Review

VisionTek USB Pocket SSD 120GB - Review

VisionTek might have been more well known for their graphic cards and memory options over the past few years, but recently they have been making more and more headway into solid state storage options.

Today we are covering their VisionTek USB Pocket SSD 120GB drive which works across Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems and can be used for basic files, games and even the option of a portable operating system.

Specifications:

  • Controller: LSI SandForce 2281 Series with 7% Over Provisioning

  • Capacity: 120GB (128GB total flash memory with 8GB dedicated to real-time redundancy and error correction)*

  • Performance: up to 445MB/s read, up to 440MB/s write
  • Random 4K Performance: up to 39,000 IOPS
  • Interface Type: USB 3.0 (backward compatible to USB 2.0)
  • Dimensions: 3.66" x 0.94" x 0.47"
  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Compatibility: Windows XP and higher / Mac OS X 10.4 and higher/Linux**
  • Warranty: 2 year

Upon taking the USB Pocket SSD out of the packaging, you would be forgiven for thinking that it is just the same as any other portable USB drive, but this one runs on USB 3.0 connections and that means you could experience up to 455MB/s Reads and up to 440MB/s Writes depending on a variety of settings and what you use the drive for.

Design:

If there is one thing we can say about the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD right from the get go, it isn’t a looker. If you want some kind of stylish looking USB stick (Strangely some users prefer the look of USB sticks over performance) then you need to look elsewhere. This is a very rugged black design, but the good news is that is hard wearing, we have dropped it a few times, scuffed it and been a bit rough, but there is barely a mark on our review device and it works just as well as it did from the start.

Real World Testing:

For our test we have used the USB Pocket SSD for storing 50GB’s of Photos on a Mac, running games directly on it via Steam, installed hundreds of small files and even installed Windows 8 on it!

Our PC test system is a follows:

  • Processor Core i7 4790k
  • Motherboard ASUS Z97-K (USB Boost Enabled)
  • Memory Corsair Platinum 2133MHz 8GB
  • Main OS Drive Samsung EVO 256GB
  • Power Supply Corsair AX860i
  • Operating Systems Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit

On the Mac side of things we used the basic iMac 5K 27” option, so that’s an Intel i5, 8GB RAM and a 1TB Fusion Drive

According to VisionTek the 120GB USB 3.0 Pocket SSD drive ships NTFS formatted with the 512K block size, but to get the best speed out of it, you have to reformat the drive with 4k block size, which we did prior to any tests we ran.

To really get the best view on how the Pocket USB SSD works, we always find that real world tests are always best, our first one consists of sending a 3.71GB games folder created on our Windows PC from our main hard drive to the Pocket USB SSD. For this test we used TeraCopy 2.3

Drive File Copied To: Pocket USB SSD

File Size: 3.71GB
Time To Complete: 53 seconds
File Copy Speed: 70MBs a second

Next we copied the file back from the VisionTek Pocket USB SSD drive back to the desktop:

Drive File Copied To: Samsung EVO main drive

File Size: 3.71GB
Time To Complete: 72 seconds
File Copy Speed: 52MBs

Strangely our next test was to simply drag and drop the 3.71GB folder to the Pocket SSD drive and vice-versa. This is where we managed to get 195MB/s copying the folder directly to the Pocket SSD drive and 192MB/s copying it back to our main drive. Quite a huge difference in speeds here, and was just as fast as any internal SSD drive we had been using in the past.

For a few other simple tests we also copied a moderate movie file to the USB Pocket SSD drive from our Mac at just 1.05GB in size, it took 8 seconds to copy to the stick which came in at 131MB/s.

Our final test came with the CrystalDiskMark benchmark tool. Despite being skeptical about artificial benchmarks, CrystalDiskMark seems a very good utility for getting a quick speed test out of your hard drives. Here we are comparing the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD to our internal 2TB SSHD drive.

VisionTek USB Pocket SSD Drive Benchmark

Western Digital 2TB SSHD Drive

One thing of note though, is that when making prolonged use of the USB Pocket SSD drive we have noticed that not only does the device get very hot from time to time, it can also slow down when it is under heavy use, it doesn't happen often enough to worry us, but it is worth being aware that this does happen.

Windows To Go:

As mentioned earlier in our review, we went ahead and installed Windows 8.1 onto the USB stick too, this was pretty easy to do and didn’t take all that long. To do this you just need to follow the instructions below.

Before beginning any type of system update or upgrade, you should always BACK UP YOUR DATA as there exists the potential for data loss. VisionTek assumes no responsibility for your data and provides these configuration and/or usage recommendations only as a suggestion.

  • Obtain a legal copy of Microsoft Windows 8/8.1 ISO file. NOTE: Do not download the ISO file to the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD, just download the ISO file to the internal drive on your PC.
  • Boot your PC, launch a Command prompt, type “diskpart”, and then press the “Enter” key.
  • Type each of the following and press the “Enter” key after each line.

DISKPART> list disk
DISKPART> select disk # (Where # is the USB SSD)
DISKPART> clean
DISKPART> create partition primary
DISKPART> select partition 1
DISKPART> active
DISKPART> format fs=NTFS
DISKPART> assign
DISKPART> exit

  • Download WinToUSB to the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD.
  • Load the ISO file onto the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD, select Boot and System drive as the USB SSD partition.
  • Restart the computer and, after changing the Boot Device Priority in your BIOS and you can now boot into Windows directly from the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD.

Using WinToUSB was very easy, you simply just have to direct the program to the Windows 8 .ISO file that you have on your PC, select the partitions you want the system files to be located in and what will be your boot partition. It takes a few minutes for the ISO files to get extracted but once that has completed you are pretty much done.

All you need to do is change the boot order in your PC’s BIOS or remove all other drives you have. The first time you boot up you will have to setup Windows just as normal and you are ready to go. We tested the Windows 8.1 installation on a few PC’s and can confirm that as expected, running the device on a USB 2.0 based PC isn’t the best way to experience Windows to Go, it was slow and just didn’t feel like there was any point to it. This changed once you place the USB Pocket SSD into a USB 3.0 port, there is an instant speed difference and it certainly runs very close to the speed of any other SSD drive.

We are also told that running Windows To Go via Windows 10 also works well on this drive, though due to time constraints we haven't had time to test this out ourselves.

If you want to - you can also use the Pocket USB SSD to run Windows 8 on a Mac too. The setup is pretty similar to what I explained above, except that it needs a little shuffling around:

  • Obtain a legal copy of Microsoft Windows 8/8.1 and install it on the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD.
  • Insert the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD into your PC and boot into the Windows OS installed on it.
  • Download Boot Camp drivers onto your PC.
  • Insert the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD into your Mac and turn your Mac on while holding down the Option key. That allows your Mac to boot from an external drive such as the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD.

We managed to get this up and running on our iMac without too many problems, though it isn’t the breeze through that using BootCamp built into the Mac makes it and unless you have a really high capacity drive we can’t see the need to do it.

Blue for USB 3.0!

Final Thoughts:

The VisionTek Pocket USB SSD drive can at times come pretty close to the power of an internal SSD drive, no it doesn’t quite match it but it does a very good job. Strangely though benchmarks of the device have varied wildly even on the same machines, sometimes showing far higher read and write speeds when compared to others. Real world tests of copying files within a Mac or Windows have shown high speeds though, which is where it matters most.

As mentioned earlier in our review, users should be aware that when the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD drive gets hot it can slow things down a little, it doesn't happen often and it is usually only the case when copying very large files of 6-7 GB of above to it.

We have found a lot of uses for a Pocket SSD drive, firstly it is excellent for VERY quick backups on both Windows and on a Mac, obviously it depends on how many files you are backing up - but this is one of the fastest and easier ways to keep things safe. Once you have backed up all you have to do is remove the drive until the next time you want it.

Personally we have used it mostly for keeping regular back ups of our photos, or simply exporting photos to it to edit without worrying about our originals. Its also very useful to keep any 4k videos you may have started taking, the drive is fast enough to copy the videos to quickly as well as playing them back with no stutter.

One thing that many tech savvy users forget is that there are a heck of a lot of people who don’t feel confident enough to open up their PC’s and install new hard drives or add additional ones, the option of USB 3.0 External USB SSD drives makes it very easy to not only add storage, but add a drive that offers a much faster speed than a traditional hard drive, even if it doesn’t always reach the top end speeds of some internal SSD drives.

Putting it simply there are a host of options available to you here with the VisionTek Pocket USB SSD from backing up, a bootable drive to the installation of games. It isn’t as fast as an internal drive and you rarely get the speed that the company say its capable of, but it is certainly one of the fastest pocket drives we have ever tried.

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