Review: The new CalDigit Tuff Nano is a tiny beast of an SSD

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2021
Accessory maker CalDigit is out with their latest -- and smallest -- storage option yet. The Tuff Nano is a rugged, portable SSD that fits a variety of applications.

CalDigit Tuff Nano
CalDigit Tuff Nano

Tuff by design

The diminutive Tuff Nano a good balance of size and speed. Thanks to the rising popularity and lower costs of NVMe SSDs, we are seeing more and more of these compact drives -- but CalDigit steps it up a notch.

CalDigit Tuff Nano is drop resistant
CalDigit Tuff Nano is drop resistant


Anodized aluminum encases the SSD with a colorful rubber bumper surrounding that. "Tuff-nano" is printed onto the top of the enclosure. The bumpers come in various colors; we've chosen royal blue.

The bumper has four small "feet" on the underside and the CalDigit logo recessed into the end. A cover on the bumper is used to seal up the USB-C port to stop any ingress from water or debris.

CalDigit Tuff Nano works with iPad Pro
CalDigit Tuff Nano works with iPad Pro


Between the bumper and the aluminum enclosure, very little will hurt the Tuff Nano. CalDigit says the device has IP67 resistance which means it is dust-tight and can even be submerged for up to 30 minutes at one meter. It's drop-tested as well, able to withstand tumbles from up to three meters.

We mentioned the cover on the USB-C port, but it too is protected. It has an IPX8 waterproof rating on its own.

Connectivity and performance

CalDigit's Tuff Nano is -- as mentioned -- USB-C. It has a waterproof USB 3.2 Gen 2 port which combined with the NVMe SSD is capable of speeds up to 1055MB/s.

In the box, CalDigit included not one, but two USB-C cables. One is a pure USB-C to USB-C cable and the other is a USB-C to USB-A cable for legacy devices.

CalDigit Tuff Nano
CalDigit Tuff Nano


Normally, these cables can be annoying to tote around, but CalDigit included a plastic carrying case that adds additional protection and storage for the cables. These archival cases have been on previous CalDigit drives and it is great for labeling and storing mass amounts of data and multiple drives. The color helps with that too.

Blackmagic Disk Speed Test results for the CalDigit Tuff Nano
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test results for the CalDigit Tuff Nano


We spun up the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test and ran a few tests and were averaging around 735MB/s in write speeds and almost 890MB/s in read speeds. These are impressive numbers for USB 3.2 type C drives, and will allow quick transfers.

CalDigit Tuff Nano in iPad Pro Files app
CalDigit Tuff Nano in the iPad Pro's Files app


With the release of iPadOS, a portable drive such as this is now well-suited for Apple's iPad Pro line. It can be connected directly over USB-C and used within the Files app or third-party apps that support external storage.

Many of Apple's apps were updated to work with external storage and so have prominent third-party ones. LumaFusion was updated to bring desktop-class video editing with support for external drives to iPad Pro. We've used this often since the update, previously with our Samsung T5, but the Tuff Nano is now our clear replacement.

Should you buy it

The Caldigit Tuff Nano is an excellent choice if you need fast, portable storage for your Mac, PC, or iPad Pro and want an exceptionally rugged design. Tuff Nano has a great price point, some great colors, a durable build, and blazing fast speeds that work immediately with our Mac and iPad Pro. All of these combined are tough to find in one package.

CalDigit Tuff Nano is great for photographers
CalDigit Tuff Nano is great for photographers


It can be used as a portable boot drive, mass storage for photographers on the run, as a video editing station for iPad Pro users, or just a backup drive you can bring with you.

It is almost twice as fast as the popular Samsung T5, and is more durable. What's not to like?

Pros
  • Fast performance

  • USB-C 3.2

  • Tiny design

  • Great colors

  • Two cables included

  • Bonus shell case

  • Rugged design
Cons
Not Thunderbolt
Limited capacities available

Rating: 5 out of 5

Where to buy

You can pick up the CalDigit Tuff Nano in Royal Blue, Olive Green, Tomato Red, and Charcoal Black for $149.95 on Amazon for the 512GB capacity. A 1TB model is coming soon.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    The USB-IF can go to hell with this USB 3.1 rebranded as USB 3.2 bullshit. As someone who actually follows this stuff I still get confused. I feel sorry for consumers in general who have no chance in hell of understanding any of it. I had to go back and double check that 3.2 Gen 2 is the exact same thing as 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps). 

    CalDigit's page for this product is even more confusing to the casual observer as they say "Thunderbolt 3 compatible" but of course it doesn't use TB3, it just means it works with your device with those ports. Presumably the bottleneck here is the USB 3.2 gen 2 interface as a TB3 interface with NVMe storage would potentially be faster than what this tops out at, yeah?
    rezwitswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 9
    The USB-IF can go to hell with this USB 3.1 rebranded as USB 3.2 bullshit. As someone who actually follows this stuff I still get confused. I feel sorry for consumers in general who have no chance in hell of understanding any of it. I had to go back and double check that 3.2 Gen 2 is the exact same thing as 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps). 

    CalDigit's page for this product is even more confusing to the casual observer as they say "Thunderbolt 3 compatible" but of course it doesn't use TB3, it just means it works with your device with those ports. Presumably the bottleneck here is the USB 3.2 gen 2 interface as a TB3 interface with NVMe storage would potentially be faster than what this tops out at, yeah?
    Looks like it tops out at about 1.7Gbps, so clearly USB 3.1 Gen2 is not the bottleneck. 
    cy_starkman
  • Reply 3 of 9
    Quite expensive. You can easily get a 1TB for a similar price or usually cheaper if you don't need a ridiculously rugged case for a device with no moving parts. Even if you order the components from certain Chinese sites you still have great quality, same speed, dust/waterproof, and it will be the size of the NVMe drive. Just get the PCI-e NVMe stick and a small case, screw it in and done. I don't understand the ridiculous markup on most of the NVMe drives nowadays.
  • Reply 4 of 9
    michelb76 said:
    Quite expensive. You can easily get a 1TB for a similar price or usually cheaper if you don't need a ridiculously rugged case for a device with no moving parts. Even if you order the components from certain Chinese sites you still have great quality, same speed, dust/waterproof, and it will be the size of the NVMe drive. Just get the PCI-e NVMe stick and a small case, screw it in and done. I don't understand the ridiculous markup on most of the NVMe drives nowadays.
    Care to share which drives are cheaper that have at least the same performance? Also, most people don't want to source components and put a drive together, regardless of how simple it is.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 9
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,067member
    motocoder said:
    The USB-IF can go to hell with this USB 3.1 rebranded as USB 3.2 bullshit. As someone who actually follows this stuff I still get confused. I feel sorry for consumers in general who have no chance in hell of understanding any of it. I had to go back and double check that 3.2 Gen 2 is the exact same thing as 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps). 

    CalDigit's page for this product is even more confusing to the casual observer as they say "Thunderbolt 3 compatible" but of course it doesn't use TB3, it just means it works with your device with those ports. Presumably the bottleneck here is the USB 3.2 gen 2 interface as a TB3 interface with NVMe storage would potentially be faster than what this tops out at, yeah?
    Looks like it tops out at about 1.7Gbps, so clearly USB 3.1 Gen2 is not the bottleneck. 
    Where did you get 1.7Gbps from? The review says "speeds up to 1055MB/s" which is 8.4Gbps, so I assumed with a bit of overhead that'd be hitting up against the 10Gbps interface. The Blackmagic tests were lower, but not as low as 1.7Gbps (212.5 MB/s).

    Regardless, a PCIe NVMe M2 drive is generally much, much faster than any of this at up to 3500MB/s or 28Gbps at the high end. Even a middle of the road drive at 1500 MB/s is 12Gbps which would saturate a 10Gbps USB interface. I don't know which exact module this is, the CalDigit site just says "Toshiba PCIe NVMe PCIe SSD".
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 9
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,067member
    michelb76 said:
    Quite expensive. You can easily get a 1TB for a similar price or usually cheaper if you don't need a ridiculously rugged case for a device with no moving parts. Even if you order the components from certain Chinese sites you still have great quality, same speed, dust/waterproof, and it will be the size of the NVMe drive. Just get the PCI-e NVMe stick and a small case, screw it in and done. I don't understand the ridiculous markup on most of the NVMe drives nowadays.
    Care to share which drives are cheaper that have at least the same performance? Also, most people don't want to source components and put a drive together, regardless of how simple it is.
    I'll bite.

    Here's your drive at $58:
    https://www.amazon.com/addlink-512GB-Gen3x4-1500MB-Internal/dp/B07ZJFJ8LT/

    Here's your enclosure at $21 (there are cheaper ones, but this one had better reviews):
    https://www.amazon.com/Aluminum-Enclosure-Adapter-M-Key-External/dp/B07W3TV2MK/

    Total cost: $79, just over half of what this CalDigit drive sells for.

    For those who don't want to build their own (which takes about 30 seconds probably), here's one for $90:
    https://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-512GB-External-Aluminum-SB-ROCKET-512-EC-NVME/dp/B07KJSX8VG/

    BUT, if I were spending money on a NVMe, I'd spend a little more and get a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure (like this for example at $125) so I could actually use the speed of the NVMe drive which should be more like twice as fast as these USB enclosures.
    https://www.amazon.com/Thunderbolt-Enclosure-Thunderbolt3-NVME-Drive/dp/B07N67P39W/
    steveauwatto_cobrabluechair40
  • Reply 7 of 9
    michelb76 said:
    Quite expensive. You can easily get a 1TB for a similar price or usually cheaper if you don't need a ridiculously rugged case for a device with no moving parts. Even if you order the components from certain Chinese sites you still have great quality, same speed, dust/waterproof, and it will be the size of the NVMe drive. Just get the PCI-e NVMe stick and a small case, screw it in and done. I don't understand the ridiculous markup on most of the NVMe drives nowadays.
    Care to share which drives are cheaper that have at least the same performance? Also, most people don't want to source components and put a drive together, regardless of how simple it is.
    I'll bite.

    Here's your drive at $58:
    https://www.amazon.com/addlink-512GB-Gen3x4-1500MB-Internal/dp/B07ZJFJ8LT/

    Here's your enclosure at $21 (there are cheaper ones, but this one had better reviews):
    https://www.amazon.com/Aluminum-Enclosure-Adapter-M-Key-External/dp/B07W3TV2MK/

    Total cost: $79, just over half of what this CalDigit drive sells for.

    For those who don't want to build their own (which takes about 30 seconds probably), here's one for $90:
    https://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-512GB-External-Aluminum-SB-ROCKET-512-EC-NVME/dp/B07KJSX8VG/

    BUT, if I were spending money on a NVMe, I'd spend a little more and get a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure (like this for example at $125) so I could actually use the speed of the NVMe drive which should be more like twice as fast as these USB enclosures.
    https://www.amazon.com/Thunderbolt-Enclosure-Thunderbolt3-NVME-Drive/dp/B07N67P39W/
    The Sabrent is the best option out of all of those for people who don't need a rugged enclosure because even if it took 15 seconds to build a drive setup, the majority just want something that's ready to go. The ones buying the Tuff Nano most likely don't care much about price since they will be sold to photographers, videographers or anybody out in the field that need that rugged enclosure.
  • Reply 8 of 9
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,428administrator
    michelb76 said:
    Quite expensive. You can easily get a 1TB for a similar price or usually cheaper if you don't need a ridiculously rugged case for a device with no moving parts. Even if you order the components from certain Chinese sites you still have great quality, same speed, dust/waterproof, and it will be the size of the NVMe drive. Just get the PCI-e NVMe stick and a small case, screw it in and done. I don't understand the ridiculous markup on most of the NVMe drives nowadays.
    Care to share which drives are cheaper that have at least the same performance? Also, most people don't want to source components and put a drive together, regardless of how simple it is.
    I'll bite.

    Here's your drive at $58:
    https://www.amazon.com/addlink-512GB-Gen3x4-1500MB-Internal/dp/B07ZJFJ8LT/

    Here's your enclosure at $21 (there are cheaper ones, but this one had better reviews):
    https://www.amazon.com/Aluminum-Enclosure-Adapter-M-Key-External/dp/B07W3TV2MK/

    Total cost: $79, just over half of what this CalDigit drive sells for.

    For those who don't want to build their own (which takes about 30 seconds probably), here's one for $90:
    https://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-512GB-External-Aluminum-SB-ROCKET-512-EC-NVME/dp/B07KJSX8VG/

    BUT, if I were spending money on a NVMe, I'd spend a little more and get a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure (like this for example at $125) so I could actually use the speed of the NVMe drive which should be more like twice as fast as these USB enclosures.
    https://www.amazon.com/Thunderbolt-Enclosure-Thunderbolt3-NVME-Drive/dp/B07N67P39W/
    That enclosure is terrible. It has big time heat problems.
  • Reply 9 of 9
    michelb76 said:
    Quite expensive. You can easily get a 1TB for a similar price or usually cheaper if you don't need a ridiculously rugged case for a device with no moving parts. Even if you order the components from certain Chinese sites you still have great quality, same speed, dust/waterproof, and it will be the size of the NVMe drive. Just get the PCI-e NVMe stick and a small case, screw it in and done. I don't understand the ridiculous markup on most of the NVMe drives nowadays.
    Care to share which drives are cheaper that have at least the same performance? Also, most people don't want to source components and put a drive together, regardless of how simple it is.
    I'll bite.

    Here's your drive at $58:
    https://www.amazon.com/addlink-512GB-Gen3x4-1500MB-Internal/dp/B07ZJFJ8LT/

    Here's your enclosure at $21 (there are cheaper ones, but this one had better reviews):
    https://www.amazon.com/Aluminum-Enclosure-Adapter-M-Key-External/dp/B07W3TV2MK/

    Total cost: $79, just over half of what this CalDigit drive sells for.

    For those who don't want to build their own (which takes about 30 seconds probably), here's one for $90:
    https://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-512GB-External-Aluminum-SB-ROCKET-512-EC-NVME/dp/B07KJSX8VG/

    BUT, if I were spending money on a NVMe, I'd spend a little more and get a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure (like this for example at $125) so I could actually use the speed of the NVMe drive which should be more like twice as fast as these USB enclosures.
    https://www.amazon.com/Thunderbolt-Enclosure-Thunderbolt3-NVME-Drive/dp/B07N67P39W/
    The Sabrent is the best option out of all of those for people who don't need a rugged enclosure because even if it took 15 seconds to build a drive setup, the majority just want something that's ready to go. The ones buying the Tuff Nano most likely don't care much about price since they will be sold to photographers, videographers or anybody out in the field that need that rugged enclosure.
    They asked for an example, so I offered one. 

    michelb76 said:
    Quite expensive. You can easily get a 1TB for a similar price or usually cheaper if you don't need a ridiculously rugged case for a device with no moving parts. Even if you order the components from certain Chinese sites you still have great quality, same speed, dust/waterproof, and it will be the size of the NVMe drive. Just get the PCI-e NVMe stick and a small case, screw it in and done. I don't understand the ridiculous markup on most of the NVMe drives nowadays.
    Care to share which drives are cheaper that have at least the same performance? Also, most people don't want to source components and put a drive together, regardless of how simple it is.
    I'll bite.

    Here's your drive at $58:
    https://www.amazon.com/addlink-512GB-Gen3x4-1500MB-Internal/dp/B07ZJFJ8LT/

    Here's your enclosure at $21 (there are cheaper ones, but this one had better reviews):
    https://www.amazon.com/Aluminum-Enclosure-Adapter-M-Key-External/dp/B07W3TV2MK/

    Total cost: $79, just over half of what this CalDigit drive sells for.

    For those who don't want to build their own (which takes about 30 seconds probably), here's one for $90:
    https://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-512GB-External-Aluminum-SB-ROCKET-512-EC-NVME/dp/B07KJSX8VG/

    BUT, if I were spending money on a NVMe, I'd spend a little more and get a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure (like this for example at $125) so I could actually use the speed of the NVMe drive which should be more like twice as fast as these USB enclosures.
    https://www.amazon.com/Thunderbolt-Enclosure-Thunderbolt3-NVME-Drive/dp/B07N67P39W/
    That enclosure is terrible. It has big time heat problems.
    The TB3 one or the USB one? I didn't spend more than a couple minutes digging, was just looking for an example. Regardless, do you not agree that a TB3 enclosure is a better performer than a 10Gbps USB one that seems to be the bottleneck in this case?
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