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Gadget Review

EMTEC SpeedIN’ S600 USB Drive

EMTEC offers a large capacity thumb drive you’ll actually want – but price and availability leaves more to be desired.

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Storage is plentiful, convenient, and a necessity. Flash-based storage can be all of those things, but your wallet has to take a beating. EMTEC offers a remedy with their SpeedIN’ S600 USB Flash Drive, which is my personal pick between its external 1.8-inch X600 External SSD cousin  — that is, until reality sets in.

It’s a USB drive, enough said. Most of you probably have a few of them scattered across your desk or hanging off of your keychain right now, all plastic with the only unique touches being a sharp rectangular body dressed in a faux Kevlar pattern.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, it’s the size of S600 that will have you excited — all 256GB of it to be exact. This is the defining trait of this otherwise plain jane accessory, having the storage of a small desktop in the palm of my hand. All of those plebian 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB thumb size are figuratively miniscule to this.

And the performance is good too. Now, we know many will glance at the numerical benchmarks of a flash drive, and EMTEC is advertising a maximum write speed of 300MB/s and 400MB/s for file reading. These figures are often out of reach for real-world applications, and no, that’s not just EMTEC telling blatant lies, just theoretical maximums that the device should be capable of.

We tested the S600 two different ways, with the first being real-world usage. Transferring assorted media files that totaled up to 30GB in data between our PC and the EMTEC drive, we averaged a max read speed of 170.3MB/s and 52.5MB/s writing with 1.04ms access time. Obviously, this is far from what was advertised on the box but it is leaps and bounds ahead of other options we had laying around. Taking a little over 2 minutes to complete.

Transferring a dummy file between external drives was second best against the benchmark software, but not by much at 179.1MB/s read and 52.8MB/s write. Any improved figures are better than none, I’d say.

Utilizing software like Crystal DiskMark 5.1.1 gave the S600 more optimal benchmarks, albeit, very few owners will actually see these results outside of controlled simulations. Sticking with the USB ports on a Gigabyte GA-Z170X Gaming 7 Motherboard gave us sequential read/write speeds of 310.6MB/s and 149.3MB/s respectively. Our session out of three runs was consistent across the board but seem to be aided by our base system configuration.

Beyond the performance lie a few caveats in practicality, and I can’t praise SpeedIN’ S600 SSD without the bringing up the preinstalled software that EMTEC insists upon. Upon first use you’ll notice that roughly half of the available storage is inexplicably quarantined, which is annoying and borderline stupid because it’ll be unnecessary for normal people

That’s where the trouble really starts since you’ll be screwing yourself if you unknowingly delete the software without a second thought, and no amount of partition formatting will bring it back. I experienced this event firsthand and only after a frantic search through the EMTEC website FAQ page under the USB/SSD subsection labeled “EMTEC Security” and found the needed software to remedy the situation. Don’t fret because you can correct this potentially dire mishap if your flash drive is so equipped, or (luckily) not installed on units manufactured after January.

Another complaint I have is price for the S600, which is a hard pill to swallow for wide-eyed cheapskates. Currently, the storage-to-dollar ratio is almost 1:1 which makes sense, but still a noticeable sum for a USB drive. A bit egregious when compared to the much cheaper SpeedIN’ X600 External SSD.

Knowing this though, I’d recommend the EMTEC SpeedIN’ S600 USB Flash Drive over the external SSD every day of the week, but only if you can afford the premium that comes with its thumb-sized dimensions. Regardless, it’s a step in the right direction for bigger capacities without the footprint.