Samsung T9 Portable SSD Review: Rugged, Fast, Petite Storage

Samsung T9 Review: A Rugged, Compact High-Performance External SSD For Creators

samsung t9 hero

Samsung T9 SSD: Starting $139.99 (1TB), $439.99 (4TB)
The new Samsung T9 Portable SSD is reminiscent of the rugged T7 Shield external SSD that launched earlier this year, but internally the T9 features a new platform for significantly more performance. 

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  • Compact Form Factor
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  • Strong Performance
  • Excellent Compatibility
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Samsung is expanding its line-up of Tx-series external USB solid state drives with a new flagship model targeting gamers and creators. The new Samsung T9 Portable SSD is somewhat reminiscent of the rugged T7 Shield that launched earlier this year, at least in terms of its industrial design, but internally the T9 features a new platform that offers significantly more performance.

The main features and specifications of the Samsung T9 Portable SSD family are outlined in the table below. Take a gander at them, and then we’ll move on to some particulars and see how the drive performs...

Samsung T9 External SSD Specs & Features

samsung t9 specs
Find Samsung T9 @ Amazon

Samsung will initially be offering the new T9 Portable SSD in three capacities, ranging from 1TB on up to 4TB. We’ll be focused on the 4TB model here, which is capacity we tested, but all of the drives will offer roughly similar performance and they share the same feature set and capabilities.
samsung t9 angle 1
Samsung’s T9 Portable SSDs feature a native USB 3.2 Gen2x2 interface (USB Type-C) and are outfitted with a proprietary Samsung controller and the company's latest 3D V-NAND, similar to the T7 Shield series drives.

Samsung rates the drives for transfer speeds up to 2,000MB/s (reads) and 1,950MB/s or 2,000Mb/s (writes), which puts performance well ahead of any SATA-based solid-state drive or other USB drives with previous-gen interfaces, but not on the level of most Thunderbolt-based external storage solutions. Also note that like some of Samsung's internal SSDs, the T9 supports the company's TurboWrite technology. TurboWrite configured a portion of the NAND flash memory as an SLC cache, which accelerates write performance. The TurboWrite capacity is dynamic based on the workload at the time, but peaks at up to 180GB of the 4TB we tested. 
samsung t9 angle 4
All of the drives in the Samsung T9 series have built in support for AES 256-bit encryption, which is enabled through the “Samsung Portable SSD” software that’s included on the drive or via the recently-released Magician 8.0 software. The Samsung Portable SSD utility is available for Windows, Android, or Mac OS, but Magician is only for Windows or Mac. 

Enabling security features on the T9 requires a password be entered to access the main volume. The level of security offered by the T9 doesn’t meet Federal Information Processing Standards, so the drive isn’t FIPS-certified, but for securing personal files so someone can’t quickly grab your drive and easily access its contents, this built-in security feature should be fine.
samsung t9 port
The T7 Shield’s enclosure measures 88 x 60 x 14mm, which makes it slightly larger than the older T7 Shield. The drives have rounded edges, with some angular / diagonal ridges, and a cross-hatch fiber pattern all around. The Samsung T9 also features rubberized, soft-touch protection around its enclosure, and the drives carry an IP65 dust and water resistance rating, which makes it more robust than some competitive offerings. 

At one end of the drive, there is a single USB Type-C port and an activity LED. At the other end of the drive is model and serial number information. The top and bottom of the drive are mostly devoid of features other than “Samsung” and “Portable SSD T9” branding. 

Overall, the T9 is compact, has a clean look and feels durable in the hand, though it is relatively lightweight at only 122g. 
samsung t9 angle bundle
Included with the Samsung Portable SSD T9 is some basic documentation and a couple of cables – a 12” USB Type-C to Type-A cable and a 12” USB Type-C to Type-C cable, which makes the drives compatible with virtually any system or modern mobile Android device, without having to use any adapters or dongles. As mentioned, Samsung's security software is included on the drive itself, or it can be downloaded from the company website, where Samsung Magician is also available. 

samsung 19 magician info

Samsung Magician can be used to check the health status of the drive and install firmware updates, etc. We should also mention that Samsung warranties these drives for 5-years as well, which is great for a portable, external drive. 

Setting up the T9 to enable its security features on a Windows machine is quick in easy. Simply plug in the drive and you’re greeted by a simple Welcome screen where you’ll be able to name the drive and decide whether or not you want to enable its security features. 
samsung 19 security setup
When security is enabled, you’ll be prompted with an unlock screen when the drive is plugged in. Without entering the correct password, the main storage volume on the drive is inaccessible. Nothing too fancy, but it's effective if you want to keep prying eyes off your personal data. 

samsung t9 power

We should also take a moment to talk about power and compatibility. Although we weren't able to measure actual device power ourselves, Samsung provided some power data that shows teh T9 consuming significantly less power than a competitive solutions under a variety of conditions. This low-power operation will have a beneficial affect on battery life out in the field. Anecdotally, we've also found the Samsung T9 Portable SSD to behave properly on a wide range of systems, from AMD and Intel desktops to notebooks, which is not something we can say for every external SSD. We've had mixed results, which caused performance, reliability and compatibility issues, with multiple NVMe enclosures -- just something to keep in mind if you're shopping for an portable SSD and want something that "just works". 

Samsung T9 External SSD Performance

In order to test the performance of the Samsun T9 Portable SSD, we enlisted the help of some benchmarks and real world tests. First up is ATTO, a disk benchmark that measures sequential transfer speeds across a specific volume length with various block sizes. It measures transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc.

atto samsung t9 ssd perf

atto2 samsung t9 ssd perf

The new Samsung T9 trades blows with the ADATA Elite SE880 and clearly outruns the other USB-attached drives or the SATA SSD. The native Thunderbolt Samsung X5, however, offers superior performance with smaller files sizes and higher peak bandwidth.

Next up are some numbers with SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provide the results from our comparison SSDs...

sandra samsung t9 ssd perf

Once again the new Samsung T9 has no trouble dispatching the previous-gen USB external SSDs, and it outruns the ADATA drive too. The Samsung X5, however, remains in the pole position.

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

cdm1 samsung t9 ssd perf

cdm2 samsung t9 ssd perf

CrystalDiskMark's sequential tests are all over the map. Here, the Samsung X5 drops down a few rungs and the ADATA takes the top spot, followed by the T9. In the 512K transfer test though, the T9's write performance leads the pack, while its read performance lands in third place. The T9's support for Samsung's TurboWrite technology, which configures a portion of the NAND as an SLC cache, clearly helps its write performance here.

cdm3 samsung t9 ssd perf

cdm4 samsung t9 ssd perf

 At QD1, the Samsung T9 Portable SSD's write performance is only on-par with previous-gen drives, though its read performance puts it in second place behind only the X5. At QD32, however, the Samsung T9 shines and leads the pack overall.

samsung t9 real world copy
A 2.2GB File Copy From An Internal M.2 SSD Took Less Than 2 Seconds...

What the Samsung T9's benchmark scores mean in the real world is that the drive will be very quick for large sequential transfers (when moving data from another high-performance drive) and it's plenty fast enough for a variety of productivity and gaming workloads, thanks to those competitive 4K transfers. As we mentioned earlier, though, for top performance you need a USB 3.2 Gen2 x2 port with the necessary UASP drivers, like those available on the latest platforms from AMD and Intel. Keep in mind, however, if you don't have at least a USB 3.2 Gen2 x2 port in your system, performance will be reduced significantly. 

Samsung T9 Portable SSD: The Verdict

We have tested a myriad of external storage solutions over the years, and this the new Samsung T9 Portable SSD is among the best all-around products in its class. The Samsung T9 is fast, rugged, and compact, and we've found it to be reliable, consistent, and widely compatible. As we’ve mentioned, we have tested a few USB M.2 SSD enclosures previously, and found that compatibility is hit or miss with some internal drives, chipsets and / or USB controllers. An external enclosure with a fast NVMe M.2 SSD may offer good reads on one system, and poor writes on the next -- or vice versa -- but that's only if it’s detected and works at all. The Samsung T9, however, just worked everywhere we plugged it in. We tested the new Samsung T9 on a broad mix of AMD and Intel based notebooks and desktops with no problems to report. 

While the performance and compatibility stories are good, pricing for the Samsung T9 Portable SSD may give some users pause. The T9 4TB model we looked at here has an MSRP of $439 (the 1TB model’s MSRP is $139). That works out to about $0.11 per gigabyte, which makes it considerably more expensive than some competing solutions from SanDisk or Crucial with similar capacities and performance ratings. We suspect street prices will fall on the T9 once availability ramps, but at this point we only have its MSRP to consider. 

All that said, with its compact form factor, rugged enclosure, 5-year warranty, security features, and good performance, the Samsung T9 Portable SSD is well-suited to a wide array of compute storage applications. If you're shopping for a top-notch, portable solid state drive, the Samsung T9 is absolutely worthy of consideration.

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