The Plugable TBT3-NVME480 SSD is designed for Thunderbolt machines like Apple’s latest line of MacBook Pro models, and it offers transfer speeds of up to 2400MB/s read and 1200MB/s write.
Design wise, the palm-sized Plugable Thunderbolt 3 SSD is unremarkable. It’s made from a solid black brushed aluminum with a ridged design at the sides, and a single LED light on the front that lets you know when it’s connected and receiving power.
There’s an integrated Thunderbolt 3 cable at the top, and a rather large and highly visible printed Pluable logo, which cheapens the look of the device just a bit. It’s smaller than an iPhone X and similar in size to a deck of cards, so it’s portable enough to stick in a bag or even a pocket if so desired.
As with most SSDs, your MacBook provides power to the SSD, so there’s no extra power cable to deal with.
With continual usage, I’ve noticed that Plugable’s SSD can get fairly warm, but that’s not unusual and it does not appear to impact performance.
It’s worth noting that the TBT3-NVME480 SSD comes with an 18-month warranty that can be extended to 36 months through registration, so if it fails during that time period, Plugable will replace it for you.
As mentioned above, Plugable says the TBT3-NVME480 SSD is able to reach maximum read speeds of 2400MB/s and maximum write speeds of 1200MB/s thanks to Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and its use of NVMe technology.
In Blackmagic disk speed tests with a 2016 MacBook Pro, my actual results varied a bit. With the test that uses 5GB file sizes to test transfer speeds, read speeds topped out at about 2025MB/s, while write speeds were just about at Plugable’s promised 1200MB/s.
You should see faster transfer speeds near the maximum with smaller file sizes. In practice, it took just about three minutes to transfer a 57GB file from my MacBook Pro to the Plugable SSD. Comparatively, that same transfer with a standard hard drive took 17 minutes.
Transfer speeds will, in practice, differ based on the other peripherals you have plugged into your Mac and your Mac’s workload.
When using this drive with the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, make sure to plug it into the left side of the machine. The Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right side of the 13-inch MacBook Pro have reduced PCI Express bandwidth and Plugable says transfer speeds could be slower in this situation.
Plugable’s TBT3-NVME480 SSD is compatible only with Thunderbolt 3 machines, and it is not backwards compatible with Macs and Windows PCs that use USB-C or USB-A. That means you’re not going to be able to plug this into an older machine to facilitate file transfers – it’s exclusively for use with Thunderbolt 3.
For Apple’s Macs, that means it works with the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models, 2017 iMac models, and all iMac Pro models. macOS Sierra and later is required.
The SSD also works with Windows machines that support Thunderbolt 3 and have Windows 10, 8.1, or 7 installed. It is not compatible with Boot Camp Windows installations, unfortunately.
On Macs, the TBT3-NVME480 SSD works as soon as it’s plugged into a free Thunderbolt 3 port (it’s exFAT formatted), while on Windows, you’ll need to go through an authentication process. Windows users will also need to make sure the latest TB3 and BIOS firmware updates are installed.
At $400 for 480GB of storage, the Plugable BT3-NVME480 SSD isn’t cheap, but it’s also not wildly unaffordable if you’re aiming to find an SSD that’s going to offer the fastest speeds you can get for tasks like large file transfers, booting an OS, or running a gaming library or photo library from an external drive.
You can get a 480GB SSD from Amazon for somewhere around $150, so the Plugable TB3 SSD is more than twice as expensive as other options, but it also offers twice the transfer speed. With a standard SSD, you’re going to max out at about 450-500MB/s, so that extra $250 gets you more than twice the speed.
There are few Thunderbolt 3-compatible drives on the market right now, and most other options are 1TB+ and far more expensive, so it’s nice that Plugable is offering a smaller, less expensive drive that’s at least a little more accessible. On the downside, this storage solution is TB3 only and can’t be used with non-TB3 machines, which is something to be aware of.
The average person doesn’t need to shell out the extra money for the kind of transfer speeds offered by Plugable’s new SSD, but for those who do need the fastest possible speeds, this is a storage option that’s potentially worth checking out.
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Note: Plugable provided MacRumors with a TBT3-NVME480 SSD for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.
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