Pioneer has been up expanding to other fields of tech. With their announcement earlier this year, we’re seeing more than just car audio products from them. They’ve actually announced a slew of USB-C products – including a card reader dongle, an active hub, and even an external SSD like we have here. Our partners reviewed some of their products – the card reader here, and active-powered dock here. The one we have is the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB external SSD that is powered by a single USB-C connector.

It’s definitely not the first time we’ve seen external SSDs before. Transcend in particular, has one too. This one, however, is the first one to be fully powered by a single USB-C connector. What about the performance? Let’s find out in this review of the Pioneer P1 240GB external SSD codenamed APS-XS02. I guess we’ll just call it the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB for this review.

Unboxing

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

The box itself is rather simple. The Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB comes in this glossy black packaging with beige accents and white texts. Pretty minimalist packaging design, to be honest.

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

At the back, we see some simple specs and feature highlights. Though, these features are pretty much found on every other external hard disk. One thing to note though is that the interface used here is USB-C Gen 2. We’ll talk about it more in-depth later, and put that to the test too.

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

Opening up the box reveals the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB itself wrapped in a plastic bag and placed on a cardboard pedestal. Pretty simple design and gets the job done.

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

Beneath the pedestal is where all of the accessories are found. You get the user manual, a Type-C to Type-A cable, a USB Type-A to Type-C converter, a PU leather pouch, and also a user manual.

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

Actually, it’s a surprise that Pioneer would actually include a USB-A to USB-C converter. It’s especially useful for newer laptops that only come with USB-C ports and those laptops that randomly included a USB-C port.

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

Design

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

In terms of design, the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) is rather simple yet with a unique look. The top part is glossy while the lower part is with a brush aluminium finish. Honestly speaking, I’m still wondering why companies still bother to release products with a glossy finish that is easily scratched. Wouldn’t it be nice if your product would still look great even after years of usage? All they need to do is to stick with a non-gloss surface.

Putting aside the plastic component aside, yes we do have brushed aluminium finish at the bottom half of the SSD enclosure. However, poor finishing on the edges translates to rough and sharp corners which might hurt your fingers.

Then, the white part is actually where the indicator LED will be shining through. Its angles make it look somewhat elegant.

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

Also, we did mention there’s a pouch too. This little pouch is adequate enough to stuff all of the accessories inside it – including the USB-A to USB-C adapter. However, there are no compartments inside.

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

Due to the nature of glossy finishes, the metal parts of the cables will easily scratch the glossy part of the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02).

Benchmark

Since the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) supports USB 3.1 Gen 2, we’ll be testing it on a new, high-end system that has USB 3.1 Gen 2 so that we know the true potential of this portable SSD.

Test System

  • AMD Ryzen 7 1700 @ 3.8GHz
  • 4x 4GB Corsair LPX 2666
  • AsRock X370 Gaming K4 (BIOS 3.5)

Synthetic test

While connected using USB 3.1 Gen 2, the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) performs close to what they advertised (480MB/s Read; 400MB/s Write) but not without any issue. We did realize a drop in the performance while testing with 0 fill data. By that logic, we can say that the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) doesn’t really handle synchronous data that well. Presumably, it’s because of the controller.

We also realized that the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) has quite an inconsistent sequential read/write speed. We received different results when running the same test at different times. Sometimes, the speed actually dropped about 40MB/s in sequential read and write. We solved the issue by replugging the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02), and we suspect that it’s a DRAM issue. It’s annoying nonetheless.

File transfer

We filled in the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) with data, occupying 90% of its capacity. Then, we used the Far Cry Primal installation folder that has a mix of large and small files to test its transfer speeds.

Backwards compatibility with USB 3.1 Gen 1

Before we end the benchmarks, there is something special about the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB. It’s a USB 3.1 Gen 2 device – which means it has a theoretical maximum of 10Gb/s transfer rate. Our test machine supports USB 3.1 Gen 2, hence we got to compare the real differences between USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 on the same motherboard with the same storage device.

From my initial hypothesis, it seems like 10Gb/s is a little overkill for an SSD – and at first sight, it is. 10Gb/s translates to 1.25GB/s. The maximum read/write speed on the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB is only 480MB/s and 400MB/s respectively. That leaves a lot of headroom for the SSD to perform.

We redid the Crystal Disk Mark benchmark at 40% & 90% of its capacity filled with data and ran the random fill on the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB. There is actually a difference in both sequential read and write speeds.

Storage % filled

0%

40%

90%

USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2

Seq. Read (MB/s)

343.904 463.275 400.835 447.998 399.597 354.231

Seq. Write (MB/s)

376.399 428.675 222.941 224.186 221.761 223.187

4KiB Q8T8 Read (IOPS)

24226.6 24700.7 22654.5 23176.8 22613.0 22999.3

4KiB Q8T8 Write (IOPS)

29296.4 31289.1 16291.3 17000.7 16274.4 16998.5

4KiB Q32T1 Read (IOPS)

23529.5 25047.9 22685.5 23234.4 22727.1 23201.7

4KiB Q32T1 Write (IOPS)

29385.7 28662.4 19662.6 20106.2 20105.5 20093.0

4KiB Q1T1 Read (IOPS)

4794.9 5080.1 4676.3 4742.7 4678.0 4749.5

4KiB Q1T1 Write (IOPS

9207.0 9111.3 8825.2 8964.1 9237.1 9281.7

Throughout our analysis, we found out that USB 3.1 Gen 2 does matter. Its sequential read speed is significantly different depending on what USB version it is connected to. Also, I did notice the nonlinear inconsistency of the read/write speed scaling too. As the drive is empty, the read/write speed should be at its top-notch condition. However, that’s not the case with the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB.

Also, it’s worth noting that as files are mostly stored in random 4K chunks, the IOPS on USB 3.1 Gen 2 is consistently higher than USB 3.1 Gen 1, especially in the Q8T8 test.

What’s the holding back the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB? We can only say that it’s the SSD controller’s issue.

Wrapping up the Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB SSD review

It’s an interesting little portable SSD. With such a small size, Pioneer packed a total of 240GB in storage capacity with useful accessories. Though, its performance is indeed a little wonky in our test.

As for the price, it’s RM444 for the 240GB model and RM348 for the 120GB model.
You can find it over at Lazada right here.

Pioneer P1 (APS-XS02) 240GB

Pros

  • Supports USB 3.1 Gen 2
  • Small size
  • Comes with a pouch
  • Includes a USB-A to USB-C adapter
  • Single USB-C

Cons

  • Sharp aluminium edges
  • Parabolic read/write speed scaling with capacity
  • Some inconsistency in the performance

Tech Critter Silver