Adventures with a Mac Mini M1

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I bought the base model Mac Mini M1 to replace my aged MacBook Air 2011 and although I wanted a lot of storage capacity, I wanted it sooner and didn’t want to pay the Apple premium of £200 to double it’s capacity or £400 to quadruple the capacity and wait another month for it to be ready.

Samsung NVMe SSD

I took the plunge and bought a Samsung 980 1TB SSD which was fairly cheap off Amazon. 

The reason why this is cheap comes down to the fact that unlike the 970, it is all flash storage and has no DRAM accelerator on it. It’s an EVO, which means it uses the older triple bit technology rather than the QVO that uses the newer 4 bit technology and is gen 3.0 so it’s not the latest gen 4.0 and so it maxes out at 3.5GB/s.

USB SSD Enclosure mistake

I bought a USB 3 SSD enclosure as you can’t upgrade the SSD in the Mac Mini. It cost me around £30 which I had used before for an occasional SSD enclosure that lives in my work bag.

Since it’s USB, it has a maximum speed of 5Gb/s and it was okay but kept disappearing from the Mac whenever I wanted to do something with it. I had installed Parallels and Windows on the SSD, but Windows would stop working occasionally then the drive would disappear.

OWC Thunderbolt 3 SSD enclosure

After having the drive disappear whenever it was needed, I looked around for a suitable replacement. Most Thunderbolt drives are heavily marked up because Thunderbolt is associated with fast speed and markets that can afford that kind of expense. Then I discovered the OWC Envoy Express was just an enclosure where you inserted your own SSD and it was around £70, so within my budget.

It comes with an adhesive plastic holder you can stick on the top of a MacBook so it is out of your way.

Conclusion

USB 3 enclosures with a maximum speed of 5Gb/s equate to the same speed as a SATA SSD.

Thunderbolt 3 on the other hand, which tops out at 40Gb/s equates to 5GB/s which makes it fast enough to transfer 4K or 8K raw video.

It turns out this enclosure tops out at 1.5GB/s but it is fast enough for my needs. OWC do make a pro version in a rugged case that does 2.8GB/s that they dropped on the ground over 25 times from 4ft to test durability. However, at £400 it’s considerably more expensive.

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