Back in June (god time is going fast) I took a look at the Sabrent Rocket Q 2TB SSD. It was my first experience with Sabrent and I was very impressed with its performance. Well, it just so happens when they sent the drive over they included another. A tool-free enclosure, their EC-TFNE USB 3.2 Tool-Free Enclosure, and after the Rocket Q review I installed it into the encloser and I have been putting it to use. Well, today I’m going to take a closer look at the enclosure. External hard drive enclosures used to be extremely popular back 10+ years ago when LanOC Reviews was new in the game. With drives getting exponentially faster and smaller with new NVMe M.2 drives the enclosures have gotten a lot smaller and much more portable. But are they still useful? Today I’m going to see what features their enclosure has and then run our external drive tests on it to see how it performs as well.

Product Name: Sabrent USB 3.2 Tool-Free Enclosure EC-TFNE

Review Sample provided by: Sabrent

Written by: Wes Compton

Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE

 

Specifications

Model

EC-TFNE

Material

Aluminum

Color

Sandblasted aluminum (silver)

Cables

1x Type A to Type C

1x Type C to Type C

Dimensions

116mm long

37mm Wide
15mm Thick

Weight

7.2 oz

Connection

USB 3.2 Gen 2

Drive Compatibility

NVMe M-Key M.2 SSD (PCIe-based). DOES NOT support M.2 SATA based SSD (NGFF). Applicable to sizes 2230 / 2242 / 2260 / 2280

 

 


Packaging

Starting off with the packaging for the EC-TFNE enclosure which they have titled on the box as the Sabrent USB 3.2 Tool-Free Enclosure for NVMe PCIe M Key M.2 SSD. That may be in the running for the longest name but it does tell you exactly what it is, does, and supports. The actual model name is in the top right corner and they have the Sabrent branding at the top including the blue swooshes. All that said, I would prefer a simpler name and then to list what it does on the front. There is a large picture of the enclosure on the front and down in the bottom right corner, they show that it is a USB Type-C enclosure with M.2 SSD support. It also comes with Acronis software for free as well as indicated by the sticker. Around on the back, they have another picture, this time showing how the enclosure opens up and they show what an M key connection looks like. They also list what comes inside, system requirements, and compatibility. Tossing in dimensions and they could have had a full specification listing.

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Once you pull the outside cover off you end up with a foam tray that houses the enclosure tightly along with a plastic sticker on the enclosure to avoid any scratching. The tray then has the USB cords bundled up in their own bags in a top section. Documentation includes a folded up paper that has installation instructions inside and a warranty paper.

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Photos and Features

The EC-TFNE looks the same size as the picture on the front of the packaging and it comes in at 116mm long, 37mm Wide, and 15mm Thick. Sabrent doesn’t have those dimensions listed in their specifications. Only the packaging size. But that is smaller than most other portable SSDs that I have tested. All of the other portable SSDs that I have tested are much wider, some are longer, and the EC-TFNE is a little thicker than all of them.

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There isn’t very much to the overall design however and that is a great thing. They didn’t try to add weird ridges or styling for no reason. The enclosure is made out of aluminum and has a silver finish with the Sabrent logo on the top edge. One end has a tiny pinhole status LED and the USB Type-C port and the other end has nothing going on. Then the bottom of the enclosure is also silver but has a removable panel and a circle down at one end. This is the latching mechanism.

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So the latch flips out to give you something to grab on to. Then you turn it counterclockwise and it unlocks the cover. Once turned you can use the latch to pull the backplate off.

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With the cover off we can see inside that the controller and overall PCB is extremely small, only taking up the end with the USB Type-C connection and the M.2 slot behind it. Beyond that, there is a line machined into the casing with multiple circles. These help it support different lengths of M.2 drives when combined with the magnet which comes installed in the end circle. This is the other half of the tool-less part of the enclosure and it is very unique. The magnet has a black bit on top which slides into the end of an M.2 drive. You then slide the drive into the M.2 slot and then the magnet drops into its circle holding itself in place and locking the drive into place. The removable back of the enclosure also has thermal transfer material to help pull heat from the drive out into the enclosure.

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Here is out Rocket Q drive installed. Don’t mind the drives sticker looking beat up, it is copper backed so when I removed it to take a closer look at the PCB for our SSD review it didn’t want to go back in place perfectly.

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For cables, Sabrent included two different types. You get a Type-C to Type-C cable and then a Type-C to Type-A cable. They are both grey but the Type-C to Type-C cable is different on the cable ends. It has aluminum around the ends where the other cable has formed plastic/rubber on both ends. Both cables are extremely short, which is normal for external drives. It is interesting that they went with two different cables, most of the portable SSDs that I have tested just go with an adapter on the end of a Type-C cable for Type-A. Those of course also mean you have to try to not lose a tiny adapter. But not having to keep two cables saves space. Both have their pros and cons. This is especially nice if you don’t require both.

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Performance

So for performance testing, I already know just how fast the Rocket Q drive is and frankly, USB 3.2 isn’t fast enough to get anywhere close to the full potential out of the drive. But I was curious to see how the enclosure and drive performed overall so I ran our normal external SSD tests. This started with CrystalDiskMark which had the sequential read speed at 1024 and write speed at 959 MB/s.

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ATTO disk benchmark showed similarly. You can see as it runs through the tests that it peaks very early and stays where for the rest of the tests with USB 3.2 being the limitation. ATTO’s IOPS were in the 29,000 range for both read and writes up until the file sizes reached 16KB and larger then slowly dropped down.

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Anvils showed similar as well with the Read IOPS being 26514 but the write IOPS were much higher on the 4K 16 queue depth test at 73746. MB/s were in the mid 800’s though with 891 for read speeds and 851 for writes.

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I then jumped into my favorite testing, real-world tests using three different file types. I tested using word documents, specifically stacks of new and old reviews. These are very small in size and are always the slowest to transfer. I saw around 4.8 MB/s when moving them from my SSD to the portable enclosure. Then taking them off the drive back to the PC was slower at 3.52 MB/s.

ftdoc2drive

Documents to Drive

ftdoc2pc

Documents to PC

I then did movies which are huge files and take advantage of sequential transfer speeds. Copying multiple movie files ran around 616 MB/s to the enclosure and 757 MB/s when going back to the PC. 

ftmovies2drive

Movies to Drive

ftmovies2pc

Movies to PC

I then did photos which were a mix of RAW and JPGs which are a lot larger than the documents in file size but much smaller than movies. Copying to the enclosure saw 518 MB/s but interestingly enough going back to the PC saw 1.1 GB/s which was extremely fast and around the peak of the USB 3.2 transfer speed.

ftpic2drive

Pictures to Drive

ftpic2pc

Pictures to PC

I then jumped into AIDA64 for their drive tests which I use as more of a torture test. I run these for a half hour. This is partially to heat the drive for thermal images but also to see if long term transfers show any slowdowns. The read test was rock solid at 932 MB/s for basically the entire 36 minutes with very little fluctuation. The write test on the other hand jumped up and down constantly. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this on writes for an external and it didn’t take long for it to start. We know this isn’t the Rocket Q drive, so it must be a limitation of the USB controller in the enclosure.

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During the extended testing, I was surprised to see that the thick aluminum enclosure had hardly heated up. You can see just how much hotter even trivial parts of the motherboard were in comparison.

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Overall and Final Verdict

I didn’t come in with any expectations other than knowing what the Sabrent Rocket Q drive I was using inside of the EC-TFNE enclosure could do. I also knew that with this being a USB 3.2 Gen 2 drive, not a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 I knew that we were limited to the 10 Gbps limit of a Gen 2 interface which is 1250 MB/s without any overhead. The performance that I saw fell right about where I expected it to be which was good. More importantly, the EC-TFNE impressed me in every other aspect. It is shockingly heavy duty in construction, it feels like you are carrying around a block of aluminum. Sabrent also didn’t try to gussy up the styling in any way, keeping it simple with the aluminum casing and just their logo printed up on top. The Tool-less design is also a lot easier than I thought it could be with just a latch to open everything up and an adjustable magnet to help support drives of different lengths.

What really helps set the EC-TFNE apart from just buying one of the many portable SSDs is the fact you can pick out your own M.2 drive. This means on a rebuild if you upgrade you can use this enclosure to give new life to a drive that you might sell for a lot less than you originally paid for it. You also aren’t limited by capacity in the same way as premade portable SSDs are. I used the 2TB Rocket Q but if you wanted you could get the 8TB Rocket Q or any other drive and used it. You can also use this flexibility to upgrade the enclosure again in the future if your drive isn’t large enough for you or if for some reason it fails.

Now there are a few downsides as well. The biggest I ran into was some slowdown in writes when doing the AIDA64 extended testing. I keep calling the enclosure by its model name, the EC-TFNE. But the name listed on the packaging was extremely long and while informative hard to remember and tell someone if you wanted to recommend it to a friend. The other downside comes down to pricing. Frankly, the enclosure price of $44.98 isn’t that bad considering its construction. It is only when you add in a drive then start comparing with premade external SSDs that those often end up being cheaper. They aren’t built as well also, so keep that in mind. But you do pay a bit of a premium for the flexibility that the EC-TFNE offers. In other words, do I like it. Yes. But if cost is a concern there are going to be cheaper options (even from Sabrent) if you give up the option to change out the drive.

fv5recommended

Live Pricing: HERE

 

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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