Samsung's new T7 Touch has a sleek, speedy and secure feature set

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Tue January 21, 2020

We're big fans of what Samsung has already offered in the external hard drive market. The T5 external drive packs a fast solid state drive into a build about the size of a stack of credit cards. So the logical steps for improvement are to go faster and sleeker, right?

Well, Samsung checked half of those boxes with the T7 Touch — the successor to the T5 and the latest portable SSD from the company. It's twice as fast as the T5, but it keeps a similar design language. It also adds in a fingerprint sensor for an added layer of security. Oh, and it increases the price, while the T5 remains in the line.

We've tested the T7 in a variety of situations, including data transfer tests, and it's time to lay out how the T7 performs, and if it makes sense to stick with the T5 or upgrade to a T7 drive.

A similar sleek build

Samsung keeps a design language that works. The T7 keeps an aluminum outer shell that is matte to the touch and protects the SSD on the inside. It's slightly heavier than the T5, at 2 ounces compared with 1.8 ounces. And it measures 3.4 by 2.2 by 0.3 inches, which is still close to a stack of credit cards. It's totally portable and extremely pocket-friendly, even for skinny jeans.

And it's a durable design. I dropped it a few times, on both carpeted and wood surfaces from heights of about 2 to 3 feet, and it didn't scratch the unit. Samsung rates the T7 for drops up to 6.6 feet, or 2 meters. It's an impressive claim and goes back to the aluminum outer shell that protects the internal SSD. There are, of course, more layers on the inside that can absorb the force of drops, as well as heat that the drive might produce.

The top of the T7 features a square fingerprint sensor with an LED rim. This lighting feature is used as an indicator when the drive is working or when it is just plugged into a device — tablet, laptop, desktop computer or even Android phone. The top side features a USB Type C port that is rated for USB 3.2 Generation 2 — and this is a specification that allows for transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

Essentially, that means fast editing off the drive and even faster speeds when moving files from a device to the T7 or vice versa.

The other side of the T7 has some regulatory information, the serial number and the size of the T7. I've been testing the 1TB variant, but it also comes in 512GB and 2TB models. The more storage, the more expensive the T7 will get.

And unlike Samsung's T5, which comes in an array of fun colors like red, the T7 only comes in silver or black, at least at launch. There's always a chance that more colors could launch, but I've been digging the silver model.

Really fast speeds

Inside the T7 Portable SSD is either a 500GB, 1TB or 2TB flash solid state drive. Samsung says you can get speeds of up to 1,050 Mbps for read and 1,000 Mbps for write. Those are fast, which in part is made possible by USB 3.2 Generation 2 that provides the needed interface.

It's also twice as fast as the T5. With a new Time Machine backup of just under 300GB from a 16-inch MacBook Pro, I saw a 30-minute faster completion with the T7 over the T5. Keep in mind that Time Machine has to index files and uses a proprietary method for backing up, but at the end of the day, you end up gaining time.

I also tried exporting both 4K and 8K video files from Final Cut Pro to the T7 and then editing off that file. It was smooth with noticeable frame rates being dropped. I used this in conjunction with the 16-inch MacBook Pro and was able to play those files back on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ with the T7 hardwired via USB-C to USB-C. It was fast on both devices.

You can even play games off of the SSD, courtesy of a service like Steam, or if you just save the file to the T7. It docks to your device like any other external hard drive. That makes a big difference for large data transfers, but unless you need those really fast speeds, you can likely save money and opt for the T5.

Lock or unlock with your finger

In addition to speeds twice as fast as the T5 SSD, Samsung's other big addition with the T7 is the fingerprint sensor. It's one way to ensure that you're the only one who can access your data. The setup is familiar to anyone who's set up fingerprint unlock on a Galaxy phone or Touch ID on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.

When you plug the T7 into your Mac or Windows PC, you'll notice an application install file on the drive. Simply install that and you'll be ready to go with the Samsung Portable SSD application. It took me a few tries to get the application working, but these issues should be solved by the time the T7 drives ship.

You start by naming your T7 drive — I opted for Jake's T7 Touch — and you can choose the security mode. Samsung lets you turn it off, use a password or a password with the fingerprint. I choose the latter, confirmed my password twice and then it asked me to start the fingerprint process. You'll hold the T7 vertically and place your chosen finger up and down on the sensor a few times, and then do the outer regions. It's very similar to setting up any other unlock. And after that's done, you're ready to go.

When you plug your T7 into a device, the square ring around the sensor will glow, and you'll need to unlock before it mounts to the connected device. It works well and generally unlocks after a successful match in less than two seconds. It's impressive, and for those who need the extra security, it's an added bonus and a tangible one. It feels a bit more secure than just a written password or even an encrypted device, and while it might be a placebo effect, at least it's an added layer of security.

Bottom line

The Samsung T7's starting price of $129.99 is only $32 more than the MSRP of the T5. For that price, you're getting nearly twice the speeds of the T5, a newer SSD inside with a tough outer shell, and an extra layer of security via a physical fingerprint sensor.

I'm a big fan of having the extra layer of security, especially if I'm transporting or working with confidential documents, but it's not a requirement for everyone. You can, of course, turn it off if you don't want to use it, or just not even set it up. The speeds, however, are noticeable, and it can cut down on transfer times and even the length of editing projects.

If value is on your mind, the T5s are regularly discounted. Samsung and Amazon have the 500GB for $89.99. Chances are it will be a few months before the T7 sees a discount, but Underscored will let you know when that happens.

In the meantime, Samsung's T7 is available now at $129.99 for 500GB, $229.99 for 1TB and $399.99 for 2TB.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed prices at the time of publication.