AppleInsider is supported by its audience and is eligible to earn an Amazon Associate and Affiliate Partner commission on qualifying purchases. These affiliate partnerships do not influence our editorial content.
The latest version of the OWC Envoy Pro mini USB flash drive embraces the future of aluminum-clad USB-C, offering the right balance of performance and size for tech professionals on the go.
External storage for Mac and iPad Pro can take many forms, including USB flash drive and external SSD complete in one enclosure. While the former is generally smaller, the latter generally offers more in terms of capacity and speed.
Launched in May 2022, the OWC Envoy Pro mini is clearly a double-ended USB drive. But, due to design and engineering choices, it approaches the performance of a larger external SSD.
New Case, New Abilities
OWC is known for creating external storage devices, and this isn’t its first rodeo with USB drives, let alone the Envoy Pro mini itself. Rather than being a completely new product, it’s actually a refresh of a product that OWC has been selling for a few years now.
The previous iteration of the Envoy Pro mini was a simpler affair – it was just a fast USB-A flash drive in an aluminum box. For the 2022 update, OWC decided to make some changes.
For starters, it’s a drive made with an aluminum enclosure, which gives it a premium feel, while helping with heat dissipation. It’s also compact at 3.1 inches long, 0.7 inches wide, and 0.4 inches high, and reasonably light at 0.9 ounces.
The design has radically changed compared to its predecessor by offering two different connections in a single device. One end has an attached cap hiding a USB-C connection, while another section can pull out and twist to show the native 10 gigabit per second USB 3.2 Type-A connector, pivoting on a visible screw inside from a slit.
This second section has a textured pattern on the sides for grip, which will help with both twisting and generally carrying the player itself. On one side a lanyard can be connected – and one is included.
Using two USB connectors means it can offer many connectivity options to users. While USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C can be used with USB-C and Thunderbolt devices, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A allows it to work with older hardware that hasn’t made the switch to newer ones. connections.
On the typical spacing provided on the MacBook Pro, you can install it and a standard-width Thunderbolt cable alongside it. It’s a tight fit, but it works. In most cases, we recommend not do what you see above, if you can avoid it, because removing it can dislodge that other cable quite easily.
According to OWC, the reader covers everything from newer and older Macs, PCs, servers, laptops and other hardware introduced in the last 15 years.
This support includes Macs running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and later, as well as Windows PCs running Windows 7 and systems running Linux, Chrome OS, and iPadOS. On the latter, you can connect it to a USB-C iPad Pro running iPadOS 13 or later.
It’s also possible to configure the drive to be bootable, making it a great transport option for booting up on your own private, portable desktop.
High speed, small size
The previous model boasted high-speed reads and writes for what looked like a typical USB drive. For the 2022 model, OWC has taken the same route.
Inside the Envoy Pro mini is the same flash memory and components you’d expect from a normal larger external SSD, which should make it much more efficient at functioning as a proper secondary drive instead of a normal one. cheaper USB drive that uses slower media.
OWC offers the Envoy Pro mini in three capacities, starting at 250GB and up to 500GB and then 1TB. Our review unit is the 1TB model.
As for the speeds of the drive itself, OWC claimed it could handle up to 946MB of “true speed” sequential read-write. OWC reveals this was achieved with the 250GB drive connected via Thunderbolt to a mid-2017 13-inch MacBook Pro.
OWC also provides its own benchmark screenshots using a 16-inch MacBook Pro from 2019, with Blackmagicdesign’s drive speed test used for USB 3.2 Gen 1 and USB 3.2 Gen 1 connections. OWC’s own results are well below the claimed maximum speed, managing 421.5MB/s write and 410.7MB/s read under Gen 1, 587.5MB/s and 541 .8 MB/s under Gen 2.
AppleInsider its own tests agree with OWC, with 597.0 MB/s writes and 542.0 MB/s reads with just about any file size, sustained, over a five-minute run. Testing was roughly the same when performed both plugged directly into a 2020 Intel NUC running Windows 10, a 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro, a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro, or a CalDigit TS4 Thunderbolt docking station plugged into either Mac.
It’s nowhere near the phenomenally fast NVMe-based external drives, but it’s still more than adequate as a project drive for most video editing and similar creative areas.
Small and mighty
The OWC Envoy Pro mini was more than just a USB drive in its previous incarnations. In its new form, the drive continues its legacy of delivering high transfer speeds, if not necessarily reaching stratospheric NVMe speeds – and that’s fine.
It also brings new tricks, increasing connectivity to cover iPad Pro USB-C models while retaining support for older systems that use USB-A. It also does so in a premium package that offers a striking appearance that’s a cut above your typical small portable player.
You can certainly use it for desktop-to-desktop file transfers, but the OWC Envoy Pro mini can also play in the same realm as proper external SSDs. We don’t think there’s a good price for the performance radio on the smallest size, and, presumably, you could build your own drive with NVMe storage and an enclosure – but that depends on what you’re tuning in to. prime.
OWC has the Envoy Express case for $79. This, more about $100 for a 1TB NVMe SSD, Thunderbolt 3 will ramp up to disk speed, or about 2.8 gigabytes per second, depending on first hit, about the same price as the OWC Envoy Pro mini.
But, what you get with this is a non-removable cable and a significantly larger package. This jumpsuit isn’t something you want to clip to your keychain or throw in your pocket, casually.
Cases like Anker PowerExpand are available for about $30, and you’ll get roughly the same speeds as the Envoy Pro mini given the USB 3.1 Gen 2 enclosure with a detachable cable. But again, it’s even bigger, and not what you’d call a key fob reader.
No product is perfect, there are always compromises. For disks, choose two: small size, large capacity or low price. The two OWC chose here are size and capacity. If you prefer this mix, you’ll like the Envoy Pro mini – at least at the 1TB price.
OWC Envoy Pro mini pros
- Striking premium appearance
- Excellent transfer speeds for a USB flash drive
- High level of connectivity with USB-A and USB-C
OWC Envoy Pro mini disadvantages
- Premium cost
- Speed not quite premium
Rating: 4 out of 5
Where to buy the OWC Envoy Pro mini
The OWC Envoy Pro mini is available at OWC or Amazonstarting at $79 for 250GB, rising to $109 for 500GB and $179 for 1TB.