, as using portable storage for gaming duties is very popular among avid gamers. We consider 1,000 points here to indicate the drive as an acceptable portable game storage device. We get that, so good enough.
DiskBench - Transfer Rates
We brutalize our test subjects with our extremely hard-to-swallow 100GB data block. This data block is the same one we use for our internal SSD testing and is composed of more than 62K files. This is where the rubber meets the road for a portable SSD. Real-world transfer performance is good enough when programming data, excellent when serving data to the host.
Our take on portable storage is compatibility comes first. Then performance. This new wave of fast native USB storage is finally giving us the universal compatibility we demand, and it's also delivering plenty of performance for our liking.
Corsair's EX100U gives us exactly what we want and is the best portable storage device Corsair has ever brought forth. Editor's Choice.