I/O Magic Black Diamond Series portable SSD review

My latest testing project just wound down, and this was a very interesting one. The 512GB IO Magic Black Diamond Series portable SSD (also available in 1TB with the same functionality but about twice the storage capacity) I’ve been evaluating is packed with the latest memory technology: USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB-C port, M.2 PCIe NVMe x 4 lanes, and 3D NAND flash memory. I/O Magic rates it for maximum data transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps. Pretty impressive for an SSD that resembles an over-sized thumb drive. The Black Diamond SSD is visually striking as well, wrapped in clear plastic that shows off the components inside.

Advanced flash memory technology

There are a lot of acronyms being thrown around in the Black Diamond SSD specifications. It’s worthwhile breaking those down for a clear picture of what’s really on offer here.

I/O Magic Black Diamond Series portable SSD reviewFirst up, SSD. Solid state storage. No moving parts, high speed, and very compact. If you want more details on the difference of SSD versus traditional hard drive storage, check out this primer. Next, M.2 storage. This is a next-generation form factor that let SSDs get even more compact—basically reduced to just the size of the memory chips and some control modules. You can see the M.2 designation in full effect with the IO Magic Black Diamond SSD, with its visible components. If you want to learn more about M.2 storage, this post covers all the basics.

PCIe NVMe? The latest Storage Buying Guide has a section that clearly lays out what this means. In a nutshell, you’re looking at memory that uses the fastest possible system bus to ensure big speed gains, while also reducing both latency and power consumption. That’s all good.

What about 3D NAND? This is a relatively new development in storage. 3D NAND involves cutting chips of silicon to stack in layers, increasing the storage density. Because they can pack more storage in less space, 3D NAND SSDs have allowed manufacturers to release portable solid state storage drives with a higher capacity than ever, without having to grow physically in size.

Add all these acronyms up, and the IO Magic Black Diamond Series portable SSD is tiny, super fast, energy efficient, and stores a lot of data.

Real life performance

I/O Magic Black Diamond Series portable SSD reviewBased on all the technology incorporated in this drive, you would rightly expect to see some truly blazing data transfer performance. IO Magic says a two-hour 4K video should copy in under 20 seconds. Yup, that is very fast.

Here’s where reality rains on the parade a bit. If your PC is equipped with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB-C port and its operating system is up to the task, yes you could see those kind of speeds.

The computers I had available for testing didn’t fall under that umbrella, though, and that meant real life performance was less impressive. I connected to a Mac with USB Type-A ports. In that scenario, a 1080p video (roughly 10GB) and a fraction the size of a two-hour 4K video took about 56 seconds to copy to the Black Diamond SSD. That’s nothing to complain about, but clearly not making the most of that high performance tech.

Next up, I plugged it into a Chromebook equipped with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB-C port. That port satisfies the requirements to get those ultra-fast transfer speeds. Unfortunately, Chrome OS doesn’t currently do the best job of managing large file transfers. So that 10GB file that took just under a minute on the Mac took over five minutes on the Chromebook—despite having the latest and greatest high-speed USB-C ports.

Don’t blame the IO Magic Black Diamond Series portable SSD for these performances. But do be aware that many PCs out there simply don’t have the hardware/OS support to take full advantage of what’s available. 


IO Magic Black Diamond Series SSD Key Specs:

  • External, portable SSD
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB-C port
  • 3D NAND flash memory
  • M.2 PCIe NVMe x 4 lanes
  • Maximum R/W speeds of 950 MB/s and 1050 MB/s sustained speeds of up to 10Gbps
  • Incudes USB-C cable, USB-C to USB Type A cable
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac and Android

Note, review sample was a 512GB unit, there is also a 1TB Black Diamond version available.


Is this your new portable SSD?

I have always argued that every PC owner needs an external drive. Have external storage is simply the best way to ensure you always back up your computer; and have instant, complete access to that data should you ever need to recover it. An SSD only makes the value proposition even better, No noise, no heat, no power brick, and very little loss of desktop space. Portable is the ultimate solution, giving the added ability to take data with you to work on other computers—much easier than trying to electronically transfer massive files like movies.

So a portable SSD just makes sense, especially now that the technology has advanced to the point where prices are down and capacities are up.

The IO Magic Black Diamond Series SSD is a very compelling choice. The version I tested has 512GB of capacity, which is more than enough for many laptop or PC backups. If you need more capacity, there is a 1TB version available as well. 

If you have a new PC with a USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB-C port, you should be able to take full advantage of this drive’s blazing data transfer speeds. If your computer is older, advanced technology like “M.2 PCIe NVMe x 4 lanes” may not make any appreciable difference. That being said, the Black Diamond would still make for a compelling choice thanks to its high capacity and tiny form factor.

Finally, if you’re tired of the standard glossy black hard drive enclosure, you might find the Black Diamond a refreshing visual change as well. It’s not just tiny. The see-though clear plastic enclosure with LED activity lights is a bit of a conversation-starter, and definitely not boring.

If you’re in the market for a new external drive, this one is definitely worth checking out. 

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.

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