Thunderbolt™ 3 480GB NVMe Solid State Drive

The Plugable TBT3-NVME480 480GB external NVMe SSD drive hits performance levels not possible before Thunderbolt™ 3. Connect the drive to a Thunderbolt 3 port to gain 480GB of extra storage with amazing speeds of up to 2400+ MB/sec read and 1800+ MB/sec write, all without the need for an external power connection. Great for content creators requiring blazing fast external storage, no-compromise gamers who want the fastest possible portable Steam library, or as a secondary/portable OS boot drive on supported host systems.

Intel Thunderbolt™ 3 technology offers blistering transfer speeds up to 40Gbps and is the perfect connection to take advantage of new storage technologies. Unlike traditional external storage solutions that are limited by the SATA III interface, NVMe technology allows solid state media to interface directly with your CPU via PCI Express, allowing vastly improved performance as well as lower latency and reduced CPU usage. With the TBT3-NVME480 external solid state drive, you can experience performance like never before, often as fast (or faster!) than your computer’s built-in storage, and roughly 5x faster than traditional SATA III solid state drives connected with USB 3.1 Gen 2.

Device Specifications

  • Portable aluminum design
  • Thunderbolt 3 interface with integrated 18cm/7″ 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 cable
  • 480GB NVMe Solid State storage with PCIe Gen3 x4 link*
  • Sequential transfer speeds of 2400+ MB/s read and 1800+ MB/s write**,***
  • 36 month warranty or 800 TBW
  • TLC NAND flash. (Units purchased before August 2019 will contain the older MLC based media and will be slightly slower.)

*Formatted capacity and transfer speeds will vary depending on host system and workload. Systems with a PCIe x2 configuration for their Thunderbolt 3 controller will experience lower performance. In our testing, the maximum R/W results on an x2 system were ~1400MB/s R and 1200MB/s W.
**Linux systems may exhibit slower write performance around 1200+ MB/s write.
***Windows 10 (version 1809 and up) users must enable write caching in the Device Manager for maximum write speeds.

In the Box

1x Thunderbolt™ 3 480GB NVMe Solid State Drive with included captive 40Gbps TBT3 cable
1x Quick Start Guide

Hardware Requirements

Compatible with Thunderbolt™ 3 host systems. USB-C systems without Thunderbolt™ 3 and USB-A (USB 3.0 / 2.0) systems are not supported.

Operating System and Driver Details

  • Supports macOS Sierra and later
  • Supports Windows 10, 8.1, 7
  • Thunderbolt 3 Linux support varies at this time
  • As of our most recent testing (October 2019) Boot Camp Windows 10 (version 1809 and up) is supported.

System Compatibility

  • Compatible with Thunderbolt 3 Mac systems (2019 through Late 2016 MacBook Pro, 2019-2018 MacBook Air, 2018-2017 iMac / iMac Pro, 2018 Mac Mini)
  • Compatible with most Thunderbolt 3 Windows hosts
  • Compatibility with Thunderbolt 3 Linux hosts varies

Setup Instructions

Plug the drive into a free Thunderbolt 3 port on your Mac / PC or Thunderbolt 3 docking station. Mac systems will automatically mount the drive with no additional setup needed.

On Windows systems, you’ll need to “Authenticate” Thunderbolt 3 devices before first use. Device authentication is somewhat intuitive, but a step-by-step guide can be found here:

Thunderbolt 3 Authentication on Windows


Q: Do I need to format the drive before use?
A: The drive is pre-formatted in exFAT (cross-compatible with macOS and Windows) and should automatically be recognized without the need to initialize and format before use. If the drive has been reformatted after purchase with a file system not natively supported by your operating system, it may need to be mounted manually. Click here for instructions on reformatting drives if desired.

Q: What are the best practices to ensure compatibility with my Windows Thunderbolt 3 system?
A: Installing the latest Thunderbolt 3 and BIOS firmwares from your system manufacturer is strongly recommended. Some systems with outdated firmware may not be compatible with this (and other) Thunderbolt 3 devices. (Note: This only applies to Windows systems. Apple Thunderbolt 3 systems automatically receive firmware updates during macOS upgrades.)

Q: Are any host systems known to be incompatible at this time?
A: The only host platform with Thunderbolt 3 to be confirmed as incompatible at this point is the Dell Latitude 7275.

Q: Why does the drive show up with a 480GB capacity in macOS, but 447GB in Windows?
A: Mac and Windows report space differently. On Mac, space is calculated using decimal/Base 10, where 1 GB=1,000,000,000B (so 480,000,000,000/1,000,000,000=480GB). In Windows, space is calculated using binary/Base 2, where 1GB=1,073,741,824B (so 480,000,000,000/1,073,741,824=447GB). An useful analogy would be considering distance in miles vs. kilometers; the distance traveled is the same, but the number used to represent that distance is different.

Q: Is the TBT3-NVME480 compatible with Boot Camp?
A: As of our most recent testing (October 2019) Boot Camp Windows 10 (version 1809 and up) is supported.

Q: Will the drive perform at its maximum speed during all read/write operations?
A: Transfer speed is affected by many factors. While this Thunderbolt™ 3 NVMe drive is capable of sequential transfer speeds of 2400+ MB/s read and 1800+ MB/s write, results will vary depending on the program being used, OS, and workload.

Q: Some Thunderbolt 3 ports support a 2-lane PCI Express configuration (PCIe x2), and some support a 4-lane PCI Express implementation (PCIe x4). Will the drive perform differently based on the host system PCIe specifications?
A: This will depend on the specific workload. The maximum throughput of the drive be reduced in some scenarios on systems with a PCIe x2 implementation. In our testing, the maximum R/W results on an x2 system were ~1400MB/s R and 1200MB/s W.

Q: How can I tell if my system has x2 or x4 PCIe Thunderbolt 3 configuration?
A: Most system manufacturers list these details in their online system specifications. Dell has this information available for most of their popular hosts in a handy single document: here.

Q: Are there any benchmark results available showcasing the drive’s performance?
A: Yes! The screenshot below is from a 2019 MacBook Pro 15″ with a PCIe x4 implementation.


Problem: After connecting my drive, why is it not visible in my Operating System?
The TBT3-NVME480 must be connected to a Thunderbolt™ 3 USB-C port. On systems which have a mix of Thunderbolt™ 3 and non-Thunderbolt™ 3 USB-C ports, please ensure the device is connected to a Thunderbolt™ 3 port.

Problem: In Windows 10 (version 1809 and up) my write speeds are far lower than advertised but my read speeds are OK.
With Windows 10 version 1809 the default removable storage settings are set to have write caching disabled in favor of quickly removing the drive vs needing to “safely remove”. This setting can be changed in the Device Manager. See here for instructions:

Problem: I am unable to format this NVMe SSD in APFS
A solution was found here:

  • In Disk Utility, switch the View option to “Show All Devices”.
  • Select the entry named “PCIe SSD Media”, with “TBT3_SSD” indented below it.
  • Click on Erase.
  • Change the Scheme to “GUID Partition Map”. The Format choices will then expand to include several APFS choices.
  • Set the Format to “APFS”.
  • Press Erase.

Model: TBT3-NVME480

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