Arriving as a barebones case with a few electronics inside the ORICO Aluminum M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure looks slick enough.
But what use is a slimline external hard drive case without a hard drive, and what makes this barebone enclosure so special?
Essentially it enables you to quickly convert an M.2 NVMe drive into a viable external drive with all the benefits that this ultrafast technology supplies.
Installing a drive takes a couple of minutes and once finished, it can be connected to your machine as with any other external drive.
A quick format to your chosen file format and you’re set to go.
Performance is good, far exceeding that of a normal SSD with read and write speeds that are more than enough for editing almost any DSLR or CSC 4K video or all of your RAW photography needs.
At this price, and coupled with an M.2 SSD, you get an ultra fast and reliable working storage solution. I would say for a fraction of the average cost of an external NVMe PCIe drive, but I can’t find one.
HD Enclosure / www.orico.cc / £39 / $42 at time of review
The latest computers feature next-generation storage with unbelievable transfer speeds. A quick test on my MacBook Pro and I’m getting 2330MB/s write and 2598MB/s read from the internal drive, not bad at all. These speeds are designed to cope with the latest demands of 4K video, gaming and all the processing that we throw them.
The primary issue with this is that once you see the performance benefits inside your computer, you want them from every drive you own.
A traditional optical hard drive, on a good day, may get you an average transfer speed of 80MB/s. That’s just about fine for editing Full HD although there will be some lag.
Switch to SSD, and you’ll see a leap to 150MB/s which will rip through Full HD and handle 4K with some ease, but then there’s M.2 NVMe drives with 700MB/s +, and I mean plus, transfer speeds.
This new type of drive coupled with USB Type-C enables superfast connections that far exceed traditional optical and SSD, but there is a problem.
Trying to find one pre-built is near on impossible so the only option is to build your own, enter the ORICO Aluminum M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure.
The ORICO Aluminum M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure is a bare bones product. It has a metal outer and a few electronics that enable the drive once installed to connect to your computer.
The enclosure will fit M-Key M.2 SSD (PCI-E based) drives and is designed to be used with Windows and Mac systems.
While many M.2 drives will offer transfer speeds of up to 1700MB/s, there are some limitations with this transfer speed through an external connection. The ORICO Aluminum M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure offers a maximum transfer speed of 10Gbps; this is theoretical rather than giving you any actual clue about how fast this drive could be.
Capacity wise the enclose will take drives of size up to 2TB, checking out what’s available there’s plenty of 250-1TB drives available for a relatively reasonable price.
Connectivity comes through either USB 3.1 or USB Type-C, with Type-C enabling those ultra-fast transfer speeds.
The enclosure is made from aluminium alloy and is lightweight at 49g with a WD Black 250GB drive installed and measures 28mm x 10mm x 104mm (W x H x L).
To ensure that the small drive is kept cool there are copper bars with holes on the PCB and four conductive thermal pads attached to the case, all helping to cool down the heat of the drive when in use.
Build and Handling
The first step before you begin is to install an M.2 drive, and there are two types, and it’s easy to get confused.
The first type is M.2 NVMe Sata, this has three-prong connectors, and the one we want for this enclosure is M.2 NVMe PCIe, which has two connectors. I tried both to see what would happen, and both worked.
M.2 refers to the form factor of the drive. The Orico enclosure is designed to fit the M.2 NVMe PCIe drives like the WD Black SN750 High-Performance NVMe.
This drive is about as fast as you can get so it’s a good test to see if the enclosure really can live up to the 10Gbps transfer speeds through a USB Type-C connection.
Once the WD Black drive arrives, it’s a quick case of screwing it into the enclosure. It’s a nice touch to see Orico has included all the tools you need to perform this task. Then with the USB Type-C cable attached and plugged into a MacBook Pro 15-inch, I’m ready to check the speed.
Before the full speed test can be started, I needed to format the drive. When the warning appears, I select initialise, and a few seconds later, the expensive 250GB WD Black SN750 drive is ready to be used.
I’ve formatted to Mac’s APFS format and can now run the BlackMagic speed test.
The results are fast, showing that the drive and enclosure work exceptionally well together, gaining the following results.
Starting with the 1GB test and running the test to gain the best result, the scores were as follows:
Read = 900.4 MB/s
Write = 912 MB/s
I left the 1GB test running for five minutes to give a good idea of the performance over a period of time with the following results.
Read = 841 MB/s
Write = 916.9 MB/s
Stepping up the file transfer size to 5GB and again running the test the drive now reached speeds of:
Read = 497.9MB/s
Write = 877.4MB/s
The USB Type-C connection is one of the most robust for years, and I’m a big fan. It’s fast, but it’s also secure once plugged into your computer, unlike the ill-fated USB Micro B Suber Speed.
USB Type-C also offers ultra fast transfer speeds of 10Gbps, divide this by 8 to get the MB/s transfer speed we want. (10×1000/8) = 1250MB/s. With the WD Black, we should have plenty of headroom for the test, about 1850MB/s theoretically.
Scores were OK, fast enough for editing Full HD and most 4K video from a Sony Alpha 7 MK3 that I threw at it. Reliability was also excellent, but it didn’t quite live up to that 10Gbps, 1250MB/s speed that was offered.
The MacBook Pro also has a 10Gbps USB connection, and the only other item that could slow it down would be the WD Black at 3100MB/s, so that’s unlikely. So we’ve lost quite a bit of transfer speed somewhere.
During the test, the average working temperature of the exterior of the drive was 44.2º, and standby temperature was 33.7º.
Beyond the speed test, the small drive did perform well during the three-week test, with the metal case ensuring that the delicate hard drive within stays protected.
Over a days use the small enclosure does become hot to the touch, but then the drive is working hard. Over the period of use and the increase in heat the drive did slow slightly, but with a fast base speed, the drop still far exceeded any standard SSD drives.
While the enclosure does feel good and solid the precision of the fit isn’t quite right and tapping the base, you can hear a slight rattle between the base and main part of the body.
This, however, has no bearing on the performance but shows an area for improvement in future versions.
ORICO Aluminum M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure Verdict
Usually, hard drive enclosures are ultra cheap, but when it comes to the M.2 form factor, nothing is cheap.
The Orico provides robust performance and an excellent solution for photography and video at a reasonable price. Although the drive didn’t quite reach the 10Gbps speed advertised it was still faster than any other external drive I’ve tried.
The Orico enclosure offers something that you can’t buy directly on the market, an M.2 hard drive, and being able to build it yourself enables you to spec it to your requirements.
If you’re editing 4K footage from your Sony A73 and need a storage solution that enables you to work on the footage, then the Orico provides an excellent solution but there is some room for an improvement in the already fast transfer speeds.