Plugable, a company that offers a range of hubs, docking stations, storage solutions, and other accessories for Mac and Windows machines this week launched a new external NVME SSD that offers 480GB and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity for incredibly fast transfer speeds.

The Plugable TBT3-NVME480 SSD is designed for Thunderbolt machines like Apple's latest line of MacBook Pro models, and it offers transfer speeds of up to 2400MB/s read and 1200MB/s write.

Design

Design wise, the palm-sized Plugable Thunderbolt 3 SSD is unremarkable. It's made from a solid black brushed aluminum with a ridged design at the sides, and a single LED light on the front that lets you know when it's connected and receiving power.

plugablessddesign
There's an integrated Thunderbolt 3 cable at the top, and a rather large and highly visible printed Pluable logo, which cheapens the look of the device just a bit. It's smaller than an iPhone X and similar in size to a deck of cards, so it's portable enough to stick in a bag or even a pocket if so desired.

plugablessdfront
As with most SSDs, your MacBook provides power to the SSD, so there's no extra power cable to deal with.

With continual usage, I've noticed that Plugable's SSD can get fairly warm, but that's not unusual and it does not appear to impact performance.

plugablesizecomparison
It's worth noting that the TBT3-NVME480 SSD comes with an 18-month warranty that can be extended to 36 months through registration, so if it fails during that time period, Plugable will replace it for you.

Transfer Speeds

As mentioned above, Plugable says the TBT3-NVME480 SSD is able to reach maximum read speeds of 2400MB/s and maximum write speeds of 1200MB/s thanks to Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and its use of NVMe technology.

In Blackmagic disk speed tests with a 2016 MacBook Pro, my actual results varied a bit. With the test that uses 5GB file sizes to test transfer speeds, read speeds topped out at about 2025MB/s, while write speeds were just about at Plugable's promised 1200MB/s.

blackmagicdiskssdspeedtest
You should see faster transfer speeds near the maximum with smaller file sizes. In practice, it took just about three minutes to transfer a 57GB file from my MacBook Pro to the Plugable SSD. Comparatively, that same transfer with a standard hard drive took 17 minutes.

plugablewithmacbookpro
Transfer speeds will, in practice, differ based on the other peripherals you have plugged into your Mac and your Mac's workload.

When using this drive with the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, make sure to plug it into the left side of the machine. The Thunderbolt 3 ports on the right side of the 13-inch MacBook Pro have reduced PCI Express bandwidth and Plugable says transfer speeds could be slower in this situation.

Compatibility

Plugable's TBT3-NVME480 SSD is compatible only with Thunderbolt 3 machines, and it is not backwards compatible with Macs and Windows PCs that use USB-C or USB-A. That means you're not going to be able to plug this into an older machine to facilitate file transfers - it's exclusively for use with Thunderbolt 3.

For Apple's Macs, that means it works with the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro models, 2017 iMac models, and all iMac Pro models. macOS Sierra and later is required.

The SSD also works with Windows machines that support Thunderbolt 3 and have Windows 10, 8.1, or 7 installed. It is not compatible with Boot Camp Windows installations, unfortunately.

On Macs, the TBT3-NVME480 SSD works as soon as it's plugged into a free Thunderbolt 3 port (it's exFAT formatted), while on Windows, you'll need to go through an authentication process. Windows users will also need to make sure the latest TB3 and BIOS firmware updates are installed.

Bottom Line

At $400 for 480GB of storage, the Plugable BT3-NVME480 SSD isn't cheap, but it's also not wildly unaffordable if you're aiming to find an SSD that's going to offer the fastest speeds you can get for tasks like large file transfers, booting an OS, or running a gaming library or photo library from an external drive.

You can get a 480GB SSD from Amazon for somewhere around $150, so the Plugable TB3 SSD is more than twice as expensive as other options, but it also offers twice the transfer speed. With a standard SSD, you're going to max out at about 450-500MB/s, so that extra $250 gets you more than twice the speed.

plugablessdside
There are few Thunderbolt 3-compatible drives on the market right now, and most other options are 1TB+ and far more expensive, so it's nice that Plugable is offering a smaller, less expensive drive that's at least a little more accessible. On the downside, this storage solution is TB3 only and can't be used with non-TB3 machines, which is something to be aware of.

The average person doesn't need to shell out the extra money for the kind of transfer speeds offered by Plugable's new SSD, but for those who do need the fastest possible speeds, this is a storage option that's potentially worth checking out.

How to Buy

You can purchase Plugable's Thunderbolt 3 480GB NVME Solid State Drive from the Plugable website or from Amazon.com for $399.

Note: Plugable provided MacRumors with a TBT3-NVME480 SSD for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

Top Rated Comments

ignatius345 Avatar
45 months ago
Maybe if this company is successful they can afford another G to spell "pluggable" correctly. Unless it's actually supposed to be pronounced "ploogable" as it is now.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Delgibbons Avatar
45 months ago
Holy crap that's fast
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
watakoola Avatar
45 months ago
Stepping back, it’s still kind of mind blowing that you can put half a terabyte on the device the size of an iPhone. I remember my first hard drive was 80 MEGAbytes (and now I’m showing my age) which fit exactly under my Mac SE, so about 10x10”. And it cost about $1000.
Heh. Kabeyun, you are as ancient as I am!
Not playing one-upmanship with you but I upgraded my twin floppy Mac SE with a 20 Megabyte MiniScribe hard drive. I thought I would NEVER EVER fill that massive hard drive! And yes, that 20Mb hard drive cost an arm and a leg at that time as well.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnomeisland Avatar
45 months ago
The article says no, but I I'm not sure why that should be the case. The drive seems to be capable of running on a lower bus speed given the explicit warning about using it on the lower throughput TB ports on MacBooks.

This is a source of gneral annoyance for me. I have a friend with a TB1 equipped iMac. They dont want to break the device open to replace the old magnetic disk, so hanging an SSD off of Thunderbolt would be awesome. Of course, just a few years later and nobody makes compatible drives.
The article isn't really explicit about whether it will work. It seems like the author is saying it won't because the port changed (true) but the TB2-to-TB3 is actually bidirectional and the TB3 standard is backwards compatible so unless there are wattage requirements it *should* work. There shouldn't even be that much speed loss running this over TB2 given that it isn't maxing out 40Gb/s of TB3... Honestly this USB-C/Thunderbolt thing is cool but very confusing even for someone like me who's grown up with this stuff.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Maxed Out Avatar
45 months ago
Here is the ODM:

https://www.ssi.com.tw/product/si-1112tb3-thunderbolt3-enclosure
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BlueTide Avatar
45 months ago
More stuff like this; I am waiting for external RAIDs with SSD blades for their size, speed and quietness. Would be grand to have more options for really fast and large working drives that would be silent.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

nothing ear 1 buds 1

Nothing 'Ear (1)' True Wireless Earbuds Launch to Take on AirPods Pro With ANC and Unusual Design for $99

Tuesday July 27, 2021 7:57 am PDT by
Nothing, a new brand from OnePlus founder Carl Pei, has today officially launched the "Ear (1)" true wireless earbuds after months of anticipation around the company's AirPods Pro rival. The Ear (1) features an in-ear design, Active Noise Cancelation, Bluetooth 5.2, IPX4 water resistance, and a charging case with Qi-compatible wireless charging and a USB-C port. Fast pairing is supported on...
iOS 14 on iPhone feature emergency

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1 With Fix for Touch ID Apple Watch Bug

Monday July 26, 2021 9:48 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1, minor bug fix updates that come just a week after the release of iOS 14.7, software that introduced new Apple Card features and support for the MagSafe Battery Pack. The iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to...
iPad mini pro feature 2

iPad Mini 6 to Feature 8.3-Inch Display With No Home Button and Narrower Bezels

Monday July 26, 2021 12:26 pm PDT by
The sixth-generation iPad mini that's in the works will have an 8.3-inch display, according to display analyst Ross Young. That will be larger than the current 7.9-inch display, with the larger size due to the removal of the Home button and a narrower bezel design. Rumors about the iPad mini 6 have been picking up in recent weeks ahead of its prospective launch this fall. Apple analyst...
iphone 12 pro gold

Report: iPhone 14 Pro Models to Feature Tough Titanium Alloy Chassis

Monday July 26, 2021 1:12 am PDT by
Next year's "iPhone 14" series is expected to feature high-end models with a new titanium alloy chassis design, claims a new investors report by JP Morgan Chase. According to the report, the use of titanium alloy will be one of the biggest changes to the case design in the 2022 iPhone series, and Foxconn will be the exclusive manufacturer of the titanium frames for the high-end models....
iOS 15 General Feature Purple

Everything New in iOS 15 Beta 4: Safari Tweaks, MagSafe Battery Pack Support, Notification Updates and More

Tuesday July 27, 2021 11:47 am PDT by
Apple today released the fourth betas of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, introducing additional refinements to the new features that are coming in the software updates. In these betas, Apple has introduced changes for Safari, Notifications, Focus mode, and more. Safari Updates Apple is continuing to refine the design of Safari on the iPhone, and in iOS 15, there are tweaks to improve usability. ...
apple mac business page

Apple Shares 11 Reasons Why Business Users Should Choose Macs

Monday July 26, 2021 11:35 am PDT by
Apple today updated its Apple at Work website with a new section dedicated to the Mac, which offers up 11 reasons why "Mac means business." On the webpage, Apple highlights the M1 chip as the number one reason why business users should choose a Mac, offering up an M1 overview [PDF] that explains the benefits of the M1 chip. The information isn't new, but it does provide a look at all of...
imac with accessories

Larger Redesigned High-End iMac Rumored to Launch Next Year

Monday July 26, 2021 3:45 am PDT by
Apple's larger redesigned iMac will arrive sometime in 2022 rather than later this year, according to the leaker known as "Dylandkt." On Twitter, Dylandkt claimed that Apple's "high end iMac" is not expected to release in the fourth quarter of 2021 alongside Apple's "M1X Macs" – a reference to Apple's redesigned MacBook Pro models – because "Apple simply does not want their devices to...
General iOS 14

iOS 14.7.1 and macOS Big Sur 11.5.1 Patch Security Vulnerability That May Have Been Actively Exploited

Monday July 26, 2021 11:55 am PDT by
Apple today released unexpected iOS 14.7.1 and iPadOS 14.7.1 updates to the public, and according to a newly released support document, the software addresses a serious security vulnerability that may have been exploited in the wild. Apple says that an application may have been able to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges due to a memory corruption issue. "Apple is aware of a report ...
apple bitcoin hack

Is Apple Really Buying Bitcoin?

Monday July 26, 2021 3:07 am PDT by
A large number of websites and posts on social media are stoking rumors that Apple has purchased $2.5 billion worth of bitcoin in the company's first move into cryptocurrency, but is there any validity to the claims? Many people are citing the fact that Apple was looking for a Business Development Manager with experience in alternative payments, including cryptocurrency, earlier this year as ...
new m1 chip

Tim Cook on Apple Deciding to Manufacture Components: 'We Ask Ourselves If We Can Do Something Better'

Tuesday July 27, 2021 3:04 pm PDT by
During today's earnings call for the third fiscal quarter of 2021 (second calendar quarter), Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked how Apple decides what components to purchase and what components to develop, and Cook said that Apple asks if it can be done better. We ask ourselves if we can do something better. If we can deliver a better product. If we can buy something in the market and it's great...