An external SSD of 60TB for 35 euros? – Hands on

No, don’t be afraid; we weren’t naive enough to actually think we could buy a 60TB external ssd. Especially not for the bizarrely low amount of 35 euros. Because of course all alarm bells went off when seeing a product that is clearly too good to be true: an external SSD of 60TB for 35 euros. But what would you get for that?

Like many of you, I regularly browse sites like AliExpress. When the all-knowing algorithms there started offering offers of external SSDs for little money, I became curious. There are several vendors selling the same or similar products: external SSDs that look suspiciously like Samsung drives and are advertised with impossible capacities such as 16TB, 30TB and even 60TB.

The largest normal external ssd you can buy has a capacity of 4TB, for example the Sandisk Extrme Pro, a Crucal X6 or Kingston XS2000, to name a few. There are also a few dedicated drives based on a 7.68TB enterprise SSD, such as the G-Drive Pro Studio, and there are a few super-secure drives with 16TB and RAID SSDs up to 32TB, but they all cost thousands of euros, even more than ten thousand euros.

A 60TB drive is therefore twice the size of the largest external SSD on the market, and that for one-third of the price. We knew we were buying a cat in a poke, but we wanted to see exactly what that cat would look like. By the way, we don’t link to the listing of the 60TB drive we bought, because we don’t want to invite anyone to buy this junk, the store is now empty and anyone who wants to buy something like this can undoubtedly find it themselves.

Benchmarks

To share the disappointing news right away, or well, one of the many disappointments: we haven’t really benchmarked the drive. We first wanted to see how fast the drive is, and whether data can be copied to it at all. Well, it works, but with such a disappointing 15MB/s that we left out real tests.

60TB Portable SSD - screenshots

We ran AS SSD, which took about an hour, and it shows that reading is marginally faster than writing. But at 20MB/s, that’s not a speed useful for multi-gigabyte files.

What do you (don’t) get?

A real brand does not have this external ssd: the simple white box simply states that it contains an external ssd, a sticker promises 60TB and as far as specifications are mentioned, that is limited to USB-C for the interface. The box contains a plastic tray containing the SSD, again simply with Portable SSD on it and a bare bottom. The design is strongly reminiscent of Samsung’s T5 drives: we suspect that this is not entirely coincidental.

Next to the drive you get a short USB cable of about eight inches, with an A plug on one side and a C plug on the other, for the SSD. Two adapters are also included, from USB-A to USB-C and to Micro-USB-A.

It won’t surprise you, but the external SSD is not a 60TB drive at all. However, the truth is crazier than you might expect.

For starters, if you plug the SSD into your PC with the included USB-C cable, you’ll see not one 60TB drive, but four 15TB logical drives. It’s curious, but a quick math shows that four times 15 is indeed 60, so we haven’t been ripped off. We can even write data to the various 15TB drives, albeit painfully slow, at 15MB/s. Imagine if we could actually fill all 60TB, then we would be busy for almost seven weeks.

60TB Portable SSD - screenshots

60TB Portable SSD - screenshots

As a test, we deleted the partition on one of the logical drives and tried to reformat the resulting 15TB of free space. To our surprise, this resulted in a drive that is split into two parts: one of 2TB and a second of 13TB. We could allocate that 2TB, so make it a writable drive, and that second, unallocated space, Windows’ drive manager or diskpart couldn’t make chocolate.

All was not lost at this point: we knew 60TB was nonsense, but after seeing the four separate drives and the super slow write speed, we started to suspect that something was being done with memory cards. But since we seemed to be left with four times 2TB, something else had to be going on, because that much capacity would still be too good to be true. In fact, because there are no 2TB SD cards, or USB sticks, we were curious to see what’s really in the drive.

60TB Portable SSD

60TB Portable SSD

There are no screws to open the Portable SSD, but after removing the ‘back’ it turned out that there was a slide in the aluminum housing. To keep it in place, the hot glue was generously handled, but after some convincing the slide slid out of the housing. What we got to see is a circuit board that is somewhat reminiscent of an M.2 drive, but only sparingly equipped with chips.

the pcb

In order to get the PCB out of the carriage, we had to remove the particularly stubborn glue and yes: under a paper sticker were four microSD cards. There our storage was finally visible. The visible side has no imprint, but the other side tells us that it concerns four microSD cards of a whopping 64GB each.

The chips on the pcb are four Chipsbank CBM2199S controllers that control the microSD cards. On the card side of the pcb is a PL2586 controller: that is a four-channel USB 2.0 controller chip that serves as a connection between the PC and the four memory cards. The USB-C connector is therefore purely for convenience or to mislead you: the connector is also nowhere near fully wired. In addition, the controller is USB 2, so it is never possible to go faster than 480Mbps. Then our 15MB/s is still almost a factor of three too slow.

That leaves the question of why and how we could see 15TB partitions or logical drives with microSD cards as small as 64GB. To test that, we put the no-name cards in a regular card reader to see what happens. The cards turn out to be just 64GB. And if we put our own 32GB card, or four of them, in the Portable SSD, we just get four 32GB logical drives.

The combination of the supplied cards and firmware for the CBM2199S controllers seems to be the most logical cause of the exaggerated capacity that we saw. This is reinforced by the search results when you search for that controller: numerous Russian and Chinese sites with tools to manipulate the controller’s firmware then pop up. According to the translations, that would be for data recovery, but perhaps a handy firmware in combination with specific identifiers of an SD card can ensure that the capacity is not reported completely truthfully.

Pay close attention, because although the firmware makes sure that your data appears to be on the ‘ssd’, including file names and folder structure, your data is simply overwritten again and again: there is only four times 64GB available. We tested that with video files: none of the video we wrote to the drive was actually playable. The names and file size are correct, but readable data, oh no. We tried to play the first, last and random videos in between but nothing worked.

Finally

Be that as it may, you get a ‘Portable SSD’ of so-called 60TB, strongly inspired by a Samsung T5, for about 35 euros. That seems to be an SSD with four 15TB drives, but in fact it is a USB hub with four SD card readers that are controlled at USB 2.0 speed. In our case, the cards are only 64GB in size, for a capacity of about 0.43 percent of the promised capacity.

60TB Portable SSD - parts

Now if you’re thinking that a very slow card reader and four 64GB microSD cards for $35 isn’t a bad deal, remember that these aren’t going to be the best cards. In any case, we would never put anything on it that even remotely has anything of value, or that you will ever need. Then it is better to buy four regular brand cards of 64GB. Together they cost about the same, but then you have a brand, warranty and no tampering.

60TB external ssd - memory card speed

We did stick the individual cards in a card reader to see how fast they really are. We got read speeds of 91MB/s and write at 34MB/s in AS SSD. Not too bad, but again, we wouldn’t trust this kind of storage even one bit of real data.

The well-known story turns out to be true once again: if something seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Of course you can’t buy a good product for so outrageously little money, and certainly not a product that can’t even be made technically. Other than satisfying your curiosity, you obviously have no reason to buy this because you know you’re being scammed.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: external SSD #60TB euros Hands

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