Put an SSD in your pocket and you’ll sail through Boot Camp.

VisionTek's USB Pocket SSD gives you 120GB of super-fast storage. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Need bags of speedy storage you can take with you anywhere you go? With VisionTek’s USB Pocket SSD, you get a bus-powered solid-state drive that’s small enough to fit in your palm, and fast enough for almost anything.

I’ve been using one as a Windows drive for my Mac for the past few months; let me tell you why it’s been great.

I’ve always taken advantage of the Boot Camp feature built into OS X to access Windows apps and play a few games when I need them. But until I built a Hackintosh late last year, I had been using a MacBook Air with just 128GB of storage for everything.

Using 50GB of that storage for Windows proved to be a constant headache. I was forever running out of storage in my Mac and Windows partitions, and having to clear out large files became a frequent chore. Then VisionTek sent me the USB Pocket SSD to play with.

I’d always thought running Windows on an external drive was just too problematic — not only because it’s almost impossible to do with a traditional spinning drive, but also because it would be too slow to use. But because the Pocket SSD uses flash storage, it’s not slow at all, and it works a lot like an internal drive.

The Pocket SSD is super-small. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Getting it set up as a bootable Windows was tricky; I had to follow a lengthy how-to guide just to get the OS and Boot Camp drivers installed on the SSD. The process took a couple of hours — plus another Windows machine. You cannot use the Boot Camp wizard like you normally would.

But once you clear that hurdle, it’s pretty much plain sailing. You can plug the Pocket SSD into your Mac, start up the machine while holding down the option key, then select your external drive to boot into Windows.

This brings all kinds of advantages. The most important one for me was that I could use Windows — with 120GB of storage — without eating into any of the storage space on my MacBook Air. I could install games, download movies and music (not too many, mind you) and store all my important files locally. Plus, I didn’t need to worry so much about running out of space.

The other advantage is that the Pocket SSD lets you take your Windows drive anywhere, and access its contents at any time. If I wanted to boot Windows on another Mac, it took just a couple of minutes. And if I wanted a file from my Windows drive while working in OS X, I just had to plug it in and find it.

Running Windows from the Pocket SSD was surprisingly snappy. I did a Parkdale speed test between the Pocket SSD and a 1TB Western Digital Blue hard drive I purchased for my Hackintosh, and you might be surprised by the results.

While there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the two in sequential read and write speeds, the Pocket SSD actually ran significantly faster on random read and write speeds. While my WD drive achieved 2.5Mbps and 962.2Kbps respectively, the Pocket SSD achieved a staggering 38.5Mbps and 18.2Mbps.

Having a built-in SSD would certainly be faster, but for many tasks, the Pocket SSD can actually be quicker than a built-in spinning drive.

Speed test results: Pocket SSD (left) versus 1TB Western Digital HDD. Screenshots: Cult of Mac

According to VisionTek, the Pocket SSD can achieve read speeds of up to 455Mbps and write speeds of up to 440Mbps.

Not only is it great for a Windows drive, then, but it’s terrific for adding extra storage to your existing setup. You could use it to store large files like movies and games, and access them much more quickly than you could if they were stored on a traditional hard drive.

When I finally got around to adding a built-in SSD for my Hackintosh, I used the Pocket SSD as an install drive for OS X Yosemite. Installing the entire OS from one SSD to another made the whole process incredibly fast.

The downside to SSDs is the price. The Pocket SSD is available in 120GB and 240GB options, priced at $109.99 and $174.99 respectively. For just $95.99, you could get a Western Digital Elements portable hard drive with 2TB of storage.

There’s no doubt that the Pocket SSD is a terrific portable drive — I wouldn’t be without it now — but whether it’s worth its price tag all depends on what’s most important to you: speed or space.

If you need to transfer large files quickly, get a Pocket SSD. If you need to store your entire iTunes library and only access one song at a time, get a traditional spinning drive, save some cash and never worry about running out of space again.


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