FirmTek miniSwap U3 review - USB 3.0 portable drive enclosure with impressive speeds

We’ve looked at several pieces of impressive external drive technology in the last month. For mobility, speed and cross compatibility, the FirmTek miniSwap U3 is hard to beat.

This robustly fashioned 2.5” drive enclosure is highly optimised for SSDs, with USB 3.0 connectivity that’s very quick indeed.

If you want to know where innovation is moving forward fastest, look to storage. It’s the only area of computing that still seems to conform to Moore’s Law that computer power doubles every two years.

The miniSwap U3 we tried came bundled with a fast SanDisk Extreme 240G - a 240GB SSD drive. You could use a standard 2.5” HD drive with the miniSwap, but would miss out on the enclosure’s Thunderbolt beating read and write capability. The drive’s reported speed of 500MB/s is easily demonstrated with our tests averaging close to 430MB/s for read and write.

These speeds got us thinking about some of the uses you could put the miniSwap to. It’s ideal for video work, for example, where large files and high performance go hand in hand. The miniSwap is bootable too, so you could even install your operating system on it... This offers a scenario where you could effectively carry your Mac around with you - on disk.

As Mac users, we’re interested in whether the unit will look great alongside our existing kit and, with its brushed aluminium finish and curves, it will. The FirmTek’s ruggedly designed, with swappable drive fitting snugly and silently inside when the unit’s connected. 

You don’t need another power source with USB 3.0 - though an addition 5V DC port is present.

There are corners cut here and there. The drive door flips open with a plastic toggle - and it’s very apparent how the unit’s manufactured and assembled. You could completely dismantle the unit yourself in five minutes.

Changing SSD drives is a simple matter of ejecting the existing drive on your Mac, flipping open a door at the front of the enclosure and popping a new drive in. In our experience, only a  little pressure needed to applied to seat a drive in place. 

The FirmTek miniSwap U3 enclosure, for all it’s robustness and performance is astonishingly cheap. Just $99.95 without a drive installed. That’s about £65. The enclosure takes up very little room on your desktop - or in your bag. We’d be happy to carry it around with a MacBook

OUR VERDICT

The FirmTek miniSwap U3 enclosure, for all it’s robustness and performance is astonishingly cheap. Just $99.95 without a drive installed. That’s about £65. The enclosure takes up very little room on your desktop - or in your bag. We’d be happy to carry it around with a MacBook

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