Performance Metrics

CrystalDiskInfo provides us with a quick overview of the internal SSD in the Solo Hawk Pro, and compares them with the other external SSDs that we are looking at in this section.

Drive Information

The Seagate Barracuda SSD is a Phison S10-based product. We had reviewed the 500GB internal version last year, and also looked at the 1TB and 2TB versions in a couple of external SSD reviews earlier this year.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Over the last couple of years, we have evaluated DAS units on Windows using our Thunderbolt 3 desktop PC (based on a GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH ATX board) described here. However, starting late last year, we started noticing abnormally low performance numbers for certain devices and general instability after attempting Thunderbolt firmware upgrades (while trying to make an eGFX enclosure work with the system). Starting with the Plugable USBC-NVME storage bridge review, we have temporarily moved to using the Hades Canyon NUC as our testbed for direct-attached storage units.

Our evaluation routine involves using ATTO and CrystalDiskMark for a quick overview. The latter helps determine availability of UASP support and provides some performance numbers under ideal scenarios. Real-world performance testing is done with our custom test suite involving robocopy benchmarks and PCMark 8's storage bench.

We also evaluate the thermal performance of the external storage device by tracking its temperature as it is subject to the aforementioned real-world workload. Sustained writes, a notable weak point of many flash-based devices while also being a realistic use-case for DAS units, are also tested. Power consumption is tracked for the CrystalDiskMark workloads.

Prior to presenting the benchmark numbers, we list out the DAS units used for comparison purposes in this review:

  • CRU ioSafe Solo Hawk Rugged SSD 500GB
  • G-DRIVE slim SSD USB-C 500GB
  • Kingston HyperX Savage EXO 480GB
  • Samsung Portable SSD T5 500GB
  • SanDisk Extreme 510 480GB

Synthetic Benchmarks - ATTO and Crystal DiskMark

The unique selling proposition of the Solo Hawk is its rugged nature, and CRU makes no claims about the read and write speeds other than pointing to the USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface's 10 Gbps theoretical limit. Given that the internal SSD is a SATA drive, we can expect upwards of 500 MBps practically. The ATTO benchmarks provided below show that we can hit around 550 MBps reads and around 500 MBps writes. Unfortunately, these access traces are not very common in real-life scenarios.

Drive Performance Benchmarks - ATTO

CrystalDiskMark, despite being a canned benchmark, provides a better estimate of the performance range with a selected set of numbers. As evident from the screenshot below, the performance can dip to as low as 18 MBps for random 4K reads.

Drive Performance Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark

Benchmarks - robocopy and PCMark 8 Storage Bench

Our testing methodology for DAS units also takes into consideration the usual use-case for such devices. The most common usage scenario is transfer of large amounts of photos and videos to and from the unit. The minor usage scenario is importing files directly off the DAS into a multimedia editing program such as Adobe Photoshop.

In order to tackle the first use-case, we created three test folders with the following characteristics:

  • Photos: 15.6 GB collection of 4320 photos (RAW as well as JPEGs) in 61 sub-folders
  • Videos: 16.1 GB collection of 244 videos (MP4 as well as MOVs) in 6 sub-folders
  • BR: 10.7 GB Blu-ray folder structure of the IDT Benchmark Blu-ray (the same that we use in our robocopy tests for NAS systems)

Photos Read

For the second use-case, we take advantage of PC Mark 8's storage bench. The storage workload involves games as well as multimedia editing applications. The command line version allows us to cherry-pick storage traces to run on a target drive. We chose the following traces.

  • Adobe Photoshop (Light)
  • Adobe Photoshop (Heavy)
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Illustrator

Usually, PC Mark 8 reports time to complete the trace, but the detailed log report has the read and write bandwidth figures which we present in our performance graphs. Note that the bandwidth number reported in the results don't involve idle time compression. Results might appear low, but that is part of the workload characteristic. Note that the same testbed is being used for all DAS units. Therefore, comparing the numbers for each trace should be possible across different DAS units.

Adobe Photoshop Light Read

Performance Consistency

Yet another interesting aspect of these types of units is performance consistency. Aspects that may influence this include thermal throttling and firmware caps on access rates to avoid overheating or other similar scenarios. This aspect is an important one, as the last thing that users want to see when copying over, say, 100 GB of data to an external SSD, is the transfer rate going to USB 2.0 speeds. In order to identify whether the drive under test suffers from this problem, we instrumented our robocopy DAS benchmark suite to record the flash drive's read and write transfer rates while the robocopy process took place in the background. For supported drives, we also recorded the internal temperature of the drive during the process. The graphs below show the speeds observed during our real-world DAS suite processing. The first three sets of writes and reads correspond to the photos suite. A small gap (for the transfer of the videos suite from the primary drive to the RAM drive) is followed by three sets for the next data set. Another small RAM-drive transfer gap is followed by three sets for the Blu-ray folder.

An important point to note here is that each of the first three blue and green areas correspond to 15.6 GB of writes and reads respectively. Throttling, if any, is apparent within the processing of the photos suite itself. The Solo Hawk shows consistent performance across all three sets of workloads.

Performance Consistency and Thermal Characteristics

There is no performance throttling due to thermal concerns, as the drive reaches only 52C at the end of the test suite.

Overall, the performance of the Solo Hawk is a mixed bag - in general, it acts as a typical SATA SSD behind a USB 3.1 Gen 2 bridge, and comes out on top in certain workloads, while not faring that well in others. The SSDs used for comparison in this section are not as rugged or tolerant to environmental variations as the Solo Hawk. We shall compare the Solo Hawk against other competing products from a pricing and specifications perspectie in the next section.

The Solo Hawk Internals Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks
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  • Howling Mad Merdoc - Wednesday, September 4, 2019 - link

    Can we get the twitter feed on the main page again? I for one really miss it. Reply
  • Cullinaire - Monday, September 9, 2019 - link

    I for one don't miss it at all. Reply
  • cfenton - Wednesday, September 4, 2019 - link

    Does the warranty cover failures due to extreme conditions? I ask because a lot of phone manufacturers won't cover water damage even though their phones are IP rated. I can understand why they don't, but I do find it misleading for general consumers.

    A warranty that doesn't cover failures from extreme conditions would be even more misleading with this product. The only reason to buy one of these is if you need to use it in extreme conditions.
    Reply
  • fneuner - Wednesday, September 4, 2019 - link

    I have not had much good luck with ioSafe products. Lots of USB3 failures. Reply
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