Transcend Jetdrive820 PCIE Gen3X2 solid-state hard-drive

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Review: 

Upgrade your mac's storage in a Flash...

We all know that Apple isn't the biggest proponent of on-device upgrades, and sending your machine in to get upgraded will likely result in a charge double to that of upgrading it yourself thanks to the travel/labor expenses involved. Yet, you've probably made the mistake of cutting back on storage while maxing out ram and other resources. Sure, many of us went for external hdd's, but let's face it that just isn't going to cut it when running virtual machines. For example, Windows XP only just manages to run, while Windows 10 is simply intolerable. Plus, the data hop between Mac to hard-drive, coupled with the bandwidth limitations of usb or even Thunderbolt, also contribute to the lag. Plenty of portable ssd's exist, but most are bound by Sata limitations because Sata just wasn't meant for ssd's. So in comes PCIE ssd's that are very fast thanks to direct connection with the pciE bus rather than a Sata bridge, yet a bit less likely to break the bank than sending your Mac in.

Transcend JetDrive - unboxing and setup

Before we begin, I put the full make and model of the drive in here because that is the drive I personally own. It is critical that you check the Transcend website listed below to match your make and model with the Mac variant that you use. The ssd is well-packaged, and while the packaging may seem over-the-top for such a small device, you can never be too careful when it comes to packaging bare-metal. Transcend couldn't have done it better. The actual box is soft-touch, with a sleeve over it. After removing the sleeve, you have another box with the ssd housed inside a more-than-secure plastic enclosure, and the two screw-drivers underneath inside the box. Transcend also does well in this department because you don't need to search everywhere for the p5 and t5 screwdrivers needed for the mac. To remove the ssd, remove the top of the plastic shell. Carefully remove the ssd from the enclosure.

Physical Appearance

There's not much to look at here, but this will matter when inserting the drive. The drive is an exposed flash chipset a little longer than a usb flash-drive, but thinner and wider. On the front you will notice, from left to right, a bank of nandflash chips, and a large dram chip. This side faces up when inserting the drive into the Mac. On the back, you will notice some solder-balls which don't serve a purpose most of the time, along with a sticker. This side faces down. On the left side of the drive, opposite the insertion that goes in the PCIE port, you will notice a mounting bracket which is meant to expose the hole in the laptop for the one t5 screw that mounts the drive to the board. On the right side of course is the insertion.

Inserting it into your Mac

Before you do this, you will obviously want to backup your existing drive. Do that in whichever way you prefer, making sure you can restore from it after you have installed your new drive. The following installation instructions are for the Macbook Pro 2015, so your instructions will vary based on your variant. This however will give you an idea of the general procedure. Now, completely power down your mac, unplug it, and to be safe, wait for it to cool down if it's running hot. Now, get out your p5 screwdriver. Note that they are shaped the same, so just try one or the other carefully on the screws, knowing that if it isn't one, it's definitely the other. Note which one you used, however, so you can use the opposite one to unscrew the drive. The first step involves unscrewing the ten screws of the back panel. You will want either a magnetic tray for this, or a box to house the screws, as they are obscenely tiny and you really do not want to lose these. After you've done this, remove the back panel. On my particular Mac, the harddrive was exposed, and was located on the top left side of the board. To remove it, undo the singular t5 screw with the opposite screwdriver and put it in a separate place. Now pull the drive from the PCIE port. Feel free to place the old drive inside the plastic shell at this point. Place your jetdrive inside your mac by connecting it to the PCIE port, then screwing it into place. Now screw the back panel into place, and assuming your mac powers up and allows you to do internet recovery, you're good to go.

Internet Recovery: one of two things that require sighted assistance

Since you are using a brand new drive, the Mac does need to download a recovery image. When the mac powers up, you will be asked for your wifi network and password, so you will absolutely need sighted help for this step. I cannot speak to whether or not an ethernet automatically downloads the recovery, but I would venture to guess that may not be the case, especially on most newer macs that lack an ethernet port. After waiting a few minutes, try command+f5 to enable voiceover, and if you hear speech, you have successfully entered the recovery and are ready for the installation phase.

Preparing the drive and Installing Mac OSx

How you do this depends on a number of factors. Typically if I'm on a new hard drive I always like to start off fresh, pulling files out of my time-machine backup as needed. It is always better to start off a fresh install than a time machine backup. Whichever step you take, the first step is to format the drive. You will need to go into disk utility to format the drive as Mac OS Extended, journaled, with a guid partition scheme. After this, go ahead and proceed with system installation as you normally would.

Jetdrive Toolbox

Jetdrive Toolbox is a management tool designed for ssd's, more specifically Transcend's Simply put, Hard Disk Sentinel is to hdd's as Jetdrive Toolbox is to ssd jetdrives. Unlike Hard Disk Sentinel, however, this software comes free with your Jetdrive purchase and is optimized for those drives in particular. I am extremely happy to say that the software is completely accessible with Voiceover. With this software, you can monitor the drive's statistics that its firmware is aware of, ultimately monitoring the ware level of your drive. This is crucial with ssd's, and this is the kind of warning time you get should your drive show signs of failing. These drives aren't like traditional magnetic hdd's that can fail simply because of a mechanical fault, as there is no platter or flexible arm to fall out of place. The firmware inside the drive tracks the performance statistics of the drive, and most of the time you'll be getting a new laptop before getting a new drive, so not to worry. The only part that is not accessible is upgrading the firmware of the drive. Downloading the firmware works perfectly, but once it comes time to boot from the USB installation media that it creates is where we run into problems. The upgrade program is obviously designed to run pre-boot and burn a new firmware to your drive, thus no voiceover could be included. You will again need sighted help for this as you cannot create an unattended install for this step, but this is not Transcend's fault. Also remember to backup your data before upgrading the firmware of your ssd, as the firmware upgrade will completely format your drive.

Last Step: Enabling Trim

For those who are unfamiliar with ssd's, Trim is the file management cycle that happens when deleting files off an ssd. If this is not performed by the operating system, the ssd's performance will deteriorate overtime. This is because when files are deleted off a drive, the sector where the files reside is simply marked as not-in-use by the operating system. Thus, to fully delete that data, the system needs to overwrite that sector with new data, which is time-consuming, as well as unnecessary overuse of the Flash cells which ultimately slows down your drive's performance. When Trim is enabled, deleting a file sends a Trim command that will do a clean erase of all data remnants on that not-in-use sector, thus making new data copy at full-speed. While Trim is not proprietary, Apple for reasons unknown decided to not allow native Trim support for third party drives for a while now. Thus, Jetdrive Toolbox offered its own Trim implementation, that modified the kernel extension to allow it. Come Mac OS 10.11, their implementation of Trim stopped working, so an app called Trim Enabler was made. Now, even that is no longer required as Mac OS now allows you to natively enable Trim. To do this, fire up terminal, and type: sudo trimforce enable You will get a warning that the command will be executed at your own risk, but this is generally safe. That being said, I would do this right after you install your system, then should disaster strike the data loss will be minimal. AT any rate, type yes when you're ready, and then your mac will tel you that it is now enabling Trim, then warn you that it is about to reboot, so let it do its thing. after a successful reboot, Trim support will be enabled. You can visit your system information report to verify this. Go to utilities, system information, and in the device tree, choose the sata/sata express category. Go into the second table displaying devices under that section, and you should see something that will vary depending on your model, but will generally be the only item in the list. For the record, mine is labeled "TS480GJDM820" Ts as in Transcend, 480g as the storage size, jd as in Jetdrive, m820 as in Jetdrive820. That should help you identify what yours should state. At any rate, go to the static box over to the right which should contain various attributes concerning the drive. What you are hopefully going to hear among this speech is "Trim Support: yes." If you hear that, you're good to go.

Conclusion

Overall, I would highly recommend these drives to anyone looking for a good drive to upgrade their Mac's storage space. Whichever variant you get 240gb, 480gb, and 960gb all have read and writespeeds up to 960mb per second, which is incidentally faster than the stock ssd inside the Mac. Overall I have to give it to Transcend for producing a quality drive that really stands up to its price. It is expensive compared to your average drive, but ssd's, good ssd's in particular, usually are, and you are definitely getting what you paid for.

Devices Accessory Was Used With: 

iPhone

Rating: 

5 Stars

Disclaimer

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2 Comments

#1 Lovely

I can't really aford it right now, but here's fingers crossed for the future, but would like to say a well done review.
I had a question though. this is for the early 2015 mbp retina moddle?
I have the same, and I guess I'd go with this option when my ssd dies or when I can aford an upgrade. :)

#2 yes, it is fully compatible with the 2015 MBP

The early2015 Macbook Pro is exactly what I'm using and it works wonderfully in that machine. You will want to check the compatibility list on their website to see which exact model suits you, but the 820 will definitely work with the 2015. I guess you could attempt to sell the old ssd to recoup some of the expenses, that is if your ssd was alive at the time you were to upgrade.