Review: CalDigit 2TB Tuff USB-C hard drive a solid choice for mobile MacBook Pro users

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2017
There's no reason for MacBook or MacBook Pro users with USB-C to rely on adapters for ruggedized mass storage. AppleInsider looks at the CalDigit Tuff hard drive, aimed squarely at mobile professionals seeking to safeguard data against drops or falls.




The MacBook Pro "Donglegate" concept is overblown. Yes, adapters are needed periodically like they have always been since there have been computers, but the hue and cry about hundreds of dollars needed for today's computing are over-stated by the reluctant to adopt to the new technology.

Making the "gate" even less of an issue are manufacturers like CalDigit, coming to the rescue with native USB-C peripherals, like the Tuff series of rugged drives.

AppleInsider was provided the 2TB 2.5-inch hard drive model to examine.

In the box

CalDigit's packaging is multi-purpose. A hard plastic storage box encloses the drive, and a pair of cables -- one USB-C on both ends, and the other USB-A to USB-C. Both are short, but a portable drive doesn't need a long cable.




The plastic enclosure is a nice touch. A nature photographer we spoke with suggested that multiple units could be stored, and externally labeled, making for easy drive and file retrieval.

Yes, it's a hard drive

iPhone SE for scale
iPhone SE for scale


All the durability in the world makes no difference if the drive is horrifyingly slow. The Tuff is not slow -- but doesn't take advantage of native USB-C speed with a hard drive.

Connected to a 2016 MacBook Pro with the included USB-C to USB-C cable, we copied 100GB of large files, consisting of nothing smaller than 3GB to the drive. The 2TB hard drive-based Tuff delivers about 128MB per second of write or read speed under Sierra or High Sierra.

Mixed media, consisting of 100GB with half being no smaller than 3GB, and the other half AAC files between 3MB and 10MB copied at about 81MB per second -- which is expected, given the nature of hard drive seeking and small file copies.

Speeds were identical for both tests when performed with the USB-A to USB-C cable.

Neither test delivered close to USB-C speed -- but we weren't expecting them to. There is a 1TB SSD version of the drive which CalDigit says gets closer, but AppleInsider doesn't have one to test.

But, it takes a beating

The Tuff is rated to the IP57 spec. The spec calls for dust resistance, as well as survival in a column of water three feet tall, for up to 30 minutes.

We did it one better after the speed tests -- we submerged it in a four-foot trashcan filled with dirty, gritty water after we made sure the rubber port grommet was firmly in place. The drive survived after (accidental) overnight submergence in nearly freezing weather.



CalDigit also notes MIL-STD-810G certification. While the governmental document spelling out the spec is excruciating in length, it mandates that an enclosed electronic device be able to survive a four-foot drop onto a hard surface.

We dropped it from the top of a six-foot ladder to grass and repeated the speed tests with no issue. We then did the drop to a driveway, and minus the cushioning enclosure popping off after a series of bounces, the drive still worked fine.

Even after the submersion, and the drops, there was no obvious damage to the metal enclosure. But, the rubber bumper is basically thrashed.




We aren't going to repeat the drop tests without it, as there is no way that the drive would survive. But, mission accomplished -- the bumper sacrificed itself for the drive -- and if we chose, we could get a new bumper for $15 straight from CalDigit.

There is no obvious way into the case to replace the drive.

But... why?

Not everybody needs ruggedized storage. It comes at a sometimes hefty price premium, and the CalDigit Tuff is no exception. If you've made it this far through the review, you probably have at least a passing interest in rugged storage, and you're curious about pricing.

Our tested configuration with a 2TB 2.5-inch hard drive retails for $179. If you want SSD speeds, then that will set you back $399. A bare 2.5-inch hard drive sells for about $85, and a 1TB SSD can be had for less than $289. Non-rugged USB-C enclosures are generally available for $10.

Simply, if you don't need a rugged drive, shop elsewhere -- you'll pay less for more storage. But, if you need a drive that will take the drop in the mud puddle, the CalDigit Tuff line offers the best balance of price and capacity that we've seen yet. For that purpose, AppleInsider gives it:

4.5 out of 5

image

Where to buy

The 2TB CalDigit Tuff USB-C External Hard Drive is available now at B&H for $179.99 with free expedited shipping and no tax outside NY and NJ. Amazon also carries the 2TB drive for the same price, or users can opt for the 1TB SSD version for $399.99.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    I have one. Awesome drive for what it is. 
    djkfisher
  • Reply 2 of 13
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 594member
    I just swapped out a 2TB HD in a Lacie Rugged (TB1/USB3) with a 2TB Samsung EVO SSD, the old HD was a Samsung btw, $600+$200 (had the Lacie for a couple years). But I took the old 2TB and put that in a $15 Sabrent enclosure and bought a $15 Amazon USB-C cable for the Lacie, so I get TB1 and USB-C (3.0/5.0Gbps). The 2TB SSD Lacie, in Blackmagic, gets 325MB/s Read and 325/MB/s Write. This may sound crazy but I use this (Lacie) as a Backup drive for 5 Machines! The reason is because if I need to boot from the Lacie it's FAST, boots like an internal. Then I can restore and just having the HD version was annoying, I use that for COLD storage, aka once a month. One other perk is many of you may have noticed but Carbon Copy Clones used to take 10 minutes in the old days (3.5 era). Now with this APFS formatted Lacie 2TB SSD version I put together, my CCCs take 10 minutes again instead of 30!!! That's happiness, because now when I do a 5 Mac quick run and backup them on Sunday's that takes under an hour! ok enough happiness... 😝
  • Reply 3 of 13
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    Great. The SSD option. Once you try SSD, you do not want mechanical rotational disks, even for free. Check out the gold standards now for external SSD: Samsung Portable SSD T5 (cheaper but smaller) and Sonnet Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive (more expensive but faster)
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 4 of 13
    appex said:
    Great. The SSD option. Once you try SSD, you do not want mechanical rotational disks, even for free. Check out the gold standards now for external SSD: Samsung Portable SSD T5 (cheaper but smaller) and Sonnet Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive (more expensive but faster)
    Once you go to SSD, the need for so much ruggedisation goes away. No delicate mechanical parts to protect.
  • Reply 5 of 13
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,327administrator
    appex said:
    Great. The SSD option. Once you try SSD, you do not want mechanical rotational disks, even for free. Check out the gold standards now for external SSD: Samsung Portable SSD T5 (cheaper but smaller) and Sonnet Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive (more expensive but faster)
    Again, neither of those are the "gold standard.'
    chia
  • Reply 6 of 13
    I bought a 3 terabyte passport SSD drive at Best Buy for $105 two days ago. Works great. 
  • Reply 7 of 13
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,327administrator
    aponfar said:
    I bought a 3 terabyte passport SSD drive at Best Buy for $105 two days ago. Works great. 
    I don't think you got a 3TB SSD for $105. The going rate on that would be well over $1000.
    djkfisher
  • Reply 8 of 13
    aponfar said:
    I bought a 3 terabyte passport SSD drive at Best Buy for $105 two days ago. Works great. 
    I don't think you got a 3TB SSD for $105. The going rate on that would be well over $1000.
    Forgive him, the "Ponfar" can cloud reasoning. :wink: 
    djkfisherchia
  • Reply 9 of 13
    bshankbshank Posts: 140member
    appex said:
    Great. The SSD option. Once you try SSD, you do not want mechanical rotational disks, even for free. Check out the gold standards now for external SSD: Samsung Portable SSD T5 (cheaper but smaller) and Sonnet Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive (more expensive but faster)
    Again, neither of those are the "gold standard.'
    Which ones are the Gold Standard? Sonnet Fusion is the fastest I’ve seen available
  • Reply 10 of 13
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    appex said:
    Great. The SSD option. Once you try SSD, you do not want mechanical rotational disks, even for free. Check out the gold standards now for external SSD: Samsung Portable SSD T5 (cheaper but smaller) and Sonnet Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive (more expensive but faster)
    Again, neither of those are the "gold standard.'
    Why not? Have you tried them? They are AWESOME. I think that I have tested all market offerings so far, and those two are the best, hands down. The former is so amazing that it remains cold even after booting Mac and working for it all day long. I have never ever seen something like it, which seems to defy physics law of thermodynamics. Really remarkable, showing the amazing technology behind Samsung V-NAND. There is no real competition for it. The latter is better than other offerings simply it uses a much better controller.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,327administrator
    appex said:
    appex said:
    Great. The SSD option. Once you try SSD, you do not want mechanical rotational disks, even for free. Check out the gold standards now for external SSD: Samsung Portable SSD T5 (cheaper but smaller) and Sonnet Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive (more expensive but faster)
    Again, neither of those are the "gold standard.'
    Why not? Have you tried them? They are AWESOME. I think that I have tested all market offerings so far, and those two are the best, hands down. The former is so amazing that it remains cold even after booting Mac and working for it all day long. I have never ever seen something like it, which seems to defy physics law of thermodynamics. Really remarkable, showing the amazing technology behind Samsung V-NAND. There is no real competition for it. The latter is better than other offerings simply it uses a much better controller.
    Simply put, there is no "gold standard." There are the best drives for use cases -- but there is no universal pick.

    I like the Sonnet Fusion because of the raw speed of the drive. Unless something's changed that I'm not aware of, the pricing is a little rough on it, though. 

    The Samsung drive is decent, but the controller isn't fantastic. Couple that with after a few rounds of issues with NAND just dropping off of previous models necessitating a reformat, I'm not convinced Samsung is that interested in keeping drive firmware up to date in the long run. I will say that the pricing is good, though.

    Now, as far as "do not want mechanical drives," that's not right either. I'd rather have a pair of 5TB platter drives for data like media and whatnot, than a 1TB SSD. There's also no real reason why to put data that is mostly accessed across a wired or wireless home or business network on a SSD.

    So, for now, until SSD prices drop dramatically, there is a need for both.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    appex said:
    The Samsung drive is decent, but the controller isn't fantastic. Couple that with after a few rounds of issues with NAND just dropping off of previous models necessitating a reformat, I'm not convinced Samsung is that interested in keeping drive firmware up to date in the long run. I will say that the pricing is good, though.

    So, for now, until SSD prices drop dramatically, there is a need for both.
    I basically agree with you, but the issues were for models previous to Samsung Portable SSD T5 (T1 & T3). T5 works like a charm. On the other hand, I did not consider price when choosing SSD over HDD. Obviously, if they had the same price, the latter would be history, overnight.
  • Reply 13 of 13
    dr. xdr. x Posts: 163member
    Thanks for the review, I was in the market for an external SSD for video editing and ended up purchasing the 1TB SSD version of this drive. I look forward to trying this out when I receive it tomorrow.
Sign In or Register to comment.