It should come as no surprise that both models come in a rather decent, bordering on good shipping container. It is a touch monochromatic for our tastes but does a decent job of conveying precisely what is housed inside and why you should buy it over ‘the other guys’. As you can see the only real difference is the model, some of the specs (e.g. weight and material) and the picture on the front. Other than this the shipping container is the same for both models.
The internal protection is also the same; however here it is actually good – and above average. Usually such devices come housed in cardboard intern sleeves/boxes. As you can see Orico has gone the plastic route. This is a good thing. The form fitting plastic will keep the M.2 to USB adapter from slamming into the sides of the box and will absorb an inordinate amount of blunt force trauma before any is transferred on to the device itself. The fact it is also lighter than cardboard is also a nice bonus which can keep shipping costs down. That to us is a win-win-win proposition.
Interestingly enough, the accessories of these two models does actually differ somewhat. Both come with a decent (and chinglish free) installation pamphlet that uses pictographs as well as written instructions. Both will come with two USB cables: a short Type-C to Type-C, and a slightly longer Type-A to Type-C. Both will come with a small packet of screws (in two different lengths) with a brass M.2 standoff. Both will also come with a small screwdriver. The Lexan / Polycarbonate TCM2 model also comes with two heat pads that you install during the last stages of installation. The aluminum PVM2 on the other hand comes with an additional screw for securing the drive during installation but no extra heat pads.
On the surface this would lead one to believe that the TCM2 has the better accessories. The reality is the PCM2 does need additional heat pads as it comes with six pre-installed for you… and thus has four more than the TCM2 model to help dissipate heat. This is the first difference between the two models, but not the last. Though before we go over the actual differences there is one more point of commonality.
That of course is the PCB and the hardware on said PCB. To be precise both use the same copper heat spreader infused, M 2230 to M 2280 capable printed circuit board. This is actually one of the best examples of a M.2 to USB adapter PCB we have seen in recent memory as the drive will be secure, and the copious amounts of copper will spread the heat load nicely from your hot running NVMe M.2 solid state drive. Quite honestly this PCB alone, regardless of which shell type you choose, is worth the 40 dollar asking price.
We say this because of the controller. The heart and soul of any adapter is the actual controller used as it really will make or break the overall value of the device. This is why we are happy to see that Orico opted for the rather potent JMicron JMS583 controller.
This controller is not only capable of handling upwards of 10Gbps that USB 3.1 Gen 2 bus is capable of, it also fully supports TRIM, UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol… aka ‘faster than standard USB mode’) and even can pass on the various power saving commands. Basically, any drive that is installed to either the TCM2 or PVM2 will not get slow, will go into a lower power / idle state (after ten minutes of inactivity), and will transfer files as optimally as the USB 3.1 Gen 2 bus allows.
Sadly, the downside to the JMS583 controller is it does not support port teaming features. Instead it is a single USB port controller and as such even older PCIe x2 enabled NVMe drives will be bottlenecked (and the four lane Western Digital SN750 brings new meaning to the term overkill – a Crucial P1 would be a much better choice). The upside is it is one of the better controllers available right now with a team that is actively working on and releasing firmware revisions for it. For example, our samples came with 204 installed but 205 is now available. Sadly, Orico has not released an updated tool… but ‘finding’ the “JMicron FW Update utility” is not all that difficult (just remember to pull the M.2 drive before trying to update or bad things may happen to your expensive NVMe drive). Also worth pointing out, is while it may ‘only’ be good for 10Gbps speeds this is still going to be about double what SATA based external storage devices can offer – and small file performance differences will be even larger. So, while you can go with the cheapest NVMe M.2 drive you can find and still be bus bottlenecked it will be noticeably faster than the most expensive SATA based USB 3.1 Gen 2 drive on the market.
Moving on. There is actually one more point of commonality between these two similar models. That is both use a recessed, female USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port. The upside to this is any Type-C USB cable will work with either model, and breaking the port will take more effort (and a special kind of stupid) than it will with male port enabled models. It also helps make the overall length of the Orico M.2 adapters smaller than usual. The downside is you will need an external cable to actually attach this device to your system… something male USB port equipped adapters do not need. Pros and cons to both, but we believe it is easier to replace a cable than de-solder and re-solder a new port on to a PCB. You may feel the opposite is true.
Now on to the actual meat of the review… where they differ, and why they differ!
The first is more a nitpick than anything worth basing a purchase on. That is the TCM2 comes preinstalled / stored as a complete package in its box, whereas the PVM2 model comes in three pieces. The only time this difference will mater is if you are shipping it from Asia to North America and the three separate pieces (two of which are hunks of aluminum and the third is a delicate PCB) may result in a dead-on arrival device. It really would be odd, but if one of the hunks of metal slams into the PCB it is going to kill it. Whereas the PCB is fully secured (albeit it can flop around a little bit in the vertical axis) in the TCM2 model. Honestly, barely worth commenting on. It will take a series… of unfortunate events for this to happen while in transit, and if it does shipping insurance will cover the cost of replacement. It just is annoying that Orico did not take the time to complete PVM2 before sticking it in the box for retail shelves.
What is worth commenting on is the material each model uses for the chassis. The see through TCM2 model uses ‘Polycarbonate’ (aka Lexan) that is crystal clear and surprisingly strong. It will hover scratch and crack a whole heck of a lot easier than aluminum – which the PVM2 is made from. Polycarbonate also does not transfer heat worth a darn; whereas aluminum allows the entire PVM2’s chassis to be one ‘giant’ heat spreader.
Orico is fully aware of this and that is why the TCM2 comes with an integrated aluminum heatsink. Please note the phrase heat sink and not heat spreader. This heat sink’s cooling fins may be small but they do increase the overall surface area and is more efficient (on a square mm vs square mm basis) than the PVM2 heat spreader design.
The TCM2 also comes in numerous colors, whereas the PVM2 is only available in two… and only because the extra color is to help differentiate the push open vs clip open options it comes in. Our PVM2 is the darker ‘clip open’ model and it is the more effective securing method. The TCM2 on the other hand is push open. What push open means is that you slide the top of the adapter chassis slightly rewards to unlock it and then lift the top portion off, whereas the clip open uses a hinge on one end and a screw on the other to securely fasten it to the rest of the chassis
This difference in locking mechanisms means the TCM2 is easier to open and close… but the PVM2 is more secure. This different locking mechanism also noticeably impacts heat transfer abilities. While yes Orico includes two heat pads that technically allow the NVMe SSD to be attached directly to the heatsink… the reality is that the top cover has to be able to slide past the SSD in order to be opened. It is doable to get the pads to touch both (a gentle squeeze is all it takes) but the pads will quickly wear out if you open and close the adapter all that often. Counteracting this issue is the TCM2 model is drop dead gorgeous. Being able to see the drive while it is installed really does make for a conversation starter… whereas the PVM2 could be a fancy ‘windproof’ lighter for anyone will notice on just a quick glance. Of course, one could argue the aggressive looks of the PVM2 model make it the equal of the TCM2 in the aesthetics department – as LaCie made this look famous – but the TCM2 is going to be the more attractive option, and the PVM2 the more robust.
This is difference in styling is more than skin deep and does have further long-lasting impact on performance. As the PVM2 is made from two chunks of beefy aluminum Orico was able to include three heatpads for the top and three for the bottom. This in addition to the copper means that double sided M.2 drives are going to run noticeably cooler in the PVM2 model than in the TCM2 model. So much so it is our opinion that the TCM2 really is only meant for single sided drives… specs and marketing blurbs be damned.
We say this as in testing both chassis do get… toasty after extended continuous usage, but the WD SN750 SSD was reporting upwards of ten degrees cooler temperatures in the PVM2 than it was in the TCM2 model. So, for power users the choice is clear: PVM2 for its durability and cooling. For Apple and other consumers who do place a premium on aesthetics… the choice is equally clear: the TCM2 is drop dead gorgeous. For the average buyer… pick which ever fits your needs best. Some will like the ease of use and installation of the TCM2, others will prefer the ‘stick it in a pocket and forget about it’ abilities of the PVM2.