If you didn’t already know, upgrading the SSD on your computer can be very expensive, especially on MacBooks. The next best thing is getting an external drive, preferably an SSD, because they are much faster than traditional hard drives. There are cheap SSD drives, customizable SSD drives, and super fast premium SSD drives. Let me show you how you can save potentially hundreds of dollars and make your very own custom, super fast SSD drive.
When you upgrade a drive it will demand faster storage or higher capacity, such as going from one terabyte to two terabytes or even upgrading the enclosure itself. So let’s address one problem with these external SSD drives. They can get hot when you’re transferring large amounts of data to them. And this is bad for two reasons.
Number one, it’s going to slow down the transfer speeds when they get super hot, and also number two, if they do get hot regularly, it can decrease their lifespan. So, what if you put a tiny little fan inside one of these SSD drives, would that make a difference? Enter the Shell Thunder Thunderbolt 3 SSD enclosure from a company called Fledging.
They added a tiny little fan. Through this article, we’re going to compare it to some other popular external drives and see how it stacks up. So this is one of the fastest SSD drives I’ve ever used. It is the XTRM-Q from Sabrent. It is solid aluminum, it’s super, super fast, and it’s just all around a really good drive. Quick side note here as well, guys. You may be wondering why a fast SSD is important?.
Well, if you are regularly transferring files between computers, all that time spent waiting for a transfer to complete can add up. If you edit videos from an external drive, you’ll see massive performance improvements by using a fast drive. The problem is though, like I mentioned before, when you transfer super large folders and files, for example, more than about 500 gigabytes at once, they get super hot and performance drops. And this is why I’m so interested in this Fledging drive. I want to see if that fan inside the chassis works. So first things first, let’s build this bad boy. All you need to do is unscrew the enclosure and install a compatible NVMe SSD drive.
Now, make sure you install the thermal pad. This will make sure the heat transfers from the drive into the metal chassis of the case and dissipates out into the air. You can also peel off the sticker from your drive to get better adhesion to the thermal pad, but this is not essential. And don’t do this step if the sticker says anything about voiding the warranty.
So to find the best SSD to put into this enclosure I tried two separate drives. A two-terabyte WD black SN750 from Western Digital and a two-terabyte Rocket Drive from Sabrent, both of which are used in the official benchmarks on the Fledging product page. Without getting too technical here, if we compare the amorphous disc mark results, they perform roughly the same, especially their random read capability, which is very important for video editing. But the Sabrent has much better write speeds overall.
And it’s using an almost identical SSD to the one found inside the premium Sabrent Rocket XTM-Q. In this chance, I’m going with the Sabrent SSD inside the Fledging enclosure. So let’s now take a look at some popular external drives on the market, and we’ll see how they stack up to our brand new custom SSD drive.
We’ve got the trustee Samsung T5 SSD, and it’s slightly faster than its older brother, the T7. We’ve also got my budget custom NVMe SSD from tutorial I made last year. Oh, and I also threw in a budget hard drive just for laughs down at the bottom. I often transfer several terabytes of files to and from my NAS, various external drives, and computers every single week. And if you’re a professional videographer or photographer, for example, you probably do too.
Okay, so let’s have a look at how the fans on this device impact its performance. Now I’ve formatted all these drives in Apple’s APFs file format because it’s one of the best file formats for solid state drives. Yes, much better than the traditional exFAT format which is very old and has been around since 2006. Although if you want your external drive to work on both MacOS and Windows, you will need to use exFAT, as Windows computers will not be able to read APFs formatted drives.
If you’re just using a Mac though, I would go APFs all the way. It’s much faster, more stable, and also efficient than exFAT. Okay, so I have a one terabyte test folder and I’m going to be copying this folder from the desktop of my M1 Max MacBook Pro with four terabyte SSD onto each external drive. By the way, guys, if there is going to be some kind of bottleneck in this test, it is not going to be the SSD on the M1 Max. That thing is insanely fast and I’ll put up a Black Magic disc speed test right now, so you can see for yourselves.
Now copying this massive amount of data onto these external SSDs should heat them a lot. And we’re going to see if that fan makes a difference. And the results were pretty interesting. On paper, the Fledging drive was quite a bit faster, achieving a transfer speed of 13 minutes and 55 seconds, versus the Rocket’s 16 minutes and 40 seconds.
Taking a look at the history, for the first five minutes, on the Rocket we were getting the full 1.8 gigabytes per second write speed. But after that, it thermal throttled quite a lot, reducing the write speeds to just 300 megabytes per second for the remainder of the transfer. Compared with the Fledging, strangely it started at the same high write speeds, but almost immediately decreased to one gigabyte per second.
But did the fan on the Fledging help at all during these tests? Well, kind of. Looking at thermals the chassis on both SSD drives were very toasty. Although the Fledging was a few degrees cooler by roughly eight degrees Celsius. But when it came to physically touching both of them, they were still really, really hot and uncomfortable to hold in my hand for more than a few seconds, even the Fledging, although it was about six to seven degrees cooler.
Now, one thing I did find though, was that the actual chassis of the Fledging after the transfer had been done cooled down quicker than the Sabrent, after about four or five minutes, this was not cool to the touch, but nowhere near as hot as the Sabrent. I did a second transfer with a smaller 250-gigabyte file. And this time the results were different. Once again, the XTRM-Q went to the full 1.8 gigabytes per second and stayed there until the transfer was finished. However, the Fledging again, reduced almost immediately to just one gigabyte per second, resulting in a slower transfer time for the smaller file, which was strange because, on both the amorphous disk mark and Black Magic disc speed test, I was able to get over two gigabytes per second on the Fledging and Sabrent Rocket combination.
It seems that the premium XTRM-Q drive is just better at these smaller transfers. And this is because the XTRM-Q is Intel certified, and features a large dynamic SLC cache that spans one-quarter of its available capacity. That means if the drive is empty, the cache should absorb roughly 500 gigabytes of writes on our two-terabyte sample before degrading too much lower speeds.
And the non-Intel certified Fledging enclosure, plus standard NVMe drive just couldn’t keep up. I think that if I were to buy the Intel-certified version of the Shell Thunder, which is the one that comes pre-populated with a Phison SSD from Fledging, we could have seen similar results.
So if you’re doing large transfers regularly, and you need a super fast external SSD, I think the Fledging is a pretty solid choice, but if you mostly do smaller file transfers, the Intel-certified Sabrent XTRM-Q comes out ahead. Is the fan on the Fledging some kind of magical feature that’s going to keep the drive ice cold? No, probably not.
I don’t think it does all that much to be fair, but that being said, no matter what SSD drive you to get, especially these super-fast NVMe drives, they’re just going to get hot. That NVMe SSD inside produces a lot of heat. And there’s just no real easy way to cool that down, other than packing the chassis full of aluminum, like this one, and also to a lesser extent, the Fledging drive.
I also tested both of these out while editing a 4k video. Again, no massive differences here, guys. They were both around as hot as each other. So I think it comes down to price. If you can find this enclosure and also a matching NVMe SSD for a decent price, I think the Fledging is a really solid deal, or if you’re not after pure performance and speed, you can go for my budget external SSD build, which is much, much cheaper, or even a much slower Samsung T5 and T7`. They will all thermal throttle much easier. And overall speeds will be much lower, but they are dirt cheap.
Source: UPGRADE your MacBook with THIS!