If you want a speedy portable storage drive, you’re often better served by pairing one of the best SSD enclosures with an SSD of your choosing than by getting one of the best external SSDs. But just like the drives themselves, the enclosures are not all created equal, particularly when you want the fastest possible speeds.
Right now, the quickest enclosures all use a 40 Gbps USB-C connection that’s either labeled as Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 4 or USB 4, which are cross-compatible sort-of. Thunderbolt devices usually can’t work when plugged into the slower: 5, 10 or 20 Gbps USB-C ports that most computers have. But true USB 4 devices are backward compatible with older standards such as USB 3.2 / 3.1.
ZikeDrive, an upcoming USB 4 enclosure from Zike (opens in new tab) (a maker of accessories such as USB hubs and chargers) promises wide compatibility and new speed records, delivering read speeds in the 3,700 MBps range and writes in the neighborhood of 3,100 MBps. The company sent us a pre-production sample to test and we can affirm that it is the fastest enclosure we’ve ever tested and meets its targets.
When we tested an Orico M2V01-C4 USB 4 enclosure with a WD Black SN850X PCIe 4.0 SSD inside, we got sequential read rates of 3,154 MBps and writes of 2,835 MBps on CrystalDiskMark. However, the ZikeDrive, with the same SSD inside ran at 3,791 and 3,158 MBps. Those are improvements of 20.2 and 11.4 percent thanks to the ZikeDrive’s ASMedia ASM2464PD-powered controller.
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When we copied 25GB worth of files using DiskBench, the ZikeDrive read at a rate of 1,270 MBps while the Orico delivered 1,219 MBps. However, the roles were oddly reversed when it came to writing as the Orico drive ran at 712 MBps versus 687 MBps for the ZikeDrive. However, given the wide difference in read rates, the ZikeDrive is clearly the better performer.
Zike just launched an IndieGoGo campaign (opens in new tab), hoping to raise $10,000 for the production of the ZikeDrive in the next 30 days. As of this writing, the company had raised $3,000 in just a few hours, making success seem likely. Early backers get the ZikeDrive for just $99, which is $15 to $50 cheaper than a typical 40 Gbps enclosure goes for. The company estimates that the product will ship as soon as May.
Design of ZikeDrive
At 4.75 x 2.75 x 0.75 inches, the ZikeDrive is a bit bulky in comparison to other enclosures we’ve tested such as the Orico M2V01-C4 (4.8 x 2 x 0.7 inches). However, one reason for the heft is that there’s a 0.75-inch side chamber where you can store the included, 1.5-inch USB-C to USB-C cable. While it’s nice to have a 40 Gbps cable you can stow and take with you, the length is painfully short and you’ll probably want to buy a cable of your own.
The rectangular chassis is made from gunmetal gray aluminum with attractive ridges and some black plastic on the sides and in the cable chamber. Our review unit came with an ugly, non-removable clear plastic casing covering the aluminum that is not visible in the IndieGoGo campaign page product pictures. Zike told us not to try to remove the clear plastic and also said that it would be part of the final product so that’s disappointing.
Installing an SSD in the ZikeDrive is really simple, but you will need a small philips head screwdriver to tighten the screw that holds the SSD down. The enclosure itself doesn’t require any tools to open and close as you just flip up a panel on the top surface to reveal the M.2 slot below it. Conveniently, a heat pad is built into the panel so you don’t need to attach a permanent, sticky pad to drive (like you do on many other enclosures).
How We Tested the ZikeDrive
To test the ZikeDrive, we attached it to our ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 10) testbed laptop’s Thunderbolt 4 port and then ran DiskBench copying a 25GB folder both to and from the drive and CrystalDiskMark. We ran the same tests on the Orico M2V01-C4, which is on our list of best SSD enclosures.
We tested with both the WD Black SN850X (1TB) that ZikeDrive sent us and with our own Kingston Fury Renegade (2TB) SSD. The delta between the two enclosures was similar with both SSDs, but the SN850X had much faster write speeds of (3,158 / 2835 MBps versus 1,606 / 1,422 MBps on the Fury Renegade) presumably because it’s a faster drive.
Both enclosures were also backward compatible with a 10 Gbps USB-C port on our desktop, showing that they meet USB’s standard for backward compatibility.
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Zike claims that the ZikeDrive is the first USB 4 enclosure on the market and faster than Thunderbolt 3 or 4 competitors. However, other enclosures such as the Orico M2V01-C4 are already marketed as USB 4 and deliver backward compatibility with older USB standards.
What we can say is that the ZikeDrive is much faster than the other enclosures we have tested in most scenarios, especially when it comes to read speeds. Write speeds are a bit more of a mixed bag as it is a bit faster on synthetic tests only. Considering that it’s also cheaper than most competitors, the ZikeDrive seems like a really good buy, if you don’t mind placing your bets on an IndieGoGo campaign and dealing with a little extra bulk.