Quick Look: Silverstone TS16 SSD to USB-C External Docking Station 3

Quick Look: Silverstone TS16 SSD to USB-C External Docking Station

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Introduction

SilverStone Logo

Silverstone has made a name for itself trying different things out, be it audio accessories, such as some excellent headphone stands everyone is sleeping on, random USB chargers of various form factors, and even monitor stands/arms I hadn't been aware of until I visited the company website to find such examples. Each time I visited Silverstone at a trade show, there was a whole new family of accessories, especially anything to do with USB Type-C. So when I was asked whether there was any interest in covering an M.2 SSD dock/enclosure, one that was an external open docking station at that, how could I refuse?


Look at this thing! The Silverstone SST-TS16 has a very long name I won't go into, but suffice it to say that this is quite unlike any other such SSD enclosure I have seen and used to date. This particular version is a desktop docking station where you can effectively hot-swap NVMe or SATA M.2 SSDs similar to a USB card reader, such as the Kingston Workflow station we saw earlier this year. The primary reason the Silverstone TS16 adopts this open layout is to allow M.2 SSDs with integrated heatsinks to fit just fine, and that is a neat feature in itself. I recently found myself in possession of two different M.2 NVMe SSDs I am using with the TS16—the excellent SK Hynix Gold P31 we reviewed in both the 1 TB and 2 TB flavors and CORSAIR MP600 PRO reviewed in the air-cooled version. Thanks to Silverstone, SK Hynix, and CORSAIR for helping make this article happen!

Packaging and Accessories


Packaging for the Silverstone TS16 may be on the smaller side overall, but is still larger than expected for such SSD enclosures. It's predominantly white with the Silverstone logo on the front to go with a render of the product itself. Some salient marketing features are also listed here, and then there's the full product name that takes up three whole lines. Now you know why I took journalistic liberty with the article title! More features and product specifications are seen on the back, and seals on the sides keep the contents inside in place during transit. More information is also present in different languages, as well as a QR code for the multi-languageonline manual, which is worth the read if as confused as I was with the setup process.


I recommend opening the box from the top since there is a cardboard inlay that can otherwise seem stuck if pulling the internal tray from the other side. Silverstone uses an unnecessarily oversized cardboard tray, which is also why the external box was on the larger side to begin with. Centrally placed in a snug cutout is the TS16 docking station itself, and there is a warranty guide as well as a short USB Type-C to Type-C cable on the other side, which means you need a Type-C port on your PC, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (USB 3.1, also known as SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps) port is recommended to make the most of the product.

Closer Look and Setup


The Silverstone TS16 external docking station is an interesting mix of aluminium and plastic, visually akin to a more traditional M.2 SSD enclosure with the top removed. This means there is no sliding rack that comes off, although the SSD is still installed in one in a move that may be Silverstone re-using common parts from other Silverstone storage accessories. The TS16 docking station is black and adopts a matte or brushed finish depending on the material composition. It measures ~108 x 42 x 17.5 mm and weighs just north of 65 g, with the Silverstone and certification logo on the side. This is not meant to be a portable solution owing to the open nature of the enclosure, so it's more of a desk accessory using ample rubber padding on the bottom to prevent from sliding around.

There are clear markings for using the TS16 with 2242/2260/2280 form factor SSDs, and the two flexible silicone plugs can be removed by simply sliding them out the larger cutout in the base plate. Notice the cutouts in these plugs for them to remain in place, and this is the trick with installing the SSDs as well. The side hosting the M.2 key for installation is where we see a dedicated on/off switch to quickly turn the device connection off and swap SSDs, and there is an indicator LED to visualize the various operating states of the TS16. The expected Type-C port is on this side too, and marked as such just in case you got this as a holiday gift and have no idea what it even is! I felt like I would definitely break something when attempting disassembly, so I erred on the side of caution as Silverstone confirms the use of a Realtek RTL9210B-CG USB 3.2 Gen 2 to PCI Express Gen 3x2/SATA Gen 3 bridge controller. This means you are not restricted to just NVMe SSDs, but I suspect the subset of folks interested in this and SATA M.2 SSDs is quite small.


As with many of you, I saw our fantastic reviews of the SK Hynix Gold P31 SSD and decided to take up the company's offer to showcase another one of these very good value SSDs here. The holiday season is in full effect, and the Gold P31 and more budget-friendly Gold S31 are on sale in many shops, with prices as low as $72 for the 1 TB Gold S31 and the 500 GB Gold P31 being my personal recommendation at $65 as this is written. I have the 2 TB version because all these review files add up, and it is unfortunately too recent a release to get as good a discount as for the others.

Regardless, M.2 SSDs such as the Gold P31 are the easiest to install in external SSD enclosure given they do not have stock heatsinks, so the TS16 is not being made the most use of here in its unique feature set. But it allows for an easier look at the installation process, which is as simple as placing one of the silicone plugs in the furthest position corresponding to the 2280 spacing, inserting and locking the SSD in place on the other side while making sure the orientation is correct, and then simply pulling back the plug to have the circular cutout in the SSD coincide with the cutout in the plug. You may want to then rotate the plug to make sure it's not at an angle still, and the SSD is kept snugly in place.


I also have here a CORSAIR MP600 Pro, again in the 2 TB storage option, and it was sent for a completely different reason. But since it's the only SSD that comes with a stock heatsink, I of course had to use it, too. This is the Hydro X edition with the heatsink an actual copper waterblock. It has since been replaced by a newer, faster MP600 Pro XT that costs $370 for the 2 TB version but happens to be PCIe Gen 4 SSD compared to the Gen 3 with the Gold P31 before. Not that it matters on the external docking station restricted to USB 3.2 Gen 2 transfer speeds, but I did chuckle at the idea of making a standalone DIY custom cooling loop for this setup.


Luckily, common sense prevailed as I went about testing the ease of swapping SSDs, and setting up the docking station with an SSD installed is as simple as connecting the provided Type-C to Type-C cable to an available Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2 SuperSpeed 10 Gbps port on your PC. The indicator LED will light up red to confirm it is powered on but the data connection is still off. Use the button to turn it on fully, which has the LED light up white. At this point, you likely need to head to disk management and set up the drive and format it into a usable partition if brand-new, following which it is recognized as a USB storage device and no different from any other means of portable storage.

Performance Testing and Conclusion


The first two images above correspond to the Silverstone TS16 paired with the SK Hynix Gold P31 2 TB M.2 NVMe SSD. That may be a handful, but note the excellent performance all around. ~1 Gbps sequential transfer is typical of a USB 3.2 Gen 2 portable storage device, including the Kingston DataTraveler Max USB drive we recently saw. The absence of a heatsink did mean the SSD reached ~57 °C after benchmarking, but that is still plenty fine, and the open layout coupled with room circulation helps. Performance even at lower Q-depths and random read/write speeds is so impressive, it's the fastest USB 3.2 Gen 2 portable storage set I have tested to date. There are a few USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 enclosures, such as the Akasa AK-ENU3M2-07 that of course do better courtesy the 20 Gbps maximum throughput available there.

Somewhat surprising was that the faster CORSAIR MP600 Pro SSD fared worse, but then I saw the operating temperatures. I did actually add some water to the block after all, and the SSD was a chilly 18–21 °C throughout. Too chilly for the controller perhaps, but there are no practical differences between the two SSDs for daily use. An air-cooled, heatsinked SSD, which is arguably what the Silverstone TS16 was actually designed for, should be somewhere between the two in operating temperatures. If this feature set and form factor interest you, the Silverstone TS16 external docking station can be had for ~$46 from the Silverstone Amazon store for customers in the US, while those in the UK have to shell out more, £42.85 from the equivalent Amazon UK store. It's quite unlike the average M.2 SSD enclosure, prioritizing a desktop application for storage back-up and generally making for an additional use case for your spare drives other than pure portability, a niche the Silverstone TS16 carves and fills out well enough.
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