ProsOffers performance unmatched by thumb drives when paired with a good SATA M.2 drive; high-quality materials
ConsSomewhat large; requires USB 3.1 for max speed; not cost-effective when used with SSDs- below 500GB
For the bulk of our benchmarks, we used AS SSD, an industry-standard benchmarking utility. It provides both sequential and random transfer rates, as shown below.
The first thing to note is that compared to our two benchmark SSDs, the Crucial MX500 1TB 2.5" and Samsung 850 Evo 500GB M.2, which are running off of dedicated SATA ports inside a PC, the MS09/850 Evo combo drive doesn't quite keep pace. That's especially true when using an "old" USB 3.0 port, which is what you'll find on just about every motherboard and laptop on the market today. Sequential read speeds in particular were capped, coming in at just 360GB/s. Now, here's where things get a bit interesting: when using what's labeled as a USB 3.1 Gen 1 port on the rear of our motherboard, speeds were much higher, despite the fact that USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 are actually the same standard, just renamed by the obnoxious folks in charge of the USB standard. So why is the USB 3.1 Gen 1 port reading at 437MB/s, nearly 80MB/s faster than the USB 3.0 front panel port? We chalk that up to signaling losses resulting from using a USB port on the front of our PC. USB transfer speeds are affected by the length of cable used, and obviously a front panel port in a large desktop PC requires a lot of cable to reach the motherboard, while a rear panel port requires none at all.
Luckily, when using a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, the MS09/850 Evo combo is incredibly fast in this test, oddly beating the 850 Evo when used in a PC's dedicated M.2 slot, at least when it comes to sequential transfer speeds. No bottleneck there, it appears! Interestingly, random transfer speeds, which are less important for a thumb drive primarily used to move data back and forth, are quite a bit lower, especially the random write speed, which was capped at 39MB/s in all of our test scenarios using the MS09. Based on this finding, we certainly wouldn't recommend this solution to host an operating system, but that's an unlikely usage scenario for an external drive. All told, the results are still encouraging; the USB 3.0/3.1 interface is indeed robust enough to make good use of a fast SATA drive, even if it can't tap into the full potential of such drives.
In addition to the AS SSD benchmarks, we also timed some real-world file transfers with the MS09/850 Evo, facing off against the fastest flash drive we had on hand, the SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB USB 3.0, as well as Samsung's T5 USB 3.1 Type-C drive. The SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive was able to write that same sequential data in 1 minute, 12 seconds, translating to a write speed of 208MB/s. With the MS09/850 Evo plugged into a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port, we were able to transfer a 15GB directory containing photos and videos in 41 seconds, which translates to a write speed of about 366MB/s, which is fast by any measure when it comes to external storage.
Take note, however, that it couldn't top the T5, and this was due to a noticeable slowdown on each and every repeated run of this test. Depending on how full the drive is, the transfer slowed down either near the middle or end of the transfer. We've included a screenshot of the transfer of 15GB of data onto a nearly-full drive, which shows a dramatic drop-off in speed about halfway through. Our test results in the table above were for empty drives, which is a best-case scenario, and even then, the MS09/850 Evo combo suffered a slightly slowdown near the end of the transfer, while the Extreme Pro and T5 wrote at consistent rates during the duration of the test. We're guessing this may have to do with the 850 Evo's SLC cache filling, rather than anything malfunctioning with the MS09 or the motherboard's USB port, but the T5 likely also uses SLC caching, but it must be more effective, as it's a newer design than the 850 Evo.
In terms of reads, the MS09/850 Evo combo was more consistent, as we were able to pull that 15GB of sequential data off the drive in just 31.5 seconds, translating to a consistent 476MB/s. That's "burning rubber" in the external drive world, and if you need quick access to big files on a regular basis, you're going to love using this combo versus a typical high-end thumb drive. For comparison, it was just slightly faster than our Samsung T5, and it exactly doubled the speed of our SanDisk Extreme, which read this data in 1 minute, 3 seconds, for a sequential read speed of 238MB/s. But the Extreme Pro isn't the newest model on the market. SanDisk's Extreme Pro USB 3.1 256GB drive promises to deliver around 400MB/s of sequential read/write speed for just $80, which calls into question the value of building your own such drive, especially given that the Extreme Pro is about half the size of the MS09.
So let's do the math. First, as much as we like Samsung's class-leading drives, we don't think they're a good value when presented with the slight bottleneck that the USB 3.1 interface imposes. Assuming you need just 250GB of storage, you could pick up the Western Digital Blue 3D 250GB M.2 drive, which is powered by SanDisk flash, for $50. Add in $37 or so for the MS09, and you're now at $87 for a drive that's twice as big and no faster than the $80 Extreme Pro. Bad deal.
It's only when you get into 500GB capacities and up that building your own external drive starts to make sense. Pick up a Blue 3D 500GB M.2 drive for $68, plus the $37 MS09, and you'd have a fast, high-capacity flash drive for $105. You won't find flash drives of that capacity, and external SSDs in that capacity, which are typically a bit bulkier than the MS09, come at a premium. For example, the Samsung T5 USB 3.1 drive is $108, and due to its requirement of a cable, it's really not as convenient as the MS09. Head into 1TB and 2TB capacities, and building your own flash drive using the MS09 is obviously the best way to go. The Blue 3D 2TB drive paired with the MS09 comes in at just under $300, versus $430 for Samsung's T5 2TB offering. Even SanDisk's 2TB Extreme is $348 at the moment. Unless you need that model's water-resistant design, it's a done deal - skip the OEM drives and head straight for the MS09 combo drive!
Now, there is one thing we have to mention here: our first MS09 sample would repeatedly lose its connection during sustained file transfers (specifically reads, not writes), which could lead to potential data loss. We requested a second sample from SilverStone, and it maintained its connection throughout our testing, suggesting that the flaw was limited to the first sample. With that said, if our readers experience USB failures while using the MS09, we'd recommend you reach out to SilverStone for a replacement.
SilverStone was just slightly ahead of its time when it released the MS09 in late 2017, given the high price and limited supply of SATA-based M.2 drives. But today, in early 2019, it looks like a fantastic product, thanks to its high-quality construction, ease of use, and the low price of 500GB+ M.2 SATA drives. But SilverStone's win here comes with a caveat: due to the current pricing of 250GB SSDs, which are generally nearly as much as 500GB drives, if you don't need more than 250GB of capacity, you're better off buying a high-end USB 3.1 thumb drive.
The SilverStone MS09C M.2 to USB 3.1 Enclosure is available for $37 from Amazon, as of our publication date. If you'd like an ultra-fast SSD to pair with the enclosure, we'd recommend the Crucial MX500 500GB M.2 drive or the Western Digital Blue 3D 500GB M.2 drive.