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Envoy Pro SX — next generation portable storage from OWC

OWC Envoy Pro SX is a portable Thunderbolt SSD. It’s fast, rugged and small enough to fit in a pocket.

At a glance

For: Fast, rugged, portable.
Against: SSD storage is more expensive than a disc. This is more noticeable with greater storage capacities.
Maybe: Heavier than disc-based portable drives.
Verdict: This is the future of portable storage.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Price: Around NZ$530 for the 480GB model tested here.
Web: OWC

Cloud storage is great. Fast, efficient fibre or mobile broadband can make it feel as if your data is close to hand even when it is miles away. It isn’t expensive or difficult to use.

Yet there can be times you’re not connected. You may have data that you don’t want to store online. Or you might want an emergency belt-and-braces back-up in case their is a cloud apocalypse.

That’s why external drives remain popular. You have no end of choice when it comes to external storage. From USB memory sticks to shared network drives, the market has every niche and price point covered.

OWC Envoy Pro SX

Premium external storage

OWC’s Envoy Pro SX is premium personal back-up. It can be worth paying extra if you spend a lot of time working with large media files – say you work in video, design, photography or audio production.

At the heart of the Envoy Pro SX is a solid state drive or SSD. This has two advantages when compared to disc-based drives.

First, it is fast. The drive has a Thunderbolt 3 interface and comes supplied with a Thunderbolt 3 cable. It reads and writes data faster than any hard drive and faster than any drive connected with a more conventional interface.

Models, pricing

OWC sent a 480GB drive. There are 240GB, 1Tb and 2TB versions.

At the time of writing no New Zealand store was selling the drives.

A US-based online store has them at US$200 for the 240GB model, US$250 for the 480GB drive, US$350 for the 1TB and US$530 for the 2TB model. You’d need to pay a delivery charge on top of these prices. The price in the At a glance table above is from a US-based seller offering NZ dollar prices.

Experience says if these products go on sale here, local prices in NZ dollars including GST will be roughly twice the US dollar price. Expect to pay between NZ$400 and $1000 depending on the amount of storage.

The drives don’t look special. They are roughly the same size as small external disc drives and weigh about 20 percent more. It gets warmer than the disc drives, but this is not a problem.

The SSD drive has a rugged case with protective rubber. It can take more punishment than a portable external disc drive.

Testing

You’ll need a Thunderbolt port on your PC or Mac to get the best speed. Connecting the Envoy Pro SX is as easy as inserting a USB thumb-drive.

OWC includes software to format the drive. Connecting to a 2019 iMac and formatting the drive took no more than five minutes from opening the box.

The drive maker’s documentation says the OWC Envoy Pro SX can transfer data at up to 2711Mbps. The words ‘up to’ can a lot of work in manufacturers’ claims, what about here?

Transfer tests

First test was to copy the 102Gb Music folder from the Mac hard drive to the Envoy Pro SX. That took 91 seconds.

That’s around 1200Mbps.

The number here is deliberately kept loose. There’s a sizable margin of errors when using a stopwatch to measure transfer speeds. It’s not going to help you any more to know if the speed was 1249.5Mbps.

Each measurement was made three times to check there wasn’t a rogue reading.

The test speed is less than half the 2711Mbps OWC promises in its specifications. Yet there were 20,000 individual files in the folder. That can slow things down.

Moving pictures

A single 1.2GB movie file copied in less than a second. The largest single file to hand was a 7.7GB application that took a shade under 5 seconds to transfer. That’s about 1600Mbps.

To understand this in context, an ordinary seagate external drive on a USB connection transfers data on the test computer at less than a quarter of that speed.

Which means the Envoy Pro SX is as fast as external storage can be.

Backing up

While using Acronis True Image back-up, the app reported the data transfer rate rising to around 2400Mbps, but would fall back.

A full 420GB hard drive back up took around 20 minutes. The same back-up took over 90 minutes on a disc based back-up drive.

Wiping both drives clean and doing a first Apple Time Machine back up got similar results.

Envoy Pro SX – verdict

You’ll struggle to find faster external storage. It’s rugged, portable and reliable.

If you work in media production, the extra cost will pay off immediately in reduced wait times.

Otherwise, it can be an indulgence when compared with disc-based drives. Yet once you’ve tried an SSD external back-up, you won’t want to do things the old way.

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