CalDigit Tuff 1TB SSD comes out on top

Shooting film outdoors can be a lot of fun, but it’s detrimental to your equipment if the weather turns against you. That’s why companies like LaCie, CalDigit and G-Technology make these rugged drives you can toss around, drop and submerge. CalDigit’s bus-powered portable Tuff drive is a fine example of a really tough drive. It’s now available in 1TB format with an SSD drive inside.

I took a CalDigit Tuff 1TB SSD with me on a day’s shooting in the woods. The Tuff series is the most rugged of all portables on the market. LaCie’s and G-Tech’s are made for careless handling, the Tuff’s are made for abuse. It’s the only drive I know of that is shipped with a rugged — and I do mean rugged — protective archive case. They all come with a USB Type-C port that is also compatible with Thunderbolt 3. With SSD portable drives, ruggedness matters less than with those having hard disk drives on the inside, but SSDs are still somewhat vulnerable unless they come in a solid aluminium casing (which most don’t; a sheet of bent flimsy metal doesn’t count), so it’s kind of reassuring the SSD version doesn’t skimp in this area.

Every Tuff is equipped with intelligent power management. CalDigit’s power management system makes sure the drive receives the power it needs, even if there are other devices on the bus. The CalDigit Tuff 2TB with 2.5in hard drives inside came with two 20cm cables. The Tuff 1TB SSD comes with two 50cm cables, which is much better.

The shock protection of the grass green Tuff 1TB SSD complies with military standard MIL-STD-810G. It also has full IP57 certification, so it’s waterproof and dust proof. Due to these certifications, you can’t open the Tuff to see what’s inside, so I couldn’t find out which brand of SSDs CalDigit is using without breaking the device — and probably the SSD as well.

What I can say is that it will be very hard to break these portable drives. I dropped them on wooden planks from one metre and they would just start up again and work as if nothing happened. Also the IP57 certification ensures you can submerge these drives and try to get them out of the water at your leisure. This extreme ruggedness may seem like overkill when you mainly shoot on Cornwall’s lovely Tremough university grounds, but it is a bare necessity when your preferred environment is the Australian outback.

Overkill is relative, but throughput speed is not. The speed of the hard disk version is good, but the SSD model is far better, albeit not that far better when you connect the Tuff to a USB 3.1 port. I first ran a Blackmagic Design Disk Speed Test with the USB 3.1 connection and it resulted in a decent write speed of 244MB/sec and a read speed of 331MB/sec.

However, when I connected the Tuff to a Thunderbolt (gen.1) port via an adapter, its performance went through the roof as you’d expect from a bare SSD: 474.5MB/sec write speed and 495MB/sec read speed. CalDigit claims a theoretical maximum throughput speed of 540MB/sec, so my tests weren’t far off. It’s one of the reasons why I like CalDigit so much: their claims are never far off.

The Tuff 2TB HDD version was silent, but if you got really close to the unit — ear on the aluminium — you could hear a faint spinning of disks. The Tuff 1TB SSD is 100% silent.

The Tuff 1TB SSD isn’t the cheapest kid on the block. The closest G-Technology offering, for example — the G-Drive ev RAW SSD — costs around €450, while the Tuff costs €550. However, the comparison isn’t 100% fair:

  • The G-Tech’s maximum throughput speed is about 100MB/sec less than the Tuff
  • Its robustness is a good deal less impressive
  • G-Tech’s offering isn’t Thunderbolt 3 compatible.

It all depends on your needs, of course, but to me it looks like the Tuff 1TB SSD comes out on top.

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