Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q USB / Thunderbolt 3 Dual Mode External SSD Review: Yin and Yang

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The external storage market has shown renewed vigor in recent years, thanks in part to growth fueled by bus-powered flash-based storage solutions. The introduction of 3D NAND, coupled with the increasing confidence of manufacturers in QLC (4-bits per cell) has brought down the cost of these drives to the point where even a reasonably spacious external SSD can be had for an equally reasonable price. And though this means that NAND manufacturers like Western Digital, Samsung, and Crucial/Micron have an inherent advantage in terms of vertical integration, the availability of cheap flash in the open market has also enabled other vendors to come up with innovative solutions.

Today, we’re looking at a unique product in the external SSD market – the Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q. A true dual-mode Thunderbolt 3/USB drive, the Rocket XTRM-Q can be natively used with both Thunderbolt 3 and USB hosts. This means that it can deliver speeds over 2GBps on a Thunderbolt 3 connection, or fall back to USB mode and still deliver 1GBps or more with a USB 3.2 Gen 2 connection. Compared to most external SSDs on the market, which are virtually always USB-only or Thunderbolt-only, this allows Sabrent’s drive to offer USB-style universal compatibility while still making the most of the host it’s connected to, using USB when it’s available, or upgrading to Thunderbolt as appropriate to let the drive run as fast as it can.

Meanwhile, not unlike their efforts with internal (M.2) products, Sabrent is also at the leading-edge of storage capacity with the Rocket XTRM-Q, offering versions of the drive with up to 8TB of storage. Overall, the Rocket XTRM-Q is available in capacities ranging from 500GB up to 8TB, with Sabrent using QLC NAND across the family to hit their price and capacity goals.

For this review we’re looking at two of the mid-tier Rocket XTRM-Q models – the 2TB and 4TB models – in order to size up the performance of the drives and see how they stack up against the other products in the market.