Transcend ESD200 review: A fast little external SSD

A very portable SSD with impressive performance but less-than-satisfactory backup software

There are two things about the ESD200 USB 3.0 Portable SSD, Transcend's new external solid-state drive, that impressed me: its speed and its diminutive size.

Conversely, there was one thing that I didn't like about the drive: the somewhat kludgey backup software that you're required to download (rather than it being included on the drive).

A little smaller than a playing card and weighing just 1.9 oz., the ESD200 packs either 128GB or 256GB of storage into a small form factor that also has data management and backup software.

Transcend SSD
Transcend ESD200 USB 3.0 Portable Solid State Drive

The SSD is 3.6 x 2.4 x 0.4 in. and fits nicely into a shirt or pants pocket. A dual-color LED indicator in the top corner of the drive tells you whether your system is using USB 3.0 (blue) or USB 2.0 (green) to connect to it. It ships with a USB 3.0 cable (which was missing from my review unit).

The drive has a one-touch auto-backup button that activates the Transcend Elite data management software, which is also usable on the company's JetFlash USB flash drive and StoreJet external hard drives.

The ESD200 uses MLC NAND flash memory with a lithography size of 21 nanometers. According to Transcend, it boasts a mean-time-between-failures rating of 1 million hours.

The ESD200 is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, as well as Linux (kernel 2.6.31 or later) and OS X (10.4 or later).

Backup process

I'm going to be candid about my feelings with regard to "one-touch" backup drives. I don't like them. They're typically not intuitive to set up.

Unfortunately, the Transcend Elite free backup software doesn't come pre-installed on the drive. You have to go onto Transcend's website, download the backup application, transfer it to the drive, open it and go through more than a half-dozen steps to create your first backup. After that, you can use the physical one-push button on the drive to perform subsequent backups.

The software offers 256-bit AES file encryption, so as you back up and compress your data, it can also be encrypted.

The application lets you back up various types of files and organize them in different categories with a user-customizable Backup Tasks feature. You can also compress large files or encrypt private data simply by adjusting the settings of your existing Backup Tasks. Backups can also be scheduled, and once an initial backup is performed, the rest are incremental -- only the changed data is stored.

Like Apple's Time Machine automated backup feature, Transcend's Elite software is meant to allow you to restore data from any point in time.

The main menu of the Elite backup software has icons for backup, encryption and data restore as well as for managing your data. The management interface allows you to compress, encrypt, move or delete data that has already been backed up.

Once you choose to back up your drive, the task screen will ask you to name your new backup, describe it and then either back it up or back it up and compress it.

Next you'll be asked to pick a source and create a list of files to be backed up. Each file must then be selected in a separate step. Once the list is created, you have to then choose the destination by using a system browser in order to determine where the data will be stored. (Yes, you must pick the Transcend SSD as a backup target; this is what happens when a drive doesn't come in installed with backup software.)

Once the source and target of the backup have been selected, you need only choose "next" and the backup will be created. If you want the one-touch backup button on the SSD to work, you must then click on a circle icon next to the file to indicate that action.

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