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Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Let's test a 1TB Samsung X5 Thunderbolt 3 SSD...
...
But what happens if you connect it to a CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 dock and then connect the dock to a Apple Thunderbolt 3-to-Thunderbolt 2 adapter and then connect that with a 6' OWC Thunderbolt cable to a 2015 MacBook Pro?
And, it turns out you can boot from this setup - that is, I just booted macOS Mojave from the Samsung X5 connected to the CalDigit TS3 Plus dock, which was connected to the Apple TB3-TB2 adapter, which was in turn connected to the 2015 MacBook Pro.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Let's test a 1TB Samsung X5 Thunderbolt 3 SSD...
...
But what happens if you connect it to a CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 dock and then connect the dock to a Apple Thunderbolt 3-to-Thunderbolt 2 adapter and then connect that with a 6' OWC Thunderbolt cable to a 2015 MacBook Pro?
And that's the only way to use the Samsung X5 with a pre-Thunderbolt 3 Mac. It does not work as a USB device; macOS Mojave posts an alert when it's connected to USB, saying that it must be connected to a Thunderbolt port.
 


D3G

Ric,

Really useful info, particularly the part about the Apple TB3-TB2 adapter.

I had a bad experience with it, when it first came out along with the then-new LG displays (trying to get the small LG to work with a 2013 Mac Pro - before learning about the lack of video support). I have been looking at OWC's Thunderbolt 3 Express 4M2 (with four M.2 NVMe SSD slots) connected to the Mac Pro via the adapter. While Apple claims it is bidirectional, I was skeptical (fool me once...).

I have Thunderbolt 2 CalDigit and OWC Thunderbay arrays raided via SoftRAID (video and photos - although in another discussion, I can add my recommendation for that software). I need to expand the storage pool and am looking to the future which seems to be pointing to M.2 format for better performance (Samsung 970 Pro is in M.2 format only).

Since I will be getting Apple's new modular Mac Pro in my Christmas stocking (hey... I put it in my letter to Santa... and I will leave cookies out...), I am looking at Thunderbolt 3 enclosures and M.2/NVMe formats.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Here's a very interesting analysis of an SSD based on new storage technology that packs more data in the same space (4 bits/cell), promising lower prices on high capacities, but with significant issues.
Anandtech said:
The Samsung 860 QVO (1TB, 4TB) SSD Review: First Consumer SATA QLC
... The downsides of QLC NAND—be they mild or severe—are all accepted in exchange for the promise of affordability. Other things being equal, QLC NAND should ideally be 25% cheaper than TLC NAND. There are several reasons why this is an unobtainable goal at this point, but even accounting for those, the few QLC SSDs we have so far are all failing to deliver the improved affordability. NAND flash memory prices are dropping across the board, so now is not the best time to try to use new technology to get ahead on pricing. The 860 QVO looks likely to suffer the same fate that affects many entry-level DRAMless SATA SSDs: the higher-volume mainstream SSDs are on the leading edge of the price drops, and that means they often close the gap with entry-level SSDs.

Samsung's MSRPs for the 860 QVO reflect that. The current street prices for the 860 EVO are lower than the 860 QVO for two out of three capacities, and that's comparing against one of the best SATA SSDs out there. There are plenty of mainstream drives with slightly lower performance. The exception is in the 4TB segment where Samsung is unopposed. The 4TB segment is only just now starting to look viable, but at $600 for the 4TB QVO it is still well out of a normal consumer price range. It might be worth revisiting the 860 QVO in a few months on pricing to see where it stands.

Samsung plans for the 860 QVO to be available for purchase starting December 16. By then, the holiday sale pricing and related shortages should have settled down, and Samsung will have had the chance to re-consider their pricing. In the meantime, the 860 EVO remains the obviously superior choice.
 


Here's a very interesting analysis of an SSD based on new storage technology that packs more data in the same space (4 bits/cell), promising lower prices on high capacities, but with significant issues.
I wouldn't touch 4 bits/cell with a 10 foot pole.
 



Here's a very interesting analysis of an SSD based on new storage technology that packs more data in the same space (4 bits/cell), promising lower prices on high capacities, but with significant issues.
Samsung was also first out of the gate with TLC NAND when it introduced the EVO line, and it also did not initially have the price advantage that it promised. As the technology matured over the years (and with some technical growing pains in that initial release, the 840 EVO), TLC has now taken over the mainstream SSD market.

I fully expect that after a year or two of maturation, QLC will come to dominate the entry-level SSD market, TLC will be the mainstream market, and MLC/SLC will be in the pro and enterprise space.
 


DFG

The Samsung X5 Portable SSD is also pricy, but it's a good example of a very fast, compact Thunderbolt 3 SSD.
The specs are indeed impressive, but so is the price. "Built to be cool and durable" says Samsung's description at the Amazon link.

However, for this amount of money, I am interested in reliability specifications, such as write endurance. Interestingly enough, Samsung's product website is devoid of any information regarding endurance. This is unacceptable at this price point.

However, by comparing specs, one can make a guess of which kind of SSD is inside this enclosure. My educated guess is that this is a "970 EVO"-class device. And Samsung does provide some endurance information for that model, hidden away in its datasheet. The write endurance is listed under the Warranty section and is proportional to the capacity. For a 1TB drive, it is 600 TBW (or TB Written). What does this mean? Samsung claims that the endurance specification follows JEDEC's JESD218 standard, a standard released in 2010. This standard isn't available for free, unfortunately.

However, a little research reveals an interesting presentation that explains the ideas behind the endurance test. First of all, there are two classes defined, "Client" and "Enterprise". Samsung doesn't say, but I am guessing we are talking "Client" at these prices. It means that a 1TB drive can be written with 600 TBW (or 600x in its entirety) with a functional failure rate of less than 3% and an uncorrectable bit-error-rate of 1E-15. The write workload is detailed in another specification, and it is a "Client" workload for 8h/day at 40 C.

What I do not like about this standard is that it says nothing on what happens after the 600 TBW. Performance and/or failure rate could degrade rapidly - or not.

Another important spec is data retention. This is also part of JESD218. For the "Client" class, the rating is 1 year at 30°C with uncorrectable bit-error-rate of 1E-15. At 40°C, this reduces to 3 months (as evinced from the "Enterprise" class).

Neither of these specs is particularly impressive, in my opinion, when compared to hard disk drives. Products like the Samsung X5 may have impressive performance (at least initially) but if you care about your data integrity, I think you need a more permanent backup.

To be sure, I submitted an inquiry on Samsung's web site on 11/29. After 12 days, I received the following answer:
Ticket ID: 1xxxxxxx (11/29/2018)
Status: Feedback received
Your Name: xxxxx
Your Email: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject:X5 1TB enduranceProblem. What is the specification for write endurance for this product?
SSD Model
Solution [11 Dec 2018 14:44:45]
Unfortunately, Samsung does not provide that information.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Neither of these specs is particularly impressive, in my opinion, when compared to hard disk drives. Products like the Samsung X5 may have impressive performance (at least initially) but if you care about your data integrity, I think you need a more permanent backup.
Having suffered severe problems with a Samsung 840 EVO left unpowered for an extended period, I back up to both hard drives (for long-term storage) and SSD (for rapid recovery), but I don't have definitive data about their relative reliability and would be interested in any good information along that line.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Another important spec is data retention. This is also part of JESD218. For the "Client" class, the rating is 1 year at 30°C with uncorrectable bit-error-rate of 1E-15. At 40°C, this reduces to 3 months (as evinced from the "Enterprise" class).
While doing an intense backup - Carbon Copy Cloner with Backup Health Check, about 600 GB from 2018 MacBook Pro 1TB flash drive to the Samsung X5 - DriveDX shows a warning about excessive temperatures: Overheating, Temperature Sensor 2, which apparently hit 154°F (while Sensor 1 hit 117°F).

The room is cool, but the SSD was on a soft cloth surface for part of the time. I wonder if the thermal design could be better.
 


I've just upgraded my 2009 17" MacBook Pro to the 2018 MacBook Pro with RadeonPro Vega 20 GPU. Handbrake used to chew through a 720p60 video file at about 55 frames per second with the 2009 MacBook Pro while the 2018 is reminiscent of Star Trek's 'Warp Speed' devouring the same video file at 770 fps!

So, I decided to test the 2018's new ports. I connected an old USB 2.0 external spinning drive via a USB-C dongle and fired up Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. Read and Write both came in at around 35 MB/s. Nice.

I connected a newer external USB 3.0 drive. Blackmagic said 150 MB/s Read and Write. Nicer!

I made a RAID 0 from two USB 3.0 drives and Blackmagic said 247 MB/s. Wow!

For a lark, I aimed Blackmagic at the 2018's internal SSD: Read 2591 MB/s, while Write 2664 MB/s!

Is Blackmagic on crack cocaine?
I knew that SSDs were faster than spinning disks, but 15 or 16 times faster?

I don't have an external USB 3.0 SSD to try, but what kind of speed improvement would one expect compared to external USB 3.0 spinning disk? (Where's the bottleneck? ...the spinning drive? ... or the USB 3.0 connection itself?)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
... I knew that SSDs were faster than spinning disks, but 15 or 16 times faster? I don't have an external USB 3.0 SSD to try, but what kind of speed improvement would one expect compared to external USB 3.0 spinning disk? (Where's the bottleneck? ...the spinning drive? ... or the USB 3.0 connection itself?)
Yes, state-of-the-art SSD on an NVMe interface is that much faster than old hard drives on USB 2.

USB 3 is 5Gbps for a little under 500 MB/s and a good match for fast SATA-based SSDs, with SATA III just a touch above at 6Gbps. 10Gbps USB-C/USB 3.1 Gen 2 gives you a little more headroom with very fast SSDs (and/or RAID).

The best NVMe-based SSDs are pushing 3000 MB/s (and Thunderbolt 3 can handle those speeds).
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
For what it's worth, I just discovered that the SanDisk Portable SSD isn't all that much bigger than the Samsung T5, having been confused about that by the marketing material. I still like the Samsung better, as it has an activity light and two cables, but the SanDisk has been consistently priced lower, sometimes quite a bit lower, and it seems solid, too.

Prices have come down a lot (though the T5 jumped up a bit this week), and I expect they'll continue to improve, as demand for NAND looks like it may drop next year.
Also worth noting: Bombich Software (Carbon Copy Cloner) lists some odd issues with the Samsung T5. I haven't verified these (but I have experienced a lot of delays related to APFS volumes).
Bombich Software said:
Help! My clone won't boot!
...
Compatibility issues specific to the Samsung T5 Portable SSD
Some users have reported that the Samsung T5 Portable SSD cannot function at all as a bootable device on the T2-based MacBook Pro 2018. Efforts even to install macOS Mojave onto this device fail to produce a bootable volume. This is a popular enclosure that we've seen great success with, and so far these reports are limited to the 2018 MacBook Pro.

The Samsung T5 Portable SSD also introduces an exceptional delay during startup, whether you're attempting to boot from that device or your Mac's internal hard drive. This appears to be a compatibility problem between the Mac's firmware and this particular SSD when the SSD is formatted as APFS. To avoid this delay, we recommend formatting the Samsung SSD as HFS+ until the compatibility problem is resolved:
  1. Open Disk Utility
  2. Choose "Show all devices" from the View menu
  3. Select the top-level "parent" device of the Samsung T5 SSD in Disk Utility's sidebar
  4. Click the Erase button in the toolbar
  5. Set the format to "Mac OS Extended, Journaled" and give the new volume a name
  6. Click the Erase button
  7. Open CCC and re-select the new volume as the destination, then run the backup task
Note: If you have a T2 Mac, please bear in mind that T2 Macs cannot boot from an encrypted HFS+ formatted device. The Samsung T-series devices will not be a suitable backup device for your T2-based Mac if you require that the backup disk is encrypted.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Bombich Software said:
Help! My clone won't boot!
...
Compatibility issues specific to the Samsung T5 Portable SSD
Some users have reported that the Samsung T5 Portable SSD cannot function at all as a bootable device on the T2-based MacBook Pro 2018. Efforts even to install macOS Mojave onto this device fail to produce a bootable volume. This is a popular enclosure that we've seen great success with, and so far these reports are limited to the 2018 MacBook Pro.
Now confirmed here on the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2018. The Samsung T5 boot hangs at the same point the delay occurs - about 60-70% through the progress bar. There's repetitive activity on the T5, but it never progresses beyond that point.

And when I removed the T5 and booted from the MacBook Pro's internal drive, it didn't pause but continued straight past the problematic point.

I can boot from a Samsung X5 SSD (although it also has a delay mid-way through the progress bar, even though it's a lightning-fast drive).
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Now confirmed here on the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2018. The Samsung T5 boot hangs at the same point the delay occurs - about 60-70% through the progress bar. There's repetitive activity on the T5, but it never progresses beyond that point.
The same thing happens with a 2017 MacBook Pro. (I have Little Snitch on both machines, which could be a factor. I haven't tried removing it.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Just got my 2TB Samsung T5 and ran a quick benchmark on it with Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (5GB test size, macOS Sierra). I used a 2015 MacBook Pro 15", whose USB 3 ports handle only 5Mbps; a 2016 or later MacBook Pro with 10Gbps USB-C should be faster.

FileVault

Write (MB/s)

Read (MB/s)

enabled

378

402

disabled

409

420
And now for comparison, a 2TB SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD:

2018 MacBook Pro, macOS 10.14.2, 10Gbps Type-C port

Blackmagic DIsk Speed Test

APFS Encrypted:
Write: 377 MB/s
Read: 502 MB/s

HFS+ Encrypted:
Write: 416 MB/s
Read: 515 MB/s

AJA System Test Lite

APFS Encrypted:
Write: 390 MB/s
Read: 509 MB/s

HFS+ Encrypted:
Write: 444 MB/s
Read: 495 MB/s


2015 MacBook Pro, macOS 10.12.6, 5Gbps USB 3 port

Blackmagic DIsk Speed Test

HFS+ Encrypted:
Write: 377 MB/s
Read: 398 MB/s

HFS+ (unencrypted):
Write: 383 MB/s
Read: 421 MB/s

AJA System Test Lite

HFS+ Encrypted:
Write: 392 MB/s
Read: 404 MB/s

HFS+ (unencrypted):
Write: 423 MB/s
Read: 419 MB/s


The faster 10Gbps USB-C port in the latest MacBook Pro appears to benefit performance vs. the 5Gbps USB 3.0 port in the earlier MacBook Pro, even though these USB SSDs are themselves limited in performance internally (probably hitting a 6Gbps SATA bottleneck).
 
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I'm very disappointed to find that the included USB-C to USB 3 adapter is very poor in the unit I'm testing and doesn't make any kind of secure contact. With this, its lack of an activity light, performance, and size, I still prefer the more expensive Samsung T5.
Ric, try reversing the cable. On my SanDisk USB=C to USB=A adapter, it fits securely one way, but if flipped, it does not. Close examination shows small plastic tabs fit into the adapter only one way. I also notice that there is an arrow (sideways triangle) that aligns with a similar arrow on the plug when they are in the correct position to lock.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Ric, try reversing the cable. On my SanDisk USB=C to USB=A adapter, it fits securely one way, but if flipped, it does not. Close examination shows small plastic tabs fit into the adapter only one way. I also notice that there is an arrow (sideways triangle) that aligns with a similar arrow on the plug when they are in the correct position to lock.
Wow, thanks for explaining that! You're right, the USB-C adapter only works correctly one way up, not when turned the other side up (despite the fact that USB-C is expressly designed to work either side up). And, yes, now that you've explained it, I see that there are black-on-black triangles showing the match. Much obliged!
 


I noticed that OWC SSDs that were in a MacBook Air were dying ("Sandforce 33K" in Disk Utility), and I am trying to get warranty coverage (they want actual receipt copy... so I emailed them PDF before holidays).

Then I get email from someone I did the same OWC upgrade for (13" MacBook Pro) but a different size, and they are starting to get boots with folder "?" (same issues the user with the MacBook Air was getting prior to the SSD dying).

Is there a slew of these Sandforce-based SSDs from OWC dying now? (I'm aware there was a firmware update on some. But I'm a bit concerned.)
 


I noticed that OWC SSDs that were in a MacBook Air were dying ("Sandforce 33K" in Disk Utility), and I am trying to get warranty coverage (they want actual receipt copy... so I emailed them PDF before holidays).
I had a similar problem several months ago with OWC's Aura Pro in an 11" 2011 MacBook Air. Although the SSD seems to work fine, after several hours of heavy use, it goes off-line. The computer freezes and reboots to a blinking question mark. If I turn the computer off for a few hours, it boots up just fine afterward.

I suspect an overheating problem. I don't think the Air can cool this SSD enough for it to keep working under stress for a long time.

There were no problems using the original Apple SSD (we replaced it to get more storage, not because of any failure).

I had no problem getting OWC to exchange the Aura Pro. The support people were great and replaced it quickly, but the replacement had the same problem. So I now suspect a design flaw.

We ended up replacing the computer (since it was pretty old anyway) and haven't bothered trying to return/exchange the Aura Pro for something else. I will say that the experience has made me decide to avoid a similar upgrade for another 11" 2011 MacBook Air in our household.
 


I had a similar problem several months ago with OWC's Aura Pro in an 11" 2011 MacBook Air. Although the SSD seems to work fine, after several hours of heavy use, it goes off-line. The computer freezes and reboots to a blinking question mark. If I turn the computer off for a few hours, it boots up just fine afterward. ...
I can 100% verify exactly the behavior that David Charlap describes, using a newly replaced 960GB OWC Aura (sold as 1TB) in a 2015 MacBook Air 11". I did use one of these drives in that machine for years on Sierra without issue (apart from running hot, quick battery drain, and inability to recover from hibernation, which were all known issues I lived with).

The beta firmware update, bizarrely only found in one of their knowledge base articles, not on their support or product pages, changes the drive to appear as internal, rather than external (which was always odd). That allows the macOS installer to update the firmware on the host computer, allowing the drive to be used on High Sierra and later without having to first put in an original Apple drive to perform the machine firmware update. The notes on the drive firmware update also suggest that it improves the hibernation recovery issues.

I performed the update, and am now using the drive on Mojave, but have seen the above "drive disappearing" issues David describes when the drives or CPU are under heavy load, or the MacBook Air has been running for a while on an insulating surface (e.g. a mattress). So, it does seem heat related. Still, I never had this issue before, so I don't know whether the new firmware, or something about being on Mojave, exacerbates the issue. It's not frequent, but it when it happens, it's obviously upsetting.

The firmware update tool is made by Marvell, who supply the RAID controller that allows the two 480 GB SSD's on the module to appear as a single volume. Interestingly, it also lets you reconfigure the module from RAID 0 to RAID 1, or no RAID at all, meaning two volumes appear. I elected for the latter, with the hope that if the RAID controller had to do less work, the drives would run cooler.

Unfortunately, I've seen the same "disappearing volume" behavior for the individual drives. This is less of a crisis when it's my non-boot volume that vanishes; in the standard RAID 0 configuration of the Aura, I'd assume the dropout of either disk causes system failure.

(I was also eager to try SoftRAID to create a single volume with considerably more reporting and diagnostic information than the hardware RAID 0, but, according to its author, Mojave does not support booting from any kind of RAID, and probably never will.)

On the plus side, I now recover from hibernate fully and reliably, every time. I haven't tried it in the RAID 0 configuration.

Anecdotally, as a consultant, I've seen quite a few failed OWC Aura modules -- I'm estimating around 15% -- both for SATA and PCIe modules, mostly in MacBook Air 11" and 13" models but also some MacBook Pro Retinas. I love that these products exist at all, and I've been enthusiastic about OWC forever, but the longevity and reliability of the Aura internal modules concern me. And the issue I've seen with the drives just stopping entirely make my own PCIe Aura non-trustable for my personal work.

I don't know whether any of these issues are in fact made worse by the beta firmware update, or running on Mojave, so if you are using an Aura Pro successfully on Sierra or earlier, I'd be cautious before upgrading. I'd be curious to hear from anyone who has one of these drives running reliably on Mojave.

I also don't know whether any of these issues apply to the Aura Pro X NVMe models. But, given the track record I've seen, if I wanted to install 2 TB in a PCIe MacBook Air or Pro, I'd be tempted to instead try a Samsung 970 EVO with a Sintech M.2 adapter (which also costs less). The reviews on Amazon of the latter seem positive, and TRIM support is appealing.

I agree that OWC has always been helpful about replacements, but I find that the requirement of providing a receipt, when they are the direct vendor in most cases, to be bothersome and antiquated. What happens when a client ordered directly from them and can't locate their receipt? Further, the 3-year warranty is simply insufficient when a data storage product is this prone to failure; I've been given a hard no when asking for an exception/extension on behalf of a client. (I'm glad to see the NVMe models have a 5-year warranty.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
(I was also eager to try SoftRAID to create a single volume with considerably more reporting and diagnostic information than the hardware RAID 0, but, according to its author, Mojave does not support booting from any kind of RAID, and probably never will.)
Thanks for your post and all that good information. I'm just wondering about one thing regarding RAID: Would it not be possible to boot Mojave from a hardware RAID storage system? As I understand it, that should appear to the Mac like a normal, bootable, non-RAID device (though I haven't tested it).
 


The [OWC Aura] beta firmware update ... changes the drive to appear as internal, rather than external (which was always odd). That allows the macOS installer to update the firmware on the host computer, allowing the drive to be used on High Sierra and later without having to first put in an original Apple drive to perform the machine firmware update.
This is interesting. I recently installed the OWC Accelsior S PCIe card to mount my EVO 860 SATA drive. The SSD appears as an external drive. Your comment would suggest that when I try to update to High Sierra that the firmware updates for my MacPro 5,1 might not be installed.
 


Would it not be possible to boot Mojave from a hardware RAID storage system? As I understand it, that should appear to the Mac like a normal, bootable, non-RAID device (though I haven't tested it).
Yes, absolutely. Sorry for the lack of clarity there. The Aura module is, in fact, a hardware RAID itself, and Mojave boots just fine from it. The system, as you say, is oblivious to the fact that it's even a RAID.

Mojave will apparently not support booting a system from a software RAID, whether it is SoftRAID or Apple RAID (i.e. Disk Utility).
 


This is interesting. I recently installed the OWC Accelsior S PCIe card to mount my EVO 860 SATA drive. The SSD appears as an external drive. Your comment would suggest that when I try to update to High Sierra that the firmware updates for my MacPro 5,1 might not be installed.
I think that's the case. Firmware updates are only installed when installing High Sierra or Mojave on what appears to the system as an internal drive; once that's done, High Sierra can be run from the "external" drive. (I do believe there is some utility that exists for getting the firmware updates out of the High Sierra installer to be run as standalone entities, though I've never tried it.)
 


Would it not be possible to boot Mojave from a hardware RAID storage system? As I understand it, that should appear to the Mac like a normal, bootable, non-RAID device (though I haven't tested it).
Yes, absolutely. Sorry for the lack of clarity there. The Aura module is, in fact, a hardware RAID itself, and Mojave boots just fine from it. The system, as you say, is oblivious to the fact that it's even a RAID.
So is there a consensus for recommended hardware RAIDs that are known to work with Mojave? Nothing against OWC's Aura models, but given the quoted anecdotal estimated 15% failure rate, I'm hoping for other recommendations as well.

I had to decouple the SSD software RAID disks of my LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 in order to make those backup drives bootable in Mojave (which, after all, is the reason for SuperDuper backups in the first place, at least for my purposes). But these older SSDs really suffered when formatted as individual drives, making my backups take almost twice as long. So I'm looking for a reliable hardware RAID to replace them.
 



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