With the growing megapixel count, frame rate and processing power of cameras as well as the ability to shoot 4K video, the biggest problem with day to day shooting lately has not been the processing of the data, but rather where to put all of the data… and how quickly said data gets to and from the storage.
I heard a little bird chirp on this very topic digital data storage and thought Id investigate its claims.
Angelbird is a company that makes external storage drives of various sizes, capacities and functions. The one that peaked my interest was the SSD 2GO. Now I have to throw out a disclaimer right here – I’m no guru, fundi or hard drive whisperer. I’m a photographer. I don’t just edit at home but also on the move, so for me, taking a look at this drive is form the angle of the kind of work I do, and how I manage my data to see how this SSD2GO drive performs.
Off the bat, the drive impresses because it is no bigger than most compact camera’s batteries. The drive I tested is a 512GB drive and currently also available in a 256GB. If you are a nerdy-geeky type (my hand is raised) then carrying something of this size with such a capacity feels fantastic. The drives weigh only 60g and are available in 256GB, 512GB and 1TB!
The dimensions are 70.0 x 45.5 x 9.5 mm (2.76 × 1.79 × 0.37 in). That means roughly 27 of these badboys take up roughly the same space as a traditional 3,5” enclosure. See the photos to compare the size to typical 3,5” and 2,5” enclosures.
With that many drives in the same space, beside topping the maximum single drive capacity by a big margin, the data is spread over more drives, making it more secure. The problem is the same with any small thing like thumb drives. They get lost. So make sure you have a special place in your camera bag for them. I’ll gladly carry 4-6 of them with me and they will share the space with my memory cards and batteries.
The SSD2GO comes in three colour options; silver, blue or orange. Before you think this is just a trivial nice to have surface treatment, think again. You can assign meaning to those colours, like silver for main drive, and orange for duplicate backup, or even so that you know which drives contain a time machine backup, and which is for movies, or stills, etc.
Unfortunately I don’t own any USB-C devices, so I was not able to test the maximum speed of the drive. The drive itself has a USB-C connection capable of 10Gb/s, or 560MB/s. That is the same speed as Thunderbolt, and twice the speed of USB3. Of all the drives and devices I’ve connected to my MacbookPro and iMac’s respective USB3.0 ports, it is the fastest drive I’ve had on here so far, including some other USB3.0 drives, so they must be doing something right in that little box!
Everyday use is where it gets real. We can throw benchmark tests around and quote numbers all day long, but being able to run a large Lightroom catalogue and its files, and read / render 4K video from there is a tall order for most drives, but this little magic box takes this kind of heavy lifting and makes it trivial even over USB3.0. Naturally it would be even more efficient over USB-C.
We all know it’s good business practice to backup your photos before you leave from a job, especially when that shoot is a wedding. On regular commercial shoots, working tethered or at least downloading images onto you laptop for your client to see, is something that happens, but is that data secure? I’m of the opinion that it is only secure once there are three copies of the data and that the three copies are not in the same place. I know – this sounds boring and you’re considering skimming over the rest already, but wait. This is important, because this is where this little drive really delivers one of its best party pieces. SPEED. Slow data transfer is mostly what has put me off on-site backups, but this drive is so fast it becomes cool to backup.
If you are like me and prefer larger spin-up drives over smaller faster drives for the sake of capacity, or that you have kept slightly older drives as your portable external backup drive, then those drive casings require AC power. This is another major hurdle in the way of my personal data security and to be honest, convenience.
I’ve tried this drive at a wedding to backup the photos before I left the venue. This SSD 2GO performs its duties like lightning. I left the venue with a skip in my step knowing my files are secure.
The speed of the device is only as good as the speed of the connection. Because USB-C (otherwise known as USB3.1 Gen2) is not yet a universal interface, Angelbird have supplied two cables with the drive; USB-C to USB3.0, and USB- C to USB-C.
Normally, only the small metal protrusion on a male mini-USB cable connection would be inserted into external enclosures, making it a nightmare for data security and reliable power delivery if the connection ever got compromised by the drive falling and heaven forbid, bends the connection in the process. Angel bird now sports a solution in the form “Solid connect”, which means the larger rubberised tab also inserts into the drive’s casing, making for a far easier and safer connection.
What I appreciate about USB-C, is that the cable can be any way around, making the looking-strangely-at-both-the-USB-cable-and-port routine something of the past.
USB-C is a connection also found on Hasselblad cameras for tethered shooting. I would think a logical way to use this drive is to be able to power from the camera and shoot directly onto it via an all on the drive that tricks the camera into thinking it is shooting tethered, or something to that effect.
With cameras like the Fujifilm X-T2 that shoots beautiful 4K video in F-log format (like a raw format for video), external recording onto a small drive like this would be one fantastic solution for an industry heading into a space where smaller and faster has taken a big leap forward.
Another great feature would be if cameras would be able to push data from the memory cards to the drive as a form of backup.
Trim support manages the data on solid state drives and is a feature not often mentioned, but makes a huge difference in performance as well as long term lifespan of the drive.
The SSD 2GO is compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux and Android. With i-devices being capable of RAW photo and video editing, the future is here and fits in your pocket.
This drive goes above and beyond in terms of size and speed, but that’s not enough for Angelbird. They have gone many extra miles to add even more features that professionals and amateurs alike rate very highly. These ninja skills include being shock, dust, water, temperature, X-ray and magnetic proof. Yes you read it. X-ray proof! There are some insane promo videos online where the drive is not exactly treated like its fragile.
There is also ESD and electrical overload protection as well as Stable Stream data transfer protocol. All to make sure that you don’t have to worry about anything except making great images and footage.
All in all, the Angelbird SSD 2GO is the perfect companion for shooting on location or at home, and a great solution for a photographer or film maker on the move.
Review by Leon Oosthuizen