On January 20, Samsung announced what appears to be an exceptional new storage product, a one ounce USB 3 external Flash drive, essentially a portable Flash SSD, called the T1. I did some initial testing and the results suggest Mac owners should defer a decision on this new product until more details are sorted out.
When I received the Samsung Electronics Portable SSD T1 last week for review, I was enthusiastic about reviewing it. After all, a one ounce (actually just 26 grams), fast, external SSD with a 500 GB capacity looked to be a remarkable and useful product.
However, the executive summary is that in initial testing of this product, I found serious user interface and technical problems. I'll be engaging Samsung technical people to work out the details, but in the meantime, I cannot recommend this product in its current state. And so this is article is only a first-experience notice and is not a full (nor even a quick look) review. So you can stop here if you wish.
If you want to read the rest of the story of what happened, however, read on.
Out of Box Experience
The packaging and opening the box as very Apple-like. It very similar to, say, an iPhone or Apple TV with an outer paper shell and an inner, box with successive layers of product: the SSD, the manual, and the USB 3 cable at the bottom.
The 4.6 inch (12 cm) wide box is very Apple-like.
However, as most users would do, I passed on the incredibly fine print in the manual and just went ahead and connected the 500 GB T1 to my Mac Pro. It mounted as Fat32, 130 GB. At first that was alarming, but I quickly found out why.
Immediate Technical Issues
As soon as I realized that there was much more work to be done with configuration and drivers, I tried to eject the T1. It did not eject gracefully. Instead, I got a dialog box inviting me to force eject—with the usual notice that I could lose data on the drive.
Size comparison: next to iPhone 6 (in a case).
I went ahead anyway with a force eject. It was time to read the manual.
Here's a photo of the manual and the size of the print. I ended up having to use a magnifying glass with its LED lights to read this manual.
Size comparison: manual print compared to iPhone
What I discovered that was that I would have to run the configuration app on the small, initial partition in order to create my own partition(s) and access the full capacity of the drive. However, even before that happens, the user is required to install the OS X SAT SMART Driver. It's a kernel extension. From the installer:
This is a kernel driver for Mac OS X external USB or FireWire drives. It extends the standard driver behaviour by providing access to drive SMART data. The interface to SMART data is same as with ATA family driver, so most existing applications should work....
At this point, I was ready to head out for an appointment, and I knew that installing a kernel extension is unwise when one is in a hurry. I decided to quit the installer and eject the T1.
Mount. Eject immediately. Result.
Once again, it failed to eject gracefully, stating that it was in use. (Recall, I quit the installer app.) I used CMD + TAB to see if any user-level apps remained running. There were none. So then I used Activity Monitor to look at processes. What I found was a Samsung Daemon for which I never gave permission to install. I decided to try killing that, and try an another eject. At that point point, the Mac Pro locked up and there was nothing I could do to recover. Nothing.
I powered down, then rebooted.
At this point, I decided to step back, plan to contact the Samsung technical people and get a consult. Once, thing I noticed, however, after the reboot, was that the Samsung _Portable_SSD_daemon was still there. Now the installer for the kernel extension had geeky UNIX instructions for how to uninstall. That's an absolute no-no in the Apple Macintosh world.
* Remove driver and plugin sudo rm -r /System/Library/Extensions/SATSMARTDriver.kext sudo rm -r /System/Library/Extensions/SATSMARTLib.plugin * Reboot
I used the commands anyway to see if that would also uninstall the Samsung SSD daemon. After a reboot, they had not.
- The out of box experience with a USB 3 connection is alarming because there is only a small setup partition. So it's not immediately usable at full capacity.
- An immediate attempt, without doing anything at all, to eject gracefully results in a failure and a need for force eject.
- The T1 must be configured first before it's really usable.
- But before that, a kernel extension must be installed or the device will not work. The admonition that, afterwards, "most existing applications should work...." is not comforting.
- An uninstall requires UNIX commands in the terminal, and they don't appear to completely uninstall all the required software, software that I never consented to. (I quit the installation app without agreeing to anything.)
At this point, having gone through a very un-Apple-like and troubling user experience, I have suspended the review. The plan is to contact Samsung and discuss these problems. Stay tuned.