Mushkin carbonX USB 3.1 Gen 2 Portable SSD Review – Understanding USB Versions Key to Fast Data Transfer

If there is anything the storage industry has gotten wrong, it would be its approach to educating the consumer on storage speeds and their importance.  As much as we would like to get into advertised flash performance specs which, for the most part are a total fallacy in relating the actual speed that data moves, today we are going to look in a bit of a different direction. We are going to look at the interface and connectors as they relate to external storage and take a close look at the newest Mushkin carbonX Portable SSD in the process.   Did Mushkin get it right and can the consumer gain an understanding of exactly what their need is from the carbonX?

The Mushkin carbonX is a USB 3.1 Gen 2 device but let’s get away from that term.  USB 3 is generally recognized as being able to move data just over 500MB/s for those that have paid attention in the past few years.  USB 3.1 right? Not quite.  The carbon X moves data at speeds up to 1050MB/s but that is ONLY if your PC or laptop is compatible with USB 3.1 Gen 2, USB 3.2 Gen 2 or even USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. Add to that Thunderbolt 3/4 as well but we are not going there right now as that takes into an entirely different direction. Basics! Starting with your PC or laptop, the key right off is whether it has a Type-C USB port like we see here on the Mushkin carbonX:

If your PC/laptop/ultra/tablet has one of these,  chances are we are in luck and data just may be capable of moving at 1000MB/s or 1GB/s, rather than the former USB 3.1 speed of just over 500MB/s.  In the end, it doesn’t matter what the package says with respect to speed, it can only achieve that speed if your PC…or whatever system you may be using, is fully compatible with that.  Where it gets really confusing is trying to get a grasp of the USB naming standard…which even I think was decided over a late night drink.  For instance, USB 3.1 Gen 2 is also, and has been renamed USB 3.2 Gen 2 and both can achieve speeds of 1GB/s, rather than the former USB 3 speeds of just over 500MB/s.

Let’s make this real easy.  Older USB 3.1 speed of 540MB/s was attained with the older square USB 3 Type-A  connector as we are all used to, the upper cable in the pik above.  The cable below that is a USB Type-C to Type-C cable which is capable typically of speeds up to 1GB/s, or 10Gbps.  We see this most often today on smartphones, although many are not capable of transferring data at those speeds, simply because Type-C cables are so much more versatile, can charge your device, as well as move data to and from your phone…at the same time.  10Gbps is a key term, however, as it means you can move data at 1GB/s, or twice as fast as USB 3…. with a compatible system.  Remember…top cable with the Type-A connector 500MB/s or just a bit higher…bottom cable with Type-C on both sides…1000MB/s…or 1GB/s.

There is a catch to all this confusion which I am going to clarify and that is USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.  It uses the EXACT same looking Type-C to Type-C cable and is capable of 20Gbps speeds up to 2000MB/s, or 2GB/s.  Think of the term Gen 2 ‘x2’ as ‘double to 20Gbps or 2GB/s and you have it made.  So…  in purchasing and using a portable or external SSD, it will either be USB 3 with speeds up to just over 500MB/s, 10Gbps for speeds of 1GB/s or 20GB/s for speeds of 2GB/s…but…both your system and that device must be capable of those speeds. Check Amazon pricing.

The reason we just went through all of this is because, just the other day, a close friend was telling me how he just got a new portable SSD that transfers speeds at amazing speeds of 1000MB/s, but didn’t understand that he would have to have a PC/laptop/ultra/tablet…or what have you…compatible with this.  So…let’s move on to the Mushkin carbonX 10Gbps Portable SSD and see how we can tie all of this together.

The Mushkin carbonX is a portable SSD capable of transfer speeds up to 1GB/s (10Gbps) when plugged into a compatible system using the Type-C to Type-C cable.  Using its Type-A to Type-C cable will only achieve speeds half of that.  The carbonX is available right now in capacities of 250GB, 500GB and 1TB, contains an NVMe SSD inside and utilizes the latest NVMe 1.3 protocol.  Its exterior is a black metal design with ‘ribs’ that serve the purpose of heat dissipation. It comes with a limited 3-year warranty.

There are two screws at the same end as the Type-C port which allow for a very simple disassembly… This kind of surprised us actually.  Inside, there is a M.2 2280 NVMe SSD with a black PCB powered by the SMI 2263ENG SSD controller, a larger black printed circuit board (PCB) that holds the SSD in place, as well as another ribbed metal shield that covers the SSD and, once again, is used to dissipate heat.  Quite frankly, we never expected to find this and it is always great seeing companies go the extra mile because others may have simply gone without that and used thermal tape to make the connection to the outside surface.

This portable SSD uses an ASMedia ASM2362 bridge chip which serves the purpose of ‘bridging’ the M.2 NVMe SSD to the external Type-C port and providing for data transfer up to 1050MB/s…or 10Gbps.  Something else that we fail to consider is that this SSD is powered by its own bus…and that Type-C port, eliminating the need for a separate cable and power brick that would traditionally be plugged in for some storage devices.

For now though, lets jump to the next page for system and performance testing.

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