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Orico ClearLink M.2 DIY 2TB Portable SSD review: a competent DIY SSD solution for home or office

Orico ClearLink SSD review - some assembly required.

Orico ClearLink M.2 DIY 2TB Portable SSD

3.5 / 5

Everyone needs more digital storage these days, especially as file sizes continue to grow and companies supply devices with criminally low amounts to begin with. Orico's ClearLink M.2 2TB DIY portable SSD provides a solution with an SSD drive and enclosure duo that provides a good, but not great, bang for your buck.

The Orico ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD offers a sleek and portable design with enough storage capacity for almost everyone, from photographers to screenwriters. It has transfer speeds fast enough for large files, but the USB-C support may be limiting for the most extreme users, and the clear plastic enclosure is vulnerable to scratches, making it better suited for at-home or in-office use.

The Orico ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD is a two-part SSD drive with the enclosure sold separately from the J-10 solid-state drive, or as a bundle, like the unit we tested. The separate enclosure makes it possible to swap out NVMe drives, if needed, or to take advantage of higher transfer speeds.

A person's hand holding a clear USB flash drive with exposed circuitry and a sliding mechanism against a computer keyboard background.
Orico ClearLink SSD review - putting the drive in the enclosure.

We unboxed the solid state drive first, which is the Orico J-10 PCIe 3.0 NVMe M.2 2TB SSD drive that you can install in a variety of machines, including PC towers. In our case, we paired it with Orico's ClearLink M.2 SSD enclosure, which is tool-free and USB-C supported.

In the box, the J-10 comes with a couple of heatsink pads and metal plates for the various possible configurations. We used only one of each for our testing, as the enclosure only has enough space for one.

We appreciate the inclusion of multiple heatsinks and the straightforward installation. The circuitry on the J-10 drive is also polished, scratch and tarnish-free, and the materials look high-quality, giving us a positive first impression.

The enclosure also comes packaged with heat sinks, giving us extra just in case. It also has a short 12-inch USB-C cable with aluminum plug housings and a cord gauge thicker than our MacBook Pro's charging cable.

Hand holding a transparent USB thumb drive with a metallic end, containing a black multi-layered component, against a blurred technological background.
Orico ClearLink SSD review - small enough for portable use.

The part of the enclosure that houses the electronics comes housed in aluminum, but the rest of the enclosure is clear plastic reminiscent of the late 90s and early 2000s. While we enjoy the aesthetic, especially the glowing LED indicator lights, the housing is prone to scratches, especially when used portably.

There's not much to miss with the Orico ClearLink DIY Portable SSD, as there are very few parts, no buttons or dials, and one port for connecting the drive to devices. It has a sleek form factor, taking up less space than even compact USB-C docks.

First impressions are promising, even if the enclosure attracts scuffs.

Orico Portable SSD

Orico 2TB DIY Portable SSD

The Orico 2TB DIY Portable SSD has a transparent and tool-free design.

Splitting the Orico ClearLink M.2 SSD enclosure is effortless, consisting of sliding the top half away from the rest of the housing. Then, to install the J-10 drive, line up the connector pins, slide the drive into the port and secure it with a rubber pin.

A portable SSD with a transparent case and external components visible, resting on a wooden surface.
Orico ClearLink SSD review - to tools or know-how required.

The J-10 SSD is an M-key interface type, and the enclosure also supports B+M key SATA-based drives, allowing SSDs of up to 4TB. After installing the drive, the top half slides back into place with a decent snap.

While the ClearLink M.2's design doesn't require the use of tools, promising a stress-free installation, there is a little play side to side and top to bottom between the two parts of the enclosure. The separation of components isn't detrimental for at-home or in-office use, but it does mean the ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD isn't as robust as rugged alternatives.

Connecting the ClearLink SSD to our MacBook Pro was also a straight shot to the USB-C port, with no adapter or anything in between. However, when using any new external hard drive, we had to format it to work correctly with our computer.

Luckily, the macOS software makes it easy to format and even walks you through the steps to set it up as a Time Machine backup drive if you plan on using the ClearLink SSD for that purpose. After formatting, we were pleasantly surprised at the available capacity of 2.05TB, whereas other drives we have utilized are often less than full capacity.

While Orico has other drives with Thunderbolt support, this particular model, the ClearLink M.2 enclosure, rates as only a USB-C 3.2 with transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s. However, this built-it-yourself enclosure comes in at a much better price per TB than pre-fabricated external drives.

Indeed, Orico enclosures are only about $15-$25, and the drive sells for around $100 at the 2TB level. In reality, unless you're future-proofing your setup or building a robust backup system, spending huge amounts of money on a Thunderbolt 4 drive makes less sense, as USB-C 3.2 speeds are usually fast enough for most users.

A clear USB SSD connected to a laptop via a cable, with a blue LED light indicating activity, resting on a white surface next to the black keyboard of the laptop displaying colorful icons on its screen.
Orico ClearLink SSD review - compact and desk-friendly.

In practice, we use an M1 MacBook Pro with anywhere from five to ten applications open at any given time. We don't have special equipment or environments — essentially, we operate under everyday conditions.

Using the Orico ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD in these circumstances produces favorable results. For instance, we were able to transfer a sizable 9.58GB file containing more than 600 RAW and JPEG images in only 18 seconds, which shows the time savings possible for photo and video editing.

For comparison, that same file took nearly four minutes to transfer between a high-speed SD card and a MacBook Pro. Likewise, the transfer took almost six minutes when using a disk-based external hard drive.

Naturally, we had to get more precise measurements of speed, so we downloaded the Black Magic disk speed test app. Using the maximum 5GB load, we got the Orico ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD to hit an average of 837MB/s read speeds and 807MB/s write speeds.

Orico ClearLink SSD review - speed tests show decent real-world numbers.
Orico ClearLink SSD review - speed tests show decent real-world numbers.

Compared with the aforementioned SD card, which couldn't even muster 100MB/s, the Orico SSD performed leaps and bounds faster. Not to mention, the internal SSD drive on our MacBook isn't too far ahead, with speeds of just over 2,900MB/s read and 1,600MB/s write.

These results were using real-world conditions, and the results you receive may vary depending on a number of factors. These factors include the processor of your machine, the space remaining on the SSD and internal storage drives, the types of files transferred, and even the temperature of your workstation.

Orico's ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD has a thin and low-profile design, making it portable enough to take to the office, library, or around the house. It offers quick transfer rates, especially when up against other storage options, like SD cards or disk-based hard drives.

The Orico ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD is easy to assemble and requires no tools or specialized knowledge. Likewise, pairing it with a MacBook Pro for the first time was effortless, and we unlocked more than 2TB worth of storage.

Despite being a portable SSD solution, because the Orico ClearLink DIY SSD relies on removable components, it's less robust than other external storage devices. The plastic enclosure can also scratch and scuff, which takes away from the cool retro design.

Overall, the Orico ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD does what it promises, but we would recommend using it at home or in the office to protect it from damage. The DIY nature leads to vulnerabilities that can cause damage if you decide to transport it too frequently.

  • Sleek design for easy transport
  • Fast real-world transfer speeds
  • Easy tool-free installation
  • Plastic enclosure prone to scratches and scuffs
  • Enclosure has some play between halves
  • Competes with more rugged alternatives

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Readers looking to pick up the Orico ClearLink 2TB DIY SSD drive and tool-free enclosure can find the bundle on sale through Amazon for $139.99. At press time, shoppers can take 10% off using code 88L9H7Z5 during checkout.