As a professional photographer I do a lot of work on-site and ‘in the field.’ One of challenges is backing up the day’s images. Anything that can speed up this backup transfer while ensuring the integrity of the images, is always welcome.
That is the impetus this review. I was supplied the OWC Envoy Pro EX with USB-C 2TB SSD M.2 drive by Other World Computing (OEM and distributer of external hard drive cases, SSDs and enterprise storage solutions), for an independent long-term evaluation.
The OWC Envoy Pro EX seemed very promising. It is small, and because it is based on an SSD M.2 drive, should be quite fast.
Unpacking: What is enclosed
The OWC Envoy Pro EX with USB-C 2TB SSD M.2 drive (SKU OWCENVPROC2N20) arrived in a 5.75×3.75×2 inches box. Within the box was:
- Quick Start Guide
- Information sheet on OWC Drive formatting utility
- USB Type-C cable
- with USB-C 2TB SSD M.2 drive installed
- If the OWC Envoy Pro EX was purchased as an enclosure without any NVMe M.2 SSD, it is supplied with screws to secure the enclosure, and one drive mounting screw, along with two rubber feet (that are used to cover the case mounting screws).
Actual dimensions of the Envoy Pro EX:
- 4.53×2.55×0.5 inches (11.51×6.48×1.27 centimeters)
- 5.6 ounces (0.1588 kilograms) with the 2TB SSD M.2 (NVMe PCIe 2280 SSD M-Keyed) drive installed
Dust and water resistance rating:
Unit is powered by the USB-C cable connection
Interface: USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-C)/ Thunderbolt™ 3 Interface
Operating System Requirements:
- macOS 10.12 or later
- Windows 10 or later
- Linux, Chrome Android, and other OS that support USB 3.1 Gen 2
- 3-year OWC Limited Warranty if ordered with SSD
- 1-year OWC Limited Warranty if only ordering the case
The unit was connected via the supplied USB Type-C cable to a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port on my PC. I am running Windows 10 Pro with a MSI MEG Z390 motherboard, Intel Core i9-9900K Coffee Lake 8-Core processor and 64GB DDR4 memory. The Envoy Pro Ex was immediately recognized along with showing the preloaded software, mentioned in the Drive Guide Formatting sheet included with the unit.
Unfortunately, while the drive contents opened in Explorer properly, and the formatting utility exe file was there, it would not initialize. After several attempts, I followed OWC alternative formatting suggestion- use Windows Disk Management to format.
Windows Disk Management properly formatted the drive, and everything checked out. The newly formatted disk showed as 200 MB Healthy (EFI System Partition) and 1788.30 GB NTFS Healthy (Basic Data Partition).
The next thing I did was to run benchmarking software. For this I used Samsung’s Magician software (I have several Samsung 970 PRO NVMe M.2 SSD drives on the motherboard).
Sequential (MB/s) Random (IOPS)
Read 971 Write 991 Read 55175 Write 52490
Comparison to Seagate 2TB external 3.5 HDD
Sequential (MB/s) Random (IOPS) not run
Read 157 Write 151 n.a.
As can be seen, the OWC Envoy Pro EX about six times faster in sequential reading and writing to the disk as compared to the Seagate 2TB 3.5 HDD.
These results seem to be consistent with published data. For example, A typical 7200 RPM HDD will deliver a read/write speed of 80-160MB/s. On the other hand, a typical SSD will deliver read/write speed of between 200 MB/s to 550 MB/s.
Initial Field Test
After benchmarking, the next step was to see how the OWC Envoy Pro EX did with real data.
I used a LG Gram laptop Z990 with an 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 processor and DDR4 dual-channel memory, M.2 2280 SSD, 16GB DDR4, Windows 10, and connected to its USB-C 3.1 Thunderbolt™ 3 port with the OWC supplied cable (a USB-C, gen 2 but not a Thunderbolt™ 3 cable).
The first transfer was of 21.2GB (1,414 items including videos, images, pdfs and text files) to the OWC Envoy Pro EX. The transfer took 01:34.51 minutes to complete. Accessing any of the transferred files, images, videos, and pdfs was instantaneous. The case showed a thermal increase of 4⁰F (using a Raytek MT6 infrared thermometer)
For comparison, the identical 21.2GBs was sent using the same laptop to a SDXC card (in the SD port of the laptop) and the transfer took 06:26.08 minutes to complete. Accessing any of the transferred files, images, videos, and pdfs was nearly instantaneous loading.
Next I transferred 72.2GB (8,972 items including videos, images, pdfs and text files) to the OWC Envoy Pro EX. Transfer took 06:22.20 minutes to complete. Accessing any of the transferred files, images, videos, and pdfs was instantaneous. The case showed a thermal increase of 8.5⁰F (using a Raytek MT6 infrared thermometer)
Since my laptop supports Thunderbolt™ 3, I reran the transfer of 21.2GB (1,414 items including videos, images, pdfs and text files) to the OWC Envoy Pro EX, but this time using a Thunderbolt™ 3 cable instead of the OWC supplied USB Type-C cable. The transfer took 01:21:16 minutes to complete. The case showed a thermal increase of 2⁰F (using a Raytek MT6 infrared thermometer)
Next I reran the transfer of 72.2GB (8,972 items including videos, images, pdfs and text files) to the OWC Envoy Pro EX using the Thunderbolt™ 3 cable. Transfer took 06:23.04 minutes to complete. Accessing any of the transferred files, images, videos and pdfs was instantaneous. The case showed a thermal increase of 5.5⁰F (using a Raytek MT6 infrared thermometer).
Prior to having the OWC Envoy Pro EX drive, I always backed up my daily images and videos each day through the laptop to the embedded SDXC card. Hence, my last ‘real world’ comparison was taking the 21.2GB of photos and videos and sending it from my Nikon’s XQD card directly to the OWC Envoy Pro EX through the laptop Thunderbolt™, versus through the laptop to an embedded SDXC card. It took 01:46:25 minutes to the OWC unit and 06:27.02 minutes, respectively.
- Very nicely constructed (I have found this true with other types of OWC external drive cases). A solid feeling, well machined anodized aluminum case with rounded corners. Only one opening, the USB-C slot at one end, and the blue LED light at the other. The blue LED light glows steady when powered, and blinks as the drive is being accessed. Light weight and ultra-portable.
- The IP67 rating means that it is “Dust Tight No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact” and “Immersion up to 1m. Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 m of submersion).” 
- Extremely easy to connect and use. Considerably faster with real data than the prior method I used, namely, loading the backup data to the SDXC card in my laptop.
- The Thunderbolt™ 3 cable vs the OWC supplied cable (a USB-C) did not seem to make enough of a difference as tested, to justify buying a Thunderbolt™ 3 cable, if you don’t already own one.
In summary, the OWC Envoy Pro EX offers the perfect solution for those who need a highly portable external drive that is rugged, dust and waterproof under normal field conditions, and relatively fast for writing and accessing data. A nice bonus is the fact that you do not need a separate power supply.
Rating: Five out of a possible five
Please let me know if you have any questions about this unit.
Jeff Daum, Ph.D, PPA
Photojournalist, Technology & Product Analyst
Muck Rack: https://muckrack.com/dr-jeff-daum
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