by Larry Jordan
[ Read Larry’s product review disclaimer here. ]
The OWC Envoy Pro EX portable SSD drive is really fast, really portable and really well-built. This bus-powered device requires Thunderbolt 3 and a relatively recent computer to connect. There’s exactly one cable because it draws both power and data from the computer.
It’s chassis is anodized black aluminum, very spiffy to look at, and easily survives a drop to a concrete floor without losing your data.
The drive setup program is showing its 32-bit age, but does the job configuring the drive. However, Mac formatting is HFS+, the Drive Guide does not support APFS, though the drive itself does, and, even when selected, the Guide does not install user manuals.
Configuration is easy, takes about two minutes, and after that it runs like any other hard disk you’ve ever used – except it’s faster. As you’ll see below, its performance easily equals the speed of a five or six drive RAID composed of spinning media and, unlike spinning hard disks, the Envoy Pro EX does not slow down as it fills up.
The only downside is that because it is an SSD, it costs more and holds less than a spinning media hard disk. But, if ruggedness and performance are important to you, this drive is very hard to beat. The box also includes a heavy-duty draw-string bag to hold the drive for transport.
Product: Envoy Pro EX
Price: $598 (US) for the 1 TB version (capacity ranges from 250 GB to 1 TB)
This is the system I’m using to test for this review. (I don’t use this system for heavy editing, which is why I haven’t upgraded the RAM.)
The drive appears on the desktop as soon as you plug it in. However, it is formatted using FAT 32, which is an older cross-platform system so that the drive will appear on both Mac and Windows computers.
To maximize it’s performance on a Mac, you need to run the included Drive Guide to optimize the drive.
Setup is straight-forward, but has several glitches. As the screen shot indicates, the Drive Guide is only 32-bit software. Future versions of the macOS won’t support 32-bit apps. However, for now, running the Drive Guide on any version of High Sierra or earlier will work perfectly.
Also, while the drive supports the APFS file system, the Drive Guide does not. You’ll need to use Disk Utility to format the drive for APFS.
The Guide displays a confirming dialog to make sure you have the right drive.
Then it’s time to accept the End User License Agreement.
This is the next “gotcha.” Drive Guide only allows Mac drives to be formatted using HFS+. Apple has released APFS specifically for SSD drives, but the Guide won’t let you install it.
NOTE: You can reformat the drive after initial setup is complete using Drive Utility. For SSD drives there are both performance and operational benefits to using the new file system. More on this in a bit.
You can also partition the drive, or make it Windows compatible.
If you don’t need Windows support, or need to run multiple Mac operating systems, I recommend you NOT partition the drive. If you want multiple volumes on the same drive, which generally doesn’t make sense, re-format it to APFS, then install multiple Volumes; again using Drive Utility. Volumes are faster and more efficient than partitions. APFS is a better file system for an SSD drive than HFS+.
Read the rest of Larry’s Review here.