- Solid Enclosure that can take a beat
- Toolless opening mechanism
- Impressive performance and Speeds
- DRAM Buffering and SLC is like a Cherry on top
- Pricey but Justifiable
- User Friendly Upgradability
- USB-C to A cable inclusion would have been nicer
- Only comes in one storage choice only
When we bring up about the ROG Strix Arion on its own, its no surprise that the product has been around for a while and its one of the nicest and feisty little SSD enclosure to ever exist. But usually, most consumers don’t need an enclosure, but they need an external drive. So, ROG went back to the board and added the fastest SSD they could pair it up with. Let’s check out more about it in this ROG Strix Arion S500 Review.
Looks and Feel
Among all the other previous portable SSDs we have reviewed, the ROG Strix Arion S500 has the most solid build with their own gaming design to go along with it. Obviously, it’s a Republic of Gamers product and as the name suggests, it does have that flair to it. It just doesn’t end on the rugged looking design by the way. On the top, you will notice that it has a white logo and a little piece of plastic in between the gaps where you could technically hook it to a loop keychain. Now that is RGB, and it too supports ASUS AURA Sync – a bit over the top but why not. Personally, I like it.
Once you do get a hold of it, the SSD has a significant weight to it as the enclosure is made out of an aluminum alloy chassis. Inside it has a thermal pad to help with the heat dissipation – which we will talk about it later. Otherwise, the ROG Strix Arion S500 is pretty solid in the looks and feel department.
Inside the Box
Inside the box, you get a user manual, a redeemable code for the bundled NTI Backup Now EZ Software and a USB-C to C cable. No presence of USB-A to C which you can always purchase and honestly no need for it as most of the devices are heading into the USB-C era already.
As for what it holds under the hood, there isn’t much to say as its an external SSD but there are some noticeably good things about it:
- 500GB PCIe NVMe SSD with DRAM and SLC Cache
- Aluminum Alloy Chassis and Thermal Pad
- USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 Port for Connectivity
It also comes with an ROG Toolkit software that allows you manage the drives SMART feature, formatting and so on.
What’s impressive right out of the bat with the ROG Strix Arion S500 is that the 500GB SSD that it comes with is a proper SLC SSD with DRAM cache – now what that means is that: SLC SSDs are literally the highest tier in the whole of NANDs as they have the highest endurance at about 100,000 P/E cycles – which is longer than other MLC and TLC drives. If you are wondering why, it only comes in 500GB, SLC drives have low data density. Therefore, its limited to a 500GB configuration. If the capacity goes higher, well – the cost of it gets much more expensive. The fact that ROG chose to go with SLC with an acceptable storage capacity, is absolutely commendable.
Now on to the performance. As always, we do two tests: Synthetic Benchmark and Real-world test.
Starting off with the Synthetic Benchmark, we used two software: ATTO Benchmark and CrystalDiskMark. In CrystalDiskMark, the ROG Strix Arion S500 really gave an impressionable result with sequential reads of 1011MB/s and write speeds of 980MB/s in SEQ1M 8-Queues and 1-Thread. In 1-Queue and 1-Thread – the performance usually goes down but, in this case, this is an acceptable speed as it still holds up well at ½ the speeds of the 8Q1T in reads and writes – proving the SLC capabilities. Moving onto ATTO Benchmark, you can see the performance gap and the difference in reads and write speeds are almost indistinguishable at the very end from 512KB till 64MB.
Moving onto real-world test, its important to know few factors that won’t give you the performance as you see here: for one, the USB-C to C cable it comes with has the potential to handle the said speed and using a different one with less rated speeds will perform as such. Secondly, if you do get a full-size USB-A to C for convenience, the speed will not tally up to the C-to-C performance due to bandwidth limitations on USB-A. Finally, the port you connect on your PC or laptop via USB C should be of the USB 3.2 Gen 2 kind.
With that out of the way, we tested the real-world transfer speeds on the ASUS ExpertBook B9 as it has a proper thunderbolt port with 10Gbps speeds. We moved a folder consisting of shows totaling up to a capacity of 20GB and it took about 45 seconds to transfer from the laptop storage to the ROG Strix Arion S500 and the speeds were good the other way around as well.
Teardown and Upgradability
If you remember us mentioning that the Strix Arion was an enclosure first and the S500 made its way into stores later, the enclosure is essentially the same. You’d notice that there are no screws to be found and wonder if its non-user upgradable. Worry not, as the ROG Strix Arion S500 uses a toolless mechanism where users will have to use a SIM pin tool to pop the back and you can see the SSD all in its glory.
Recently the collaboration between ROG and Kingston has been strong and the drive you see in this Strix Arion S500 is a Kingston drive with 4x NAND chips, a PHISON Controller and a Kingston chip with little controllers on the side unlike a DRAM-less drive like the Kingston A2000 or NV1 which lacks those.
You can unscrew them and take the 500GB drive to replace with a much faster drive in the future if that’s what you plan for as it supports both B+M Key SSDs. Pretty amazing and worry not, it doesn’t void the warranty but make sure to put the drive which came with the Arion inside of it.
So, after an eventful day (for me), having a good experience with the ROG Strix Arion S500 – its safe to say that this is a good quality external SSD that doesn’t disappoint in anyway. The part that shocked me is that it comes with DRAM Buffering and uses SLC instead of something like a TLC to save cost. But at RM 559 (vs Transcend’s RM559 ESD350C 480GB), my money is going for ROG Strix Arion S500 because that endurance is what I need. For that, we give the Vesper Choice Award.
Special thanks to ASUS Malaysia for gracing us with the ROG Strix Arion S500 for making this review happen.