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Offline storage and backup can be a big problem. Basically, the data we generate monthly in 2023 would have been a lifetime supply only 10 years ago. Even with cloud storage, there is still a very present need for physical storage for temporary backup, transportation, security, and backup off site. With USB sticks so darn easy to lose, what we really need is some kind of reliable, high-capacity storage in a form factor that’s bigger than a USB stick and smaller than a USB hard drive. This leaves room for the Netac ZX20 Portable Solid State Drive.
This is a sponsored article and was made possible by Netac. The actual contents and opinions are the sole views of the author who maintains editorial independence even when a post is sponsored.Netac’s Tiny Drive
The Netac ZX20 Portable Solid State Drive takes a small SSD and puts it into a small form factor suitable for your bag or even your pocket. It’s so small and neat, you could even slip it into the trouser pocket of a suit and not spoil the lining.
The case dimensions are only 8 cm x 4.3 cm, about as big as a cigarette lighter for comparison. The case is robust and silicone protected on five sides. It has a hole built into the corner so that you can use a carabiner clip to lash it to a bag or jacket or link it to your keys for easy transport. Attachment to a computer or device is handled by the included USB-C to standard USB cable.
Also included is a USB-C to USB-C cable for connection to the growing lot of devices using that standard. You also get a tiny leatherette pouch that doesn’t protect it so much as look nice. I can’t say I use it much, but it’s nice to have.
Netac is one of the claimants to being the inventors of the USB memory stick, which tells you something important: it has been doing this kind of thing for a long time.Big Storage, Small Package
The initial response to opening the box and taking out the drive is how small and neat and nicely made the drive is. It feels expensive. Out of the box it is formatted for Windows, so I plugged it into the PC, and it recognized it easily. The USB lead is very well made and feels robust enough to carry around in a coat pocket without risking any damage in transit.
The first thing you notice while using it is how fast it is compared to the bulk of the external storage you use on a PC. Obviously, you only get full speed if you have certified USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) sockets on your machine.
Of course, the primary limiting factor and primary bottleneck in any USB-based storage system is the speed of the socket itself, which is a serious thing you should bear in mind.
On that note, I have USB 3.0 and not 3.2, so I have to cite test results supplied to me by Netac. The USB-C test results sound impressive: 2031Mb/s sequential read, 1774Mb/s sequential write. If you can’t get a certified USB 3.2 with a USB-A interface (easy to spot with the blue tab), then clearly, USB-C is your best bet.
This doesn’t mean that if you don’t have USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) this drive is useless. To the contrary, in fact.
Although the peak performance of the ZX20 can only be achieved with the USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) interface, this product supports full backward compatibility with a variety of interfaces and can still be used when connected to a USB 3.0 interface. This means that if you take the product out and about and use it on someone else’s device, it will work fine.
Using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test tool and a regular USB socket, I could see the ZX20 managed speeds as high as 145MB/s. That’s good enough to read and write 2K cinema-quality video attached to a digital cinema projector.
This product gets on well in connection with a standard USB 3.0 interface. As you can see, it can reach levels of 429Mb/s read and 405Mb/s write. Basically, the type of performance you get depends entirely on the kind of interface you have. Suffice to say, whatever you are using with it will be fast.
I really like the Netac ZX20 Portable Solid State Drive. It’s difficult to put across how small it is – yet powerful and fast. The speed of regular USB sticks is usually terrible, as they are almost always cheap. That’s understandable, as if you are going to carry around something small AND expensive, it’s a recipe for disaster. But this device is not only compact, powerful and fast – it’s also not that expensive, and with USB 3.2 it really flies.
I only have two quibbles with it, and they are very minor and purely personal. Number one: it would have been nice to have a little LED activity light on it. I don’t like indicators that are too bright, but a nice discreet little light that flashes when it’s working would have been nice.
I also question why the cables you get with this and similar items are so stiff. I get that they have to be durable, but it doesn’t lie flat when I plug the drive. Admittedly, this is more to do with my own OCDs than any technical deficiency in the product, so it’s not a major issue, and the PSSD willl be dangling in some way anyway.Where to get it
All things considered, the Netac ZX20 Portable Solid State Drive is a great little drive, and for an estimated retail price of about $70, not crazy expensive either. It’s probably about $10 more than I’d like to see, but the quality is great, so I’ll forgive the price immediately, as you can’t go wrong with the capacity.
All images by Phil South.
Phil South has been writing about tech subjects for over 30 years. Starting out with Your Sinclair magazine in the 80s, and then MacUser and Computer Shopper. He’s designed user interfaces for groundbreaking music software, been the technical editor on film making and visual effects books for Elsevier, and helped create the MTE YouTube Channel. He lives and works in South Wales, UK.
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When solid state storage were invented over half a century ago and then made widely commercially available, their effect was transformative — the technology has played a major role in the evolution of storage, gaming, business and computing. But by examining SSDs, you can also understand what the future will hold for their components, benefits and applications.What is SSD storage?
Solid state drive (SSD) storage uses non-volatile solid state chips that feature flash memory cells to store data on a long-term basis. Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), which use magnetic platters spinning at high speeds to using an actuator arm reminiscent of a record player, SSDs require no moving parts. Instead, the storage solution depends entirely on flash memory to store data, making them much faster at reading and writing data, both ad hoc and in sustained operations.
Using a mesh of electrical cells in a NAND — a type of non-volatile flash memory — to store data, SSDs include an embedded processor known as the controller. It runs firmware-level code to help the drive operate and bridge the media to the host computer via the interface bus. Today’s SSDs don’t require an additional power source that maintains an electrical current into the device at all times to preserve the data. This makes them increasingly more reliable than traditional HDDs (from a mechanical and data integrity standpoint).
SSDs also have built-in technology that further improves read/write speeds, making them faster than traditional HDDs. Historically, HDDs included a bit of memory within the drive hardware itself (typically eight or 16 MBs) to increase the perceived read/write performance. If the data a user wants to read or write can be stored within the high-performing cache memory, the drive temporarily stores the data in the fast memory modules. It then reports back to the operating system once this is complete, triggering the drive to transfer the data from the cache to the much slower magnetic media. This doesn’t always work, as only a small portion of the drive’s total data is cached at any time, and if data isn’t in the cache, it has to be read from the slower physical medium.
SSDs utilize the same kind of concept involving a cache, except they include dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips — a type of semiconductor memory commonly used in PCs and servers — within the controller hardware on the SSD itself. Ranging from 64 MBs all the way up to GBs, they buffer requests to improve the life of the drive and serve short bursts of read/write requests faster than the regular drive memory allows. These caches are essential in enterprise storage applications, including heavily used file servers and database servers.When were SSDs first available?
The use of flash memory for longer-term storage has been around since the 1950s, but those solutions were generally in mainframes or larger minicomputers. They also required battery backups to preserve the contents of the memory when the machine was not powered by the host, as those solutions used volatile memory.Prepare for your storage upgrade
Which form factors and interfaces make the most sense for your company’s storage needs? Download Now
Since then, the technology has gotten smaller and faster, and it no longer requires battery backup. Performance has skyrocketed too, as new PC bus interfaces have made it possible for data transfer rates to far exceed the standard rates that traditional spinning media would saturate. They’re also less expensive today, even compared to the first SSD drive released in 1991 — a 20MB SSD that sold for $1,000.Applications for SSDs
There are multiple benefits to using SSDs for production storage applications. Because SSDs have no moving mechanical components, they use less power, are more resistant to drops or rough handling, operate almost silently, and read quickly with less latency. Additionally, since there are no spinning platters or actuator arms, there is no need to wait for the physical parts to ramp up to operating speed. This feature eliminates a performance hit that hard drives cannot escape. SSDs are also lightweight, which makes them ideal for laptops, small form factor machines and high-capacity storage area networks in a smaller footprint.
To host both the database engine and the database itself for quick access.
As a “hot” tier in a stratified network storage archive, where frequently accessed data can be retrieved and rewritten very quickly.
In situations where physical shocks are a possibility and HDDs would present an untenable risk to system reliability.
In gaming, where the user is often moving through new environments.
In business settings where you need your operating system and applications to load quickly.How to choose the right SSD for your needs
PCIe SSDs interface with a system via its PCIe slot — the same slot that is used for high-speed video cards, memory and chips. PCIe 1.0 launched in 2003, with a transfer rate of 2.5 gigatransfer per second (GT/s) and a total bandwidth of 8 Gbps. GT/s measures the number of bits per second that the bus can move or transfer.
Several years later, PCIe 2.0 was introduced, doubling both the bandwidth and the gigatransfer speed, hitting 16 Gbps and 5 GT/s, respectively. Subsequent generations doubled bandwidth and gigatransfer speeds with each new iteration. PCIe 3.0, for instance, features 32Gbps bandwidth and 8 GT/s.
Most recently, SSDs started using the PCIe 4.0 specification, which features bandwidth of 64 Gbps and a 16 GT/s rate. PCIe is now being paired with the non-volatile memory host controller interface specification (NVMe), a communications protocol for high-speed storage systems that runs on top of PCIe.
However, not everyone has a PCIe-enabled system, and some may have PCIe slots in conjunction with other system add-ons, like memory or graphics cards. In these cases, other SSDs like the Samsung 870 EVO are an ideal option for content creators, IT professionals and everyday users. An 870 EVO uses the standard SATA interface to achieve the maximum SATA interface limit of 560/530 MB/s sequential speeds. Samsung 870 QVO also achieves the maximum SATA interface limit, with offerings in the 1, 2, 4, and 8 TB 2.5-inch SATA form factor configurations.What does the future hold?
In the short term, capacities will continue to ramp up, while the cost per GB for SSDs will continue to decrease. New form factors that increase the number of parallel data transmission lanes between storage and the host bus will emerge to increase the speed and quality of the NAND storage medium.
The physical layer of cells that holds the blocks and pages will improve, offering better reliability and performance. Form factor will also continue to shrink. In 2023, Samsung announced it had reduced cell volume by up to 35%, making its 176-layer 7th-generation V-NAND SSD offering similar in height to its previous generation.
Learn more about how to improve your storage planning and evaluation processes with this free guide.
There are plenty of portable hard disk drives (HDD) as well as much-faster solid-state drives (SSD) to choose from and we’ve reviewed and ranked some of the best ones. We are focussing on SSDs here but hard drives like the WD Black P10 get an honourable mention.
Portable USB drives are powered by the connected computer, so you can use them on the move without the need to plug into the mains or use batteries. Some will even connect your phone or tablet and let you extend storage that way, or allow you to transfer or open files.Best portable hard drives & SSDs 2023
1. Crucial X6 – Best Overall
Lacks hardware encryption
No activity light
500GB model slower
Best Prices Today:
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 836MB/s
It might not be quite as fast as the Adata SE760 but a recent upgrade to the 1- and 2TB models makes the X6 unbeatable in terms of value for money with the 1TB model costing well under £100/$100.
Furthermore, it comes in an ever more portable form factor than its bigger brother, the X8, which is still drop tested to 2m and comes with the same three-year warranty.
As an all-rounder goes, it’s our top pick, even if it lacks things like hardware encryption and an activity light.
Read our full
2. Adata SE760 – Best Value
Type-A & Type-C cables
Limited to 1TB
Best Prices Today:
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 934MB/s
Adata has come up with an excellent rival to the Crucial X8 and importantly done so at a cheaper price.
Like the X8 there are no features like a rugged design or encryption but there are alternative options if you need those things.
Instead, the SE760 provides a hassle-free way of carrying around a large amount of speedy storage without breaking the bank. It even comes with Type-C and Type-A USB cables included.
A solid choice if you want between 250GB and 1TB of capacity.
Read our full
3. Kingston XS2000 – Affordable Performance
Small and lightweight
Needs USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 for full speed
Limited SLC cache size
No USB Type-A adapter
Best Prices Today:
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 1986MB/s
If you want the top performance then the XS2000 is aptly named as it offers headline speeds with read peaking at 2092MB/s, though you will need a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port to access this level of performance.
That’s around double many rivals if you do and the price here is surprisingly affordable, plus this is a very portable drive.
On the downside, the limited cache means you won’t get sustained performance for larger files and Kingston doesn’t provide a USB adapter to use the XS2000 with older Type-A ports.
Read our full
4. Seagate One Touch (2023) – Best Backup Software
Up to 2TB
Free Sync Plus software
Could be more robust
Best Prices Today:
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 1,007MB/s
As long as you don’t need hardware encryption then the latest version of the One Touch SSD is an excellent choice.
Plug it into the right USB port and you’ll get double the speed of the previous version, matching many rivals. Capacity goes up to 2TB and Seagate provides useful and free, Sync Plus software to make backing up files easy.
It’s also highly portable and although it’s not as rugged as some alternatives, it’s hardly fragile. The main pain point here is the ridiculously short cables, but that’s not uncommon either.
Read our full
5. CalDigit Tuff nano – Best Speed and Durability Combo
Not the cheapest
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 891MB/s
The CalDigit Tuff nano blew us away with its super-fast speeds, which are twice as fast as comparable portable SSDs. using NVMe technology, the 512GB drive we tested achieved Read and Write speeds close to 1,000MB/s!
It’s also robust, being IP67 certified – meaning that it can be immersed in water and is dust-tight. It can also withstand drops up to 3M.
It is compatible with most computers (it comes with USB-C and USB-A cables), and, being USB-C, can also work with Apple’s iPad Pro.
While it might be a little pricy for the casual user, professionals such as photographers and filmmakers will appreciate its blistering speed and tough travel credentials.
Read our full
6. Crucial X8 – Good Value Performance
Best Prices Today:
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 1,015MB/s
The Crucial X8 is a great option for those looking for reliable portable SSD.
It’s well-made, compact and offers excellent speeds via USB 3.2 Gen 2 and offers great value for money, too.
There might not be any encryption but for many users, this won’t be an issue. If it is, then there are plenty of other options such as the Samsung T7 Touch and SanDisk Extreme.
Read our full
7. Samsung T7 Touch – Best Encryption
No admin backdoor
Best Prices Today:
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 929MB/s
Samsung has improved on the popular T5 with a portable SSD that’s both faster and is more secure.
The fingerprint scanner works well but the drive is lacking in a simple way to reset it should you not have the registered finger so just be careful. You’ll also need to be using the right port to get the most out of the T7’s potential speed.
Those are just caveats for an excellent drive which has a lot to like. If you won’t make use of these new features then you may as well grab the cheaper T5.
Read our full
8. SanDisk Extreme Portable SDD V2 – Most Portable
Faster than SATA SSDs
USB-A + USB-C
Best Prices Today:
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 930MB/s
SanDisk has done a great job of improving its rugged portable SSD with this new model, although the naming is a little too similar with just ‘V2’ at the end which isn’t even on the box.
If you make sure you’re buying this new model, you’ll benefit from double the speed as well as built-in encryption. The Extreme Portable is also one of the lightest drives we’ve ever seen if that’s important and also has an IP55 water and dust rating.
The drive offers both USB-A and USB-C, just note that you’ll need a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port on the device you plug this SSD into to benefit from the fastest speeds.
Read our full
9. WD Black D10 – Best Gaming Storage
Short USB cable
Can’t run all console titles
Best Prices Today:
HDD, Average Read/Write speed: 625MB/s
If you’re lacking in space for your console or PC games then the WD Black D30 is a decent option to gain a lot of storage in a small and stylish package.
The metal container style shell is really the only gaming element of this drive, but it is highly portable and ready to use out the box. You’ll get decent speeds from the USB 3.2 standard.
As usual, we’d like the cable to be longer. If you need more space than 2TB and can cope with slower speeds, the Black P10 goes to 5TB.
Read our full
10. SanDisk Professional PRO-G40 – Best Performance
Headline performance on Thunderbolt
No USB Type-A adapter included
Best Prices Today:
SSD, Average Read/Write speed: 2682MB/s
Those looking for serious speeds in an ultra-rugged casing that will survive the likes of water, drops and more have just found it.
The PRO-G40 gets close to 3000MB/s in read speeds if you use it over Thunderbolt. With USB 3.2 Gen 2 speeds significantly slower, it’s not worth the high cost of this drive compared to rivals.
That’s the main issue here, with seemingly most of the cost going on the casing, while the drive inside only comes in 1- or 2TB sizes at launch. At this price, a longer cable and some kind of carry pouch would be nice. The G40 will be a better buy once it starts getting discounted.
Read our full SanDisk Professional PRO-G40 reviewHow to choose a portable SSD
Even the smallest portable drives are likely to be 128GB in size, which is enough to space thousands of CD albums in lossless FLAC format, or even more in lower quality MP3 or AAC formats. Off-loading your music collection alone from a computer to a portable drive can be a godsend in freeing valuable space if your laptop has limited storage.
Another popular application of portable storage is for keeping critical backups of your data held on a PC or laptop. You may be able to keep a perfect clone of your entire computer’s internal drive, on standby and ready in the event that the computer is lost or its drive should malfunction.
Alternatively, you may choose just to back up the most important files and documents from your user libraries, such as text documents, photos, films, music and stored email. Some portable drives include software that can help automate this process, keeping your selected directories in sync whenever you plug in the drive or by a daily schedule.Performance
Now that USB 2.0 has been banished from all self-respecting storage, we find USB 3 as the standard for connection, letting these portable drives perform as quickly as the little disks inside will allow.
USB 3 is confusing, as USB 3.0 was retrospectively renamed to USB 3.1 Gen 1. There’s also a newer version, USB 3.1 Gen 2. This doubles the potential throughput from Gen 1’s 5Gb/s to 10Gb/s. In megabytes per second, these equate to 625 and 1,250 respectively. Pretty fast, then.
In reality, most SSDs top out at around 1000MB/s (although you can get faster), and this speed is highly dependent on the device you’re connecting it to so don’t automatically blame the drive if you experience slower speeds. Note that USB-C Gen 2 won’t go any faster when USB 4.0 arrives.
Check out the average speeds in the summaries above, and go to the full review for more detailed benchmark results.Protection
A rugged exterior will be handy if you want the freedom of being able to throw around the unplugged drive with less worry that it will damage the unit, and more importantly, lose your data.
Look out for shock-resistance ratings such as the US military MIL-STD-810F 516.5 (Transit Drop Test). This means that it should withstand being dropped 26 times onto a hard floor, once on to each face, edge and corner, from a height of 1.22m.
Flash storage – more commonly known as SSDs – can survive more brutal treatment, and some portable drives are even water-resistant. If you were to accidentally drop a portable SSD drive in water, then as long as the port covers are firmly closed, it will work fine to use it after it has been fully dried.
Some drives have an IP waterproof rating like phones.Reliability
It’s tough to say definitively which manufacturer makes the most reliable hard drives. While there’s a big difference between the technology used in traditional hard drives and SSDs, both have a limited lifespan, and this is why warranties are relatively short – typically two or three years.
What’s important is that you have a well-thought-out backup process and you don’t rely on any single drive to store precious files. Ideally, you should have three copies: one on a PC, phone or tablet, one on a backup drive and one in the cloud.Value
For many users, a portable storage drive may be an unavoidable commodity, and price will be the deciding factor.
Often an older drive will be cheaper thanks to a drop in price so you might get a bargain, but make sure you’re not missing out on new tech you’d benefit from.
Professionals will be willing to pay more for the faster and tougher SSDs out there.Security
The larger the drive, the more you can store – and the more you stand to lose in the event of losing the drive or having it stolen. This is where it pays to lock down that drive.
There are two ways to ensure the data is unreadable by other users. You can scramble the contents through hardware encryption. Or you can use a software application to encrypt either parts or all of the drive.
Before actually owning the zoom h1, I did do my own research on the product. Everyone’s conclusion was that it felt like a cheap toy. However, I feel as though, while it is all plastic, it still feels sturdy. I have dropped this mic before and it has yet to crack. (I hope it doesn’t of course!) And upside to it being all plastic is that it is very light. The build itself is a very small mic intended for on the go usage. It might just be me, but there is something satisfying when you can buy an a product for use, and not have to worry about it getting scuffed up. Coming in an all plastic and cheap form actually makes me want to bring it around more. I toss it into my bag and go. And I think that’s a very important factor when considering this type of product to buy. Just don’t expect a tank when your buying this product. Keep in mind the satisfying buying price of it and you won’t have any complaints.
To be blunt the sound is fantastic. With an onboard mic that you get with your typical DSLR, you’ll notice the sound levels are not equal. Every now and then I would record a conversation with two people, and while they are at the same exact distance from the camera, every now and then one voice would be extremely high while the other would be low.– Not with the zoom h1. If I aim the mic correctly, the audio is not only equal, but it is also accurate.Another problem that I had before using the Zoom h1 was the fact that my onboard mic picked up a certain humming noise in the background. The h1, as im sure many if not all external mics, fix this problem. The Zoom h1 mic also removed the audio echo that I received with many other cameras. (Especially webcams)
I do not have a wind filter, as it does not come with one, but I have noticed, to no surprised, that in semi-windy condition, without a wind filter, it does pick up a lot of wind noise. A LOT. Not a negative thing, that’s typical, but don’t be put off by it and buy a wind filter. (If you intend to work in windy conditions)
The Zoom H1 does cannot be directly connected into your camera. You must manually sync you audio. It could be a major pain, and it is something you definitely want to consider. I believe in the new Final Cut Pro X there is a way to automatically sync the audio, but even then, I would of course rather just have the audio recorded right into our DSLR. If this is a problem, you might want to consider the Zoom H1′s big brother: the Zoom H4n.
The zoom consumes only one AA battery, but I still wish it had a charging feature. It also does have tripod screw in so if you have an extra tripod you can mount it equally to your camera.
For a budget mic, I think it is a great product. I do envy the Zoom H4n, but considering the price this product it is going for, I can’t complain much. It’s a mic, that I use to supplement everything, my DSLR, my webcam, and sometimes even my phone. The only downside I would have to say is, again, you have to manually sync the audio in post production. So do I recommend this mic? Yes, yes I do!
The Zoom H1, your portable audio recorder now the perfect supplement to any DSLR or video recording device. Small and affordable, but what does all of that sacrifice?
Octopath Traveler review: A solid throwback to the JRPG greats
After more than a year of waiting, Octopath Traveler has finally arrived on the Nintendo Switch, and boy are JRPG fans excited. One look at its aesthetic is all you need to begin drawing comparisons to the many excellent JRPGs from the 1990s, like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger. It’s safe to say that hype among the folks who love this genre was incredibly high in the lead up to release, but now that it’s here, does Octopath Traveler live up to the hype? Is it the 16-bit throwback we’ve all been waiting for?
Those are difficult questions to answer. In a lot of ways, Octopath Traveler does live up to the hype and is worthy of standing next to the JRPG greats. At the same time, though, Octopath Traveler isn’t afraid to set aside some of the tropes of the genre, which is does to varying degrees of success. Generally speaking, I think most JRPG fans will find plenty to like in this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the game causes some furrowed brows too.
As you can tell, I’m somewhat conflicted when it comes to Octopath Traveler, but that isn’t some kind of universal truth that applies to every aspect of the game. There are some things about it that are unquestionably great, such as the graphics. Octopath Traveler is a beautiful game, and more than that, it’s possibly one of the best looking games I’ve ever laid eyes on.
The screenshots the Switch captures definitely do not do the game justice. The sprites in this Octopath Traveler all look excellent – especially the oversized boss sprites – and the environments all have this effect that almost makes them seem like they’re comprised of painted pixels. Square Enix, I believe, calls this an “HD-2D” graphics style, and that’s honestly the best way to describe the visuals in Octopath Traveler. It’s something that needs to be seen, controller in-hand, to be appreciated, as I don’t really think screenshots or video are going to convey its unique aesthetic well.
What’s more is that the game looks fantastic even when you’re playing it in handheld mode, which can’t be said for all Switch games out there. Regardless of the usage mode you play in most, Octopath Traveler is a feast for the eyes, and quite often during my time with the game, I found myself stopping just to admire my surroundings for a while.
Similarly, the soundtrack in this game is incredible. The score was composed by Yasunori Nishiki, and I’m almost positive that this is the first time I’ve ever heard any of his music. I’m utterly impressed with what he’s done for this game though, as this is one of those instances where the music is so good that it elevates the package as a whole. The music in this game ends up feeling like a crucial part of the experience instead of just a backdrop, and each song fits its respective scene perfectly. I hope I hear more from Nishiki in the future, because it’s clear from Octopath Traveler that he has a ton of talent.
Combat is another high point in this game, and I’m not sure I’ve ever had more fun with combat in a JRPG. Maybe that just shows that my experience with the genre has been limited to the big names, but I suspect that even seasoned JRPG veterans who count the genre as their favorite will agree that Octopath Traveler’s combat is something worth getting excited about.
Combat in Octopath Traveler revolves around a simple concept: breaking through your opponent’s defenses. Every enemy you encounter in Octopath Traveler has at least one weakness, but many enemies have multiple. Those weaknesses may be weapon types or elemental attacks, and it’s your job to figure out what they are. Each enemy also has a certain number of shield points, which decrease each time you hit them with something they’re weak to. While they still have at least one shield point, every attack you hit them with will do less damage than it normally would, so the full potential of your damage output won’t be realized until you get those defenses down.
When you finally “break” an opponent’s defenses, they’ll be stunned for the remainder of the current turn and the entirely of the next one, wiping their attacks from the turn order and giving your team an opening to do as much damage as possible before their shield points are regenerated.
To dish out that damage, you can spend boost points to super-charge your attack. Each of your characters earns one boost point at the beginning of each turn, and boost points are capped at five per character. You can spend up three at a time on a single action, but the most interesting thing is that you’re not limited to only spending your boost points on attacks. You can use them to make your healing more potent, extend the duration of positive status effects on your allies and negative status effects on your enemies, or increase the chances of certain actions (such as stealing or capturing beasts) succeeding.
Between boost points, enemy weaknesses, and defense breaks, you have a lot of tactical freedom in each battle you’ll fight. A job system that seems fairly simple on the surface adds even more layers to combat, ensuring that it never really gets stale. Octopath Traveler’s combat helps make boss battles feel suitably epic, and if you don’t ensure that your team covers potential enemy weaknesses well, the battles you’ll face will feel grueling at times. Combat is one of the most consistently exciting and addicting aspects of Octopath Traveler, and it is easily one of my favorite parts of the game.
Now that we’ve covered the parts of Octopath Traveler that are unquestionably great, let’s tackle something that’s been a little more divisive: the story. Octopath Traveler, as I’m sure many of you have heard by now, doesn’t have a conventional RPG story where our heroes unite to accomplish a common task. There are no great evils or existential forces pulling our eight heroes together, and for most of the game, their alliance feels like one of convenience more than anything else.
At first, this is very strange. Even after playing for more than 60 hours I still find this approach to be a little weird. It’s a neat idea, for sure, but I feel that the execution could have been better, because there are points where the disjointed narrative just feels like a slog that isn’t really going anywhere.
The stories themselves range from dark to more lighthearted, at least at the start. Primrose the dancer, for instance, is on a quest of vengeance. Her goal is to kill the three men who assassinated her father and usurped his throne when she was a child, and it’s suggested very early on that she’s lived a horrifying life while she waits for the right time to exact her revenge. Tressa, on the other hand, is an all around cheery girl who one day decides to leave her quiet seaside town and set out on a quest to see the world and hone her skills as a merchant.
In general, the stories are all engaging to some degree, but inevitably, you end up becoming invested in some more than others. For me, at least, this resulted in something of a lopsided experience where I was immersed at some points and bored at others. I don’t expect this will be the case for everyone, and indeed, I have a feeling that some will appreciate every story for what it offers.
That isn’t to say that some characters are somehow more valuable than others. Even if you’re like me and you find that some of these mini-narratives leave something to be desired, there’s plenty of reason to recruit every character in the game and see what their story holds. Each character starts the game with one of eight different jobs, and those jobs grant a unique path action. You’ll use these path actions to complete quests and interact with NPCs.
Once you get to chapter two, you can begin assigning sub-jobs to your heroes, which gives you a lot of flexibility in crafting your team. Even though you have this ability, heroes will still have capabilities unique to them. For instance, even though you may have someone pivot into the Alchemist sub-job, Alfyn is the only one who can concoct alchemical creations in battle. Tressa, meanwhile, will sometimes find money left behind by others when you enter an area, which is something only she can do. This means that it’s worthwhile to rotate through all eight characters as you play, rather than just sticking with the same group of four throughout the entire game.
It’s a cool system and I’m happy to have a reason to cycle through all eight characters throughout the course of the playthrough, but I just wish the payoff for doing so was better. Working your way through all eight stories takes a long time, and while the writing is decent, I don’t think it’s particularly great. There’s a lot of it too, so expect to have some serious downtime if you intend to see all this game has to offer in a single playthrough.
With that in mind, if you’re looking for a game you can really sink your teeth into, this is it. There’s dozens and dozens of hours of content in the main portion of the game alone, and total playtime is extended further by the number of extra areas to explore and plenty of side quests to complete.
One thing I particularly like about Octopath Traveler is that there aren’t really any waypoints – you’re simply told which city to go to in order to begin the next chapter in a certain character’s story, but beyond that, you’re on your own. When an NPC gives you a side quest, you’re left mostly unassisted in figuring it out, and there’s something novel about that here in 2023. This approach, I feel, makes you appreciate the game world as whole, since you’re not simply running from waypoint to waypoint and forgetting to explore.
Best Prices Today: SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD
Well, that didn’t take long. A few short weeks after reviewing the Samsung T7, SanDisk’s Extreme Portable Pro SSD (1TB) showed up at our door and easily surpassed its rival for the top-performing USB 3.1 Gen 2 drive. SanDisk’s drive doesn’t offer the T7’s handy and fun fingerprint security, but it’s about the same price and offers software-based password protection if security is a concern.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best external drives. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.Design and features
Close rival, not quite as fast
Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch (500GB)
Read our review
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The Extreme Pro Portable is designed with an aluminum chassis and ABS top, and is IP55-rated (Ingress Protection), meaning it will fend off dust and low-pressure water. The ingress weak spot with storage devices has historically been the connection port, but Type-C ports, such as the one on the Extreme Pro, are far better sealed than previous types.
Note that the IP rating indicates survivability when disconnected. With electricity flowing through a cable connection, fluid can short cable pins, causing electronic damage.
SanDisk’s Extreme Pro Portable SSD has an aluminum (the orange parts) chassis with a dimpled ABS cover.
The Extreme Pro Portable SSD lacks the fingerprint reader that graces the Samsung T7; however, it does come with SanDisk’s own SecureAccess software security solution. It provides password protection for the drive’s 256-bit AES encryption (when enabled), though it must, of course, be installed on any device or PC from which you wish to access your data—not as convenient. Neither drive is FIPS 140-2 certified (Federal Information Processing Standards security), which will limit enterprise interest and rule it out for conforming government agencies.
Cheaper but slower predecessor
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD (1TB)
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Why is the Extreme Pro Portable so fast? While it does transfer data via speedy USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 gigabits per second), it’s likely far more important that the internal storage uses the NVMe communications standard, instead of the slower SATA standard used by its Extreme Portable SSD predecessor. Beyond that, SanDisk offered no details, and I didn’t want to destroy the drive to find out what’s inside.
The WD store (SanDisk’s parent company) sells the Extreme Pro Portable in three sizes: 500GB for $120Remove non-product link currently, 1TB for $230Remove non-product link currently (the size we tested), and 2TB for $430Remove non-product link currently. We found the same prices on major online sites: 500GB for $120 on AmazonRemove non-product link and 1TB for $230 on Amazon. The five-year warranty is in effect no matter where you buy.Performance
In CrystalDiskMark, the Extreme Pro was rated as far faster than its predecessor and Samsung’s T5, but only marginaly faster than Samsung’s newer T7. Longer bars are better. Note that this chart was corrected after initial publishing to show the T5’s true, and lesser performance.
Though it was slightly slower than Samsung T7’s reading, the Extreme Pro Portable blasted its rival when it came to writing. Shorter bars are better.
The Pro version of the Extreme Portable rules when it comes to long sustained writes. No other USB SSD we’ve tested even comes close. Shorter bars are better.
The primary reason for the landslide victory was that the Extreme Pro Portable wrote at a relatively steady 600MBps or so, while the T7 started at over 500MBps and dropped to around 300MBps when it ran out of cache. That occurred at around 4 percent of total capacity, or the 20GB mark with the 500GB T7 we tested. More capacious models of the T7 will run out of cache later in the process, narrowing but not eliminating the margin of defeat.
Testing is performed on Windows 10, 64-bit running on a Core i7-5820K/Asus X99 Deluxe system with four 16GB Kingston 2666MHz DDR4 modules, a Zotac (NVidia) GT 710 1GB x2 PCIe graphics card, and an Asmedia ASM2142 USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) card. Also on board are a Gigabyte GC-Alpine Thunderbolt 3 card and Softperfect’s Ramdisk 3.4.6, which is used for the 48GB read and write tests.It’s the winner
The Sandisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD is faster and only a bit larger that the Samsung T7. I admit that I enjoy the Samsung T7’s fingerprint swiper, but otherwise, the Sandisk Extreme Portable Pro is the portable USB SSD you want when you’re dealing with large amounts of data.
This article was edited on 2/27/2023 to correct the discussion and chart for CrystalDiskMark which showed the Samsung T5 as being much faster than it actually is.
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