Portable and external storage drives has been around for quite some time now. However portable hard drives, like the WD My Passport Slim, are built with mechanical hard drives inside them. Sure they are cheaper and offer more storage capacity but they don’t offer a faster read/write speed even when connected to a USB 3.0. Not to mention external storage drives that rely on a mechanical hard drives are very vulnerable to bumps, drops or hard drive failure. Today, we are going to look at a portable storage drive that is built with a SSD or Solid State Drive, offering a much faster read/write speed and a more durable storage solution, – the Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD. The Akitio aDrive U3 provides a combination of cutting-edge technology, durability and flexibility, and is a great solution for those who are looking for a fast portable storage drive. Please continue reading my Akitio aDrive U3 review below and find out if this is the portable SSD drive for you.
Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD Review
The Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD features a USB3.0 SuperSpeed interface for a faster file transmission. Aside from having a USB3.0 interface, it supports UAS Protocol (USB Attached SCSI) for increased performance compared to your typical USB transmission. It’s also backwards compatible with USB2.0 but I wouldn’t suggest that you use this with a USB2.0 port since you won’t be able to take advantage of its speed.
The Akitio aDrive U3 doesn’t require an external power for it to function. It draws it power from the USB port, just plug it in your PC or laptop and you are good to go. It’s also made of a clean-looking all aluminum casing which is very sturdy in my opinion.
I’ll discuss more of its features as we take a closer look below. You can also check its full specifications from the table below.
Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD Specifications
|Model No.||aDrive U3|
|Part No.||ADV-U3AS-AKTH (1 x 240GB SSD)|
|Case material||All aluminum case|
|Application||2.5" SATA-III SSD|
|Interface/Ports||1x Mini USB 3.0 SuperSpeed port (backwards compatible with USB 2.0)|
|Data transfer||USB 3.0 up to 5Gbps (625MB/s)
USB 2.0 up to 480Mbps (60MB/s)
|System requirements (PC)||USB 3.0: Windows XP or above
USB 2.0: Windows XP or above
Computer with USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 connector
|System requirements (Mac)||USB 3.0: Mac OS 10.7 or above
USB 2.0: Mac OS 10.2 or above
Computer with USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 connector
|System environment||Operating Temperature: 5°C ~ 35°C
Storage Temperature: -20°C ~ 60°C
Relative Humidity: 5% ~ 95% (non-condensing)
|Power supply||Bus Power 5V/900mA (host computer has to provide sufficient USB bus power)|
|Fan noise level||N/A|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||5 inches x 3 inches x 0.58 inches
12.7cm x 7.6cm x 1.5cm
|Package contents||aDrive U3, USB 3.0 cable, Setup guide|
|Carton/Packing||Retail Box Size: 6.5 x 5.1 x 2 in. (16.4 x 12.9 x 5.1 cm)
Carton Size (20pcs per carton): 21.4 x 10.9 x 7.4 in. (54.3 x 27.7 x 18.7 cm)
|Remarks||To achieve the best possible transfer rates, make sure that the USB 3.0 host also supports the UAS protocol (UASP) and use one of the latest operating systems like Windows 8 or Mac OS X v10.9.|
Packaging and Closer Look
The Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD comes in a nice and clean white box. Most of the drive’s features and specifications can be read from the front and backside of the box. Inside the box you get a USB3.0 to micro USB3.0 cable, some Akitio stickers and a setup guide.
Above we have a closer look at the aDrive U3. It features an all-aluminum body, and it feels very sturdy and solid. The aluminum shell doesn’t flex at all even if you intentionally apply some amount of force on it. The simple design blends well with the Apple MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. And Speaking of Apple’s notebook, the aDrive U3 that I got is pre-formatted for Mac use. So I have to reformat the drive for Windows use which is very easy to do, via Computer Management.
Here is front and back side view of the drive. If you notice there is a small elongated hole located on top of Akitio’s logo. That’s actually an activity LED indicator. There are no rubber feets on the base so you might want to place this on a flat surface, like a table, to prevent from slipping.
Opening the Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD was easy as well. You only need to unscrew the two screws located at the bottom and gently pull the bottom portion slowly. Removing the aluminum shell reveals a 240GB 2.5-inch SSD from Memo Right. You might not have heard of the company before, but Memoright is a Taiwan based company who specializes in manufacturing solid state drives, and the company has been around since 2006. The Memo Right STM Plus is not the company’s latest or fastest solid state drive solution. They have the XT3, X3M and XTM.
Attached to the solid state drive is a small SATA to USB3.0 adapter/converter which transforms the STM Plus to an external one. At this point, I realized that you can replace the SSD if you have a much faster or larger capacity, like the new Samsung 850 Pro, or Samsung 840 Evo 1TB. I haven’t tried replacing the STM Plus with another SSD, but I think it’s very much possible.
You’ll also notice that the aluminum case is indeed thicker. Even if the SSD doesn’t have any moving mechanical parts, making it much durable compared to a mechanical hard drive, it still needs an ample amount of protection.
Above are front and back views of the MemoRight STM Plus SSD which is inside the Akitio aDrive U3, and a closer look at the SATA III to micro USB3.0 converter. The adapter or converter features an asmedia ASM1053 chip super speed USB controller. It’s not the latest chip, since the latest from asmedia is the ASM1153 and ASM1153E.
The drive is composed of 8x Toshiba TH58TEG8DBHBASC LT1266 NAND Flash chips that make the 240GB capacity. There’s also a Nanya 1303 NT5CB256M16BP-CG DDRDRAM memory IC and a JMF667H 1313 BGAA0 chip which I am not familiar with.
Now let’s see how well (or not) the Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD performs below.
Below is my setup while testing the Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD:
Operating System: Windows 8.1 Pro 64bit
Motherboard: Asus Maximus VI Impact
Processor: Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition
Memory: Kingston HyperX Beast DDR3-2400 16GB
Graphics card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 750 Ti OC
Hard Drive: ADATA XPG SX900 256GB for the OS and WD RE 4TB for files
Power Supply: Cooler Master V550 PSU
The MemoRight STM Plus SSD inside the aDrive U3 supports SMART and TRIM command, and its currently using MRV1.7 firmware version.
In testing the performance of the Akitio aDrive U3 external SSD, I used the following benchmarking tools: HD Tune Pro 5.50, ATTO Disk Benchmark, CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3, Anvil’s Storage Utilities and AJA Video System tool.
Note: Since this is an external device, the internal PC components will not affect the drive’s performance. It doesn’t matter if your laptop or PC has a high end graphics card or if you’re only using a budget dual core processor. The important thing is that you have a good USB3.0 port, and preferably supports UASP or USB Attached SCSI Protocol.
Akitio aDrive U3 Benchmark Results
The Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD got a read speed of 458MBps and a write speed of 418MBps in ATTO Disk Benchmark. ATTO’s benchmark results most of the time returns the highest speeds.
In HD Tune Pro’s read test, it got an average of 251.7 MBps which is not bad. Usually it’s HD Tune that returns the lowest score. Below are results for the Random Access and File Benchmarks.
The CrystalDiskMark is another popular storage benchmark tool and from here, onwards, I got a more consistent result. The left result represents the 32bit test, while the right result represents a 64bit test.
Just like with the CrystalDiskBenchmark, read speeds are around 420MBps++, while write speeds are around 380MBps++.
I’ve added AJA System Test which performs a speed test of any drive, including network mapped drives, giving you insight into the read/write performance of the drive and overall throughput of the system. I ran a 720p and 1080p test with a 1GB file size. The results are still somewhat similar with the CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD benchmark.
Last but not the least is benchmarking the Akitio aDrive U3 with Anvil’s Storage Utilities. I tested the drive with 100% Compression (incompressible) test, 46% compressions and 0-fill compression. All three tests returned a consistent read/write speed. This gives us an idea that the SSD that Akitio used is a fast SSD, not the fastest, but read/write speed is pretty much consistent.
Price and Availability
The Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD is available in the US and the 240GB capacity can be purchased from Amazon for only $199.99. It originally has a retail price of $279.99 but its price already went down.
Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD Review: Conclusion
At the end of the day, the Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD passed the test without any problems. Aesthetically speaking, the aDrive U3 looks really good and the aluminum shell feels very sturdy and solid. Out of the box it’s ready to be used for Mac users, while Windows users will need to reformat the drive first.
Performance wise, the aDrive U3 takes advantage of the UASP and has a fast read/write speeds. It’s definitely not the fastest, but it’s not the slowest SSD either. Its read/write speed sits just below the performance of the ADATA Premier Pro SP920 256GB that I previously reviewed.
But just like most of the products out there, the aDrive U3 is not perfect and can still be improved further. First, I would appreciate it if it came with rubber feets so that it won’t slip from the surface easily. Second, a lock/unlock software would have been great for protection and security. Finally, it would be great if the company lowers its price, since competition offers a much attractive pricing. The Seagate Fast 256GB Portable External SSD STCM240100 currently has a retail price of $248.98, and the Shadow Mini 240GB Portable SSD from Oyen Digital is currently priced at $179.95 only. I don’t know if the portable SSD of Akitio’s competitors are faster or not but their prices are more attractive.
Bottom line is the Akitio aDrive U3 Portable SSD is a great product. It’s stylish, solid and fast; and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if you are willing to pay its price.