Thunderbolt 3 M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosures

oreggero

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 27, 2016
23
19
Since I am owning a great new MacBook Pro, I have been searching the web for a worthy external storage to go with it.

So far, I only know of stationary Thunderbolt 3 drives (mainly in the form of full-size PCIe boxes with NVMe SSDs in them or large RAID systems that weigh upwards of 5 kg), but I am wondering, whether there's such a thing as an M.2 NVMe SSD enclosure that uses Thunderbolt 3 to connect to the computer.
I could not find anything like that up until now, with the closest match being a bulky M.2 enclosure from Sonnet that is called a "Windows Edition" (probably due to an incompatible TB3 chipset, I guess).

On the other hand, there are some cheap USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C enclosures on Amazon, that can house an M.2 SATA SSD, which will not get you the highest transfer speeds possible (in fact, they are pretty limited at the 480 MB/s that USB 3.1 Gen1 supports), with NVMe and Thunderbolt being able to transfer data much faster (theoretically 5 GB/s, but at this point in time the highest rates I could find for desktop drives were about 2400 MB/s).
And last but not least there are the Glyph Atom (RAID) SSDs, which get closer (~800 MB/s) to the speed I desire, but still use USB 3.1 Gen2, and they are rather expensive at 1 TB at ~ $ 420. (usual prices for M.2 NVMe SSDs range from 450 to 600 bucks and they are way faster at ~1600 to 3200 MB/s read speed).

So my question is: Did I miss something, or are there just no portable Thunderbolt 3 external SSDs/SSD enclosures?
 

anson42

macrumors 6502a
Mar 13, 2014
516
419
Oakland, CA
I was looking for a TB3 M.2 NVMe RAID solution and the only thing I could find that didn't terminate in a SATA interface — like what's the point of that — is a product like this:

http://www.sonnettech.com/product/echoexpressseltb3.html

an outboard PCIe expansion box connected via TB3 that can house a PCIe-based M.2 SSD controller. There doesn't seem to be a ton of those either at this point but they are starting to pop up. I don't follow PC hardware releases but Sonnet's web site has a compatibility matrix that is somewhat revealing of the available Mac-compatible controllers out there:

http://www.sonnettech.com/support/charts/thunderbolt/index.html

I suspect a small outboard enclosures for dual or quad M.2 SSD RAID with a TB3 interface are imminent from various hardware makers. The SATA-based SSDs are ok if you need the 2.5" form factor but no longer adequate for speed demons.
 

satcomer

macrumors 604
Feb 19, 2008
6,902
1,164
The Finger Lakes Region
I was looking for a TB3 M.2 NVMe RAID solution and the only thing I could find that didn't terminate in a SATA interface — like what's the point of that — is a product like this:

http://www.sonnettech.com/product/echoexpressseltb3.html

an outboard PCIe expansion box connected via TB3 that can house a PCIe-based M.2 SSD controller. There doesn't seem to be a ton of those either at this point but they are starting to pop up. I don't follow PC hardware releases but Sonnet's web site has a compatibility matrix that is somewhat revealing of the available Mac-compatible controllers out there:

http://www.sonnettech.com/support/charts/thunderbolt/index.html

I suspect a small outboard enclosures for dual or quad M.2 SSD RAID with a TB3 interface are imminent from various hardware makers. The SATA-based SSDs are ok if you need the 2.5" form factor but no longer adequate for speed demons.
Look at the video review. Ace sure you see on YouTube to use a hack for unsupported TB3 devices.
 

KarthikUnboxed

macrumors newbie
Aug 24, 2017
1
0
Since I am owning a great new MacBook Pro, I have been searching the web for a worthy external storage to go with it.

So far, I only know of stationary Thunderbolt 3 drives (mainly in the form of full-size PCIe boxes with NVMe SSDs in them or large RAID systems that weigh upwards of 5 kg), but I am wondering, whether there's such a thing as an M.2 NVMe SSD enclosure that uses Thunderbolt 3 to connect to the computer.
I could not find anything like that up until now, with the closest match being a bulky M.2 enclosure from Sonnet that is called a "Windows Edition" (probably due to an incompatible TB3 chipset, I guess).

On the other hand, there are some cheap USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C enclosures on Amazon, that can house an M.2 SATA SSD, which will not get you the highest transfer speeds possible (in fact, they are pretty limited at the 480 MB/s that USB 3.1 Gen1 supports), with NVMe and Thunderbolt being able to transfer data much faster (theoretically 5 GB/s, but at this point in time the highest rates I could find for desktop drives were about 2400 MB/s).
And last but not least there are the Glyph Atom (RAID) SSDs, which get closer (~800 MB/s) to the speed I desire, but still use USB 3.1 Gen2, and they are rather expensive at 1 TB at ~ $ 420. (usual prices for M.2 NVMe SSDs range from 450 to 600 bucks and they are way faster at ~1600 to 3200 MB/s read speed).

So my question is: Did I miss something, or are there just no portable Thunderbolt 3 external SSDs/SSD enclosures?
[doublepost=1503581119][/doublepost]Have you looked into AtomRAID SSD by Glyph?
 

fembrey

macrumors newbie
Jun 26, 2013
2
0
[doublepost=1503581119][/doublepost]
Have you looked into AtomRAID SSD by Glyph?
AtomRAID seems pretty slow and not very cheap. A decent M.2 SSD is 'only' $300 and a USB-C external container is $30 or so with speeds up to 10Gbps which translates to probable transfer speeds of 1GB/s. Which is higher than the 860MB/s and cheaper. Plus you get more options in terms of upgradability etc.
 

SecuritySteve

macrumors 6502a
Jul 6, 2017
838
973
California
I'm interested in this too. I'm looking to spend ~1-2k on an external fixed RAID 0 enclosure (RAID 0 needed for speed, I'll be running 10 VMs with heavy IO pressure on the external RAID array's drives). Ideally I'd like TB3 level-bandwidth with M.2 PCIe SSDs internally. Any recommendations? Must be macOS compatible obviously.

Edit: I've looked at the LaCie Bolt 3: https://www.lacie.com/personal/special-edition/bolt3/ and I like the specs, I just think it looks tacky.
 

machou

macrumors newbie
May 5, 2007
8
1
I'm interested in this too. I'm looking to spend ~1-2k on an external fixed RAID 0 enclosure (RAID 0 needed for speed, I'll be running 10 VMs with heavy IO pressure on the external RAID array's drives). Ideally I'd like TB3 level-bandwidth with M.2 PCIe SSDs internally. Any recommendations? Must be macOS compatible obviously.

Edit: I've looked at the LaCie Bolt 3: https://www.lacie.com/personal/special-edition/bolt3/ and I like the specs, I just think it looks tacky.
You can use this : https://www.akitio.com/expansion/node-lite
coupled with a PCI-E / M2 adapter and a Samsung 960 Pro 2TB for example.

Must be on High Sierra though to use non-Apple NVMe PCI-E drives and TRIM is supported.
 
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DirkM

macrumors newbie
Oct 22, 2011
5
0
I have recently installed the Aplicata Quad M.2 NVMe SSD PCIe x8 Adapter in a OWC Mercury Helios 3 Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Expansion Chassis together with two Samsung 960 2TB NVMe SSDs and set up a RAID from macOS, not cheap but works great and leaves room to add two more drives. In RAID 0 I get 2900MB/s write and 2500MB/s read on my iMac Pro.
 

d.steve

macrumors 6502
Jan 6, 2012
324
114
I know this is a pretty stale thread but I was trying to see what's on this market myself the other day and just now stumbled on this just browsing the forum.

The only single product solution I've found is Netstor NA611TB3. Limited info about it out there but pretty positive reviews.
 

Ifti

macrumors 68020
Dec 14, 2010
2,411
523
UK
I have just taken delivery of the OWC Envoy Pro EX.
Great drive so far.

I've also just taken delivery of my new editing drive - the OWC Thunderblade V4, which is blazing fast!!
I'll review it soon!


Ive also tested a number of USB-C drives, from Sandisk and Samsung for example, which are lower priced and may well do everything you need......
 

Ifti

macrumors 68020
Dec 14, 2010
2,411
523
UK
Heres my ThunderBlade V4.
I use the above Envoy Pro EX as a portable drive, and the ThunderBlade as my main editing drive.

 

Squuiid

macrumors 68000
Oct 31, 2006
1,593
899
Has anything new come onto the market that allows you to populate the device with your own M.2 SSDs?
Does anyone know of something like that?
 

Ifti

macrumors 68020
Dec 14, 2010
2,411
523
UK
Has anything new come onto the market that allows you to populate the device with your own M.2 SSDs?
Does anyone know of something like that?
The Thunderblade V4 linked in the post above can be opened and populated with your own nvme SSDs. You cant buy the drive empty though, although could buy the lowest capacity and populate it with larger SSDs (although will probably cost around the same as the higher capacity one in the first instance!!)

Ive just picked up one of these too. Amazing!

 

gwerhart0800

macrumors 6502
Mar 15, 2008
445
16
Loveland, CO
Has anything new come onto the market that allows you to populate the device with your own M.2 SSDs?
Does anyone know of something like that?
I looked and looked and looked for one that would hold a single NVMe PCIe drive and the choices were slim. There were a couple of cheap Chinese enclosures, but the scarce reviews made me shy away. OWC sells a 4 drive enclosure that was overkill and more expensive than I needed. So, I opted for an HP P800 256GB drive. It is very easy to open up the drive enclosure to swap the 256GB drive out for a 1T (in my case). I am using this as a boot drive on a 2017 iMac that has a 1T fusion drive. I configured Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the SSD to the Fusion drive every night. The overall performance is better. The only downside has been the cable is super short. You can replace the cable and I plan to do that soon.

So, not quite a "populate an empty enclosure", but reasonably close. (I have plans to reuse the HP SSD in a Linux box I have as a boot drive.) If you find something better, please let the rest of us know!
 
Last edited:

Stecchino

macrumors member
Oct 31, 2003
94
20
Norfolk, Virginia, USA
I just logged it to say thanks to those contributing to this thread. Just bought a 2018 Mac Mini (first new Mac ordered from Apple in a long time). Bumped the internal drive a bit but definitely need fast external storage.
[doublepost=1542663514][/doublepost]
Has anything new come onto the market that allows you to populate the device with your own M.2 SSDs?
Does anyone know of something like that?
OWC has one that takes up to 4 M.2 SSDs: https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/express-4m2
Video review:

I'm eyeing it.
 

DRDR

macrumors regular
Jul 23, 2008
101
118

Stephen.R

macrumors 68030
Nov 2, 2018
2,551
2,989
Thailand
Ive also tested a number of USB-C drives, from Sandisk and Samsung for example, which are lower priced and may well do everything you need......
Were those drives USB 3.1 Gen2 ? I realise that the 10GBit is not enough to fully accomodate the highest speed NVME's but here (Thailand) TB3 products are limited in availability, whereas UBC-C stuff is much more easily available.

I'm wondering if the cost to import something like the the OWC Envoy Pro is worth it. Theoretically a USB alternative should drive around 1.2GB/sec (vs the claimed 1.8GB or 2.6GB for Envoy Pro and Pro VE respectively). But I wonder what the actual sustained throughput would be on a USB version.
 

Ifti

macrumors 68020
Dec 14, 2010
2,411
523
UK
Were those drives USB 3.1 Gen2 ? I realise that the 10GBit is not enough to fully accomodate the highest speed NVME's but here (Thailand) TB3 products are limited in availability, whereas UBC-C stuff is much more easily available.

I'm wondering if the cost to import something like the the OWC Envoy Pro is worth it. Theoretically a USB alternative should drive around 1.2GB/sec (vs the claimed 1.8GB or 2.6GB for Envoy Pro and Pro VE respectively). But I wonder what the actual sustained throughput would be on a USB version.
Check out the Samsung T5 - these are USB 3.1 Gen-2 and are highly rated.
 

Ifti

macrumors 68020
Dec 14, 2010
2,411
523
UK
I just logged it to say thanks to those contributing to this thread. Just bought a 2018 Mac Mini (first new Mac ordered from Apple in a long time). Bumped the internal drive a bit but definitely need fast external storage.
[doublepost=1542663514][/doublepost]

OWC has one that takes up to 4 M.2 SSDs: https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/express-4m2
Video review:

I'm eyeing it.
Ive been using the ThunderBlade V4 - its like this but completely silent with no fans. Instead the entire unit is a large heatsink in itself. Have been using it for the past few months as my main editing drive with FCPX and its worked perfectly well. Have no reason to think the unit you linked to above would work any differently ;)
Lovely drives, not so sure on the support though.....
 
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radus

macrumors 6502
Jan 12, 2009
492
303
Nekteck 480GB Thunderbolt 3 SSD NVME Hard Drive, External Hard Disk Speed Up to 2300 MB/s Read
HP P800 256GB Portable External Thunderbolt 3 PCIe NVMe SSD

Booth tb3 ssd-enclosures can be opened and the ssd replaced, comparable speeds and much cheaper.
 
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