OWC Envoy Pro Mini
PCMag.com | August 25, 2016 | By Joel Santo Domingo
The OWC Envoy Pro mini
( $79.99 , 240GB) is a metal-clad solid-state drive (SSD) that's small enough to fit in your front jeans pocket. It has a higher capacity and is ostensibly more reliable than cheaper USB flash drives, though it's not quite as fast as boxier external SSDs. It's just enough storage to keep on your person all the time, and its tiny form factor makes it an easy everyday carry item. Give your office tech one on IT Professional day, and you'll have a friend for life.
Design and Features
The Envoy Pro mini looks like a typical USB thumb drive, but its sturdy body is made of an ingot of aluminum rather than plastic. Since it has a matte silver finish, it matches systems like the Apple MacBook Pro and the HP EliteBook Folio G1. It measures 0.44 by 0.94 by 3.7 inches (HWD) and weighs just about an ounce, so it will fit right into that coin/lighter pocket in the front of your jeans. Alternatively, you can carry it around your neck using the included detachable lanyard if you need instantaneous access to the files you store on the drive. This is a boon for mobile pros, such as IT technicians, production assistants, or health care professionals. Since it has no moving parts, the drive is resistant to damage from vibrations or drops.
Its stick form factor means that you can easily plug the drive into any USB 3.0 port on any Mac or PC. It's a little more compact than the VisionTek USB Pocket SSD, another SSD in a stick form factor, and it's a lot more compact than larger external hard drives like the Seagate Backup Plus Portable, the OWC Envoy Pro EX, and the Samsung Portable SSD T3.
The drive comes unformatted, so we used the included utility to format it using HFS+ for testing on our iMac testbed. The SSD will work fine on a Windows system, after a format to NTFS. It's a 240GB blank slate afterward, though the drive also comes with installers for ProSoft Data Backup 3 (for macOS drive cloning and backup), NovaStor NovaBackup (a Windows backup utility), and Intech's SpeedTools Utilities 3 (a disk repair utility). The Envoy Pro mini is also available in two other capacities: 120GB for $64.75 , and 480GB for $129.99 . OWC backs the drive with a three-year warranty.
Pricing and Performance
The 240GB Envoy Pro mini costs $79.99 , which works out to about 71 cents per gigabyte. That's more expensive than the 512GB VisionTek USB Pocket SSD (54 cents per gigabyte) or the 2TB Samsung T3 (42 cents per gigabyte). To be fair, you may not have the cash on hand for the T3 (it costs $850), so the Envoy Pro mini is still a decent value for fast SSD storage. Of course, at 4 cents per gigabyte, the 4TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drive is still the best bang for the buck. Essentially, you're paying a premium per gigabyte for a tiny and durable drive that fits into your pocket. For some folks, it's worth it.
Like the similarly packaged VisionTek USB Pocket SSD, the Envoy Pro mini doesn't have the same speed potential as SSDs in traditional drive enclosures. Both drives got noticeably warm (but not hot) during our tests, so the closely packed chips in the SSDs may be slowing down to avoid heat damage. In testing, the drive was only able to write at 153MBps and read at 209.4MBps on the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. That's comparable to the VisionTek on write operations (138MBps), but quite a bit slower on reads (421MBps). In any case, this is still much faster in both directions than the Transcend StoreJet 300 for Mac, a traditional hard drive (124.1MBps read, 124.1MBps write throughput on USB 3.0). Contrast this with the OWC Envoy Pro EX and Samsung T3, which were at least twice as fast on the Blackmagic test as the Envoy Pro mini.
The OWC Envoy Pro mini is a nice tool to have around, especially if you frequently need to move files while traveling from place to place. It's also more reliable than a USB thumb drive, since it uses SSD technology instead of cheaper flash memory. If you can manage their admittedly high purchase prices, slightly larger SSDs with more storage space, like the OWC Envoy Pro EX (1TB) and Samsung T3 (2TB), are better values. But if you only need to keep a quarter of a terabyte on hand, the OWC Envoy Pro mini offers a good balance of size, capacity, price, and speed.
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