Performance Benchmarks

Our evaluation routine for storage bridges borrows heavily from the testing methodology for direct-attached storage devices. The testbed hardware is reused. CrystalDiskMark is used for a quick overview, as it helps determine availability of UASP support and provides some performance numbers under ideal scenarios. Real-world performance testing is done with our custom test suite involving robocopy bencharks and PCMark 8's storage bench.

CrystalDiskMark uses four different access traces for reads and writes over a configurable region size. Two of the traces are sequential accesses, while two are 4K rando accesses. Internally, CrystalDiskMark uses the Microsoft DiskSpd storage testing tool. The 'Seq Q32T1' sequential traces use 128K block size with a queue depth of 32 from a single thread, while the '4K Q32T1' ones do random 4K accesses with the same queue and thread configurations. The plain 'Seq' traces use a 1MiB block size. The plain '4K' ones are similar to the '4K Q32T1' except that only a single queue and single thread are used.

Comparing the '4K Q32T1' and '4K' numbers can quickly tell us whether the storage device supports NCQ (native command queuing) / UASP (USB-attached SCSI protocol). If the numbers for the two access traces are in the same ballpark, NCQ / UASP is not supported. This assumes that the host port / drivers on the PC support UASP. We can see that the M2X enclosure has no trouble with UASP support.

Storage Bridge Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark

Moving on to the real-world benchmarks, we first look at the results from our custom robocopy test. In this test, we transfer three folders with the following characteristics.

  • Photos: 15.6 GB collection of 4320 photos (RAW as well as JPEGs) in 61 sub-folders
  • Videos: 16.1 GB collection of 244 videos (MP4 as well as MOVs) in 6 sub-folders
  • BR: 10.7 GB Blu-ray folder structure of the IDT Benchmark Blu-ray (the same that we use in our robocopy tests for NAS systems)

The test starts off with the Photos folder in a RAM drive in the testbed. robocopy is used with default arguments to mirror it onto the storage drive under test. The content on the RAM drive is then deleted. robocopy is again used to transfer the content, but, from the storage drive under test to the RAM drive. The first segment gives the write speed, while the second one gives the read speed for the storage device. The segments end with the purge of the contents from the storage device. This process is repeated thrice and the average of all the runs is recorded as the performance number. The same procedure is adopted for the Videos and the BR folders. Readers interested in looking at all the graphs in one shot can choose the 'Expand All' option in the dropdown menu.

Photos Read

High-performance external storage devices can also be used for editing multimedia files directly off the unit. They can also be used as OS-to-go boot drives. Evaluation of this aspect is done using PCMark 8's storage bench. The storage workload involves games as well as multimedia editing applications. The command line version allows us to cherry-pick storage traces to run on a target drive. We chose the following traces.

  • Adobe Photoshop (Light)
  • Adobe Photoshop (Heavy)
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Illustrator

Usually, PC Mark 8 reports time to complete the trace, but the detailed log report has the read and write bandwidth figures which we present in our performance tables. Note that the bandwidth number reported in the results don't involve idle time compression. Results might appear low, but that is part of the workload characteristic. Note that the same CPU is being used for all configurations. Therefore, comparing the numbers for each trace should be possible across different DAS units. Readers interested in looking at all the graphs in one shot can choose the 'Expand All' option in the dropdown menu.

Adobe Photoshop Light Read

As expected, the M2X simply outperforms every other USB storage bridge that we have tested so far (note that we don't have any Thunderbolt 3 external SSDs in the graphs). The move to USB 3.1 Gen 2 in various enclosures has now finally met its match in the form of a downstream M.2 NVMe port. While USB 3.0 couldn't effectively saturate SATA SSDs, USB 3.1 Gen 2 could. In fact, it left a lot of performance on the table since the bottleneck was shifted to the SSD side. With the M2X enclosure, we see that the bottleneck is now back to the USB side.

Introduction and Product Impressions Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks
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  • SonnyCrockett84 - Thursday, November 1, 2018 - link

    By the way, the clone works flawlessly, I think the whole process using Acronis 2019 took 10 minutes, if that.
  • oRAirwolf - Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - link

    I ordered one of these as soon as I saw the announcement that these were available in the news section. I have been using it with a Toshiba xg4 512gb SSD. It gets really hot to the touch, but the speeds are very impressive. Definitely worth the money.
  • amouses - Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - link

    I really just don't get it. To me it does not matter how fast it is, if it can't replace a standard USB key it is bl***y useless. By that I mean it needs to have a retractable USB end, i.e. it MUST NOT NEED any cable. Because otherwise it's just a complete pain to use. Until this design improves I'd recommend the Silverstone MS09
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - link

    This is not a thumb drive, and is not intended to replace one. It's the modern equivalent to an external HDD.

    Once something gets beyond the size of a thumb drive, I don't want it directly plugged into a port. Because it's wider than typical port spacing it's going to be blocking adjacent ports. It looks like it's thick enough that on many really thin laptops it'd be lifting them up off the table. On anything where it's hanging it's going to be putting a lot more torque on the port itself than normal increasing the risks of mechanical failure.
  • PushT - Tuesday, March 12, 2019 - link

    Not intended to be one ? Who do you represent ? I would say that regardless of this being an external drive, people would want as simple a solution as possible. Do you think 60-70 grams would lift a laptop off of the table ?
  • Clarkage - Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - link

    The MS09 will never work, it does SATA not PCIe...
  • Targon - Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - link

    Many people who fix computers for others have needed these for a while. The goal is NOT about replacing your typical flash drive, but more so that you can pull the drive from a dead computer/laptop and get the data off of it. If your current workstation does not have a NVMe slot, or if there is only one and you want to get data off another, what do you do?
  • Synomenon - Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - link

    Ordered this one yesterday morning:

    Based on the JMS583 as well. My desktop bit the dust recently and I had been looking for a way to retrieve the data from my 950 Pro..
  • Arbie - Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - link

    Thanks for the very thorough discussion, which clearly took a lot of work. These are the kinds of interesting devices that rarely receive such attention.
  • Shark321 - Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - link

    If you but a Bitlocker encrypted drive into a case with the JMS583 controller very weird things will happen. The partition size will be wrong. Data loss is inevitable.

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