The OWC Envoy Pro EX With USB-C ($259 for the 1TB version tested; USB 3.0 Type-A models cost a bit less) is a durable external SSD that doesn’t compromise on style, offering up a variety of storage options in a discreet, minimalist package. While other durable drives might opt for big rubber casings to keep their data safe, OWC’s approach is one of strength built from the inside out. The guts are encased in an anodized aluminum shell that’s IP67-rated as both shockproof and waterproof (the latter up to a depth of one meter). The drive doesn’t need any special cap or seal to keep the USB-C port safe from dust and, while it’s a bit more expensive than our Editors’ Choice, the ADATA SE800, it falls within a close enough range to merit a second look.
These days, durable external drives fall into two distinct camps: sleek and metallic, or encased in about six layers of rubber, plus some bumpers for good measure. The Envoy Pro EX opts for the former, with an 0.4-by-2.6-by-4.5-inch anodized aluminum casing that comes in one color choice: straight-up silver. OWC being a longtime maker of accessories for Macs, this Envoy drive complements Mac laptops nicely, but you can use it with Windows PCs just as well.
The drive carries an IP67 waterproof rating, which means it can survive immersion in up to 3.2 feet (one meter) of water. You can accidentally dunk the drive anywhere, and as long as it’s not in use or plugged into a computer at the time of the plunge, you’ll have about half an hour to fish it out. The drive is also durable, with a shockproof outer shell that feels sturdy and strong in the hand. (See our explainer on gadget ruggedness ratings.)
The Envoy Pro EX is supported by OWC’s various software options, including MacDrive, which simplifies the process of moving data between macOS and Windows operating systems, and Disk Aware, which gives you a detailed breakdown of which files are taking up the most space on your drive.
The Envoy line of portable SSDs from OWC includes three different models, each with different connection types and durability ratings. I mentioned the USB Type-A version up top, and then there’s the USB-C tested here. Last, an Envoy Pro EX with Thunderbolt 3 offers much faster throughput (it’s rated to be nearly three times as fast as the USB-C version we tested), as well as a rubber casing that’s softer in a fall than our unit’s all-metal exterior.
At about 25 cents per gigabyte, the Envoy Pro EX With USB-C is definitely on the expensive end of the durable and sleek external SSDs and hard drives we’ve tested. However, its street price is only 2 or 3 cents per gigabyte more than our current leader in the rugged-drive space, the ADATA SE800.
All versions of the Envoy Pro EX are backed up by OWC with a three-year warranty, which tops what you find in some other rugged external drives.
But how did the drive handle our performance-testing regimen? Let’s move onto the benchmarks…
The Fastest Available?
OWC bills the Envoy Pro EX as the fastest USB Type-C SSD on the market. It’s compatible with either a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C-to-C cable or a Type-C-to-A (USB 3.0) one, the latter in case your computer doesn’t have a USB-C port. However, OWC bundles only the USB C-to-C cable in the box. We’d like to have seen both, especially given the drive’s premium price, but, in fairness to OWC, that cable choice befits a Mac-oriented drive expected to be connected, in many cases, to Mac laptops with USB-C ports only.
The NVMe M.2 SSD inside the Envoy is rated for a maximum transfer rate of 980MBps; it fell just shy of that in our testing, but it was within the margin of error. The other drives charted here below are also USB 3.2 Gen 2 models with PCI Express innards. These drives are in a class of their own, in contrast to earlier external SSDs based on SATA technology. Those drives tend to top out hundreds of megabytes per second below these USB 3.2 Gen 2 ones.
BlackMagic 3.1 Disk Speed Test
The Mac-only BlackMagic drive testing utility was created by an Australian producer of video software and hardware, and it is often used to help videographers gauge how a drive will perform when working with large video files.
Here, the Envoy Pro EX gets off to a great start, setting a pace that’s just a few points off the closest competition.
PCMag Folder Drag-and-Drop Test
In our classic stopwatch test, we copy a 1.2GB test folder containing several different file types from our testbed PC to the external drive. This test offers a good real-world check on transfer speeds. Like the test above, it’s done under macOS, on a 2016 Apple MacBook Pro testbed laptop.
Here, the drive was about a second slower than others we’ve tested, but let’s be real: Are you really going to notice?
The PCMark 8 Storage subtest measures a drive’s performance under typical workloads such as videoconferencing and word processing.
Here, the drive was in the middle of the scoring spectrum, well within range to prove that it has what it takes to keep up with this set of competitive drives in everyday operations.
Crystal DiskMark’s sequential read/write tests measure the performance of a drive as it handles large contiguous blocks of data. Here, the ADATA SE760’s read score of 960 was the leader of the pack, but the OWC was trivially behind it.
While the OWC is technically not the fastest USB Type-C drive we’ve ever tested, the differences in speed among all of these USB 3.2 Gen 2, PCI Express-based models are so minimal that you’d really need to be looming over the drives with a stopwatch to detect them. And even then, you might not.
A Great Choice at the Top End
The Envoy Pro EX line of external storage drives are at the top end of the external SSD spectrum in almost every way, including design, ruggedness, and build quality. And their price tags reflect that.
While the USB-C drive we tested may be a bit on the pricey side, it’s hardy and elegant, and it will do equally well in an office environment as it will stuffed in a backpack while you’re hiking through Yosemite. It’s an especially fine complement to a late-model MacBook Pro or Air.
Indeed, it covers every aspect of what 90 percent of external storage shoppers could want. And just in case the “slower” speeds of the USB-C version don’t cut the mustard for your frequent transfers of 4K video files or RAW photos, OWC also offers a Thunderbolt 3 version, if you have access to that interface. In the silver guise we tested, though, the Envoy Pro EX With USB-C is well worth your attention.
OWC Envoy Pro EX With USB-C Specs
|Internal or External||external|
|Internal Form Factor||NVMe|
|Interface (Computer Side)||USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C|
|Capacity (Tested)||1 TB|
|Bus Type||PCI Express 3.0 x4|
|Rated Maximum Sequential Read||980 MBps|
|Warranty Length||3 years|