Samsung Galaxy Note 8 USB woes

This isn’t a review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8; I mostly just want to talk about the USB speeds for a bit.

As a side note, so far I’m pleased with my Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Upon setting up the phone, I noticed the graphics were a bit bloated by default. Out of the box, the always on display has these extra little annoying things that I disabled by changing the wallpaper (they’re called “infinity effects”) but that can all be customised, so it’s no problem. The phone seems to work well with my Garmin Fenix 5x watch too.

Adobe Photoshop express and Adobe Lightroom now let you edit raw photographs and you can quickly view them too; again that’s something I’ll make use of. It really is a great device and when I get around to reviewing it fully, I hope my review will show that. I’m actually pretty disappointed with the reviews I’ve seen far. They’re professional and well made, but they’re far too negative.

If you don’t want to read all of this, please read the bullet points:

  • I have achieved 70MB/sec+ speeds writing to the phone from a device connected to the USB port of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Speeds drop significantly, down to as low as 13MB/sec, when multiple devices are connected
  • The MicroSD card slot is fast and runs at USB 3.1 speeds
  • It’s quicker to copy files from an external SD card reader to the MicroSD card slot, and back again to a different SD card than it is to copy files from an SD card to a MicroSD card on the same USB card reader
  • If you’re looking for a portable backup solution to add to your professional camera, look no further but be aware of its USB limitations
  • You can load raw photographs quickly

Please don’t be too alarmed by what I’m about to say below. For the average user that has zero interest in plugging in multiple high speed USB devices, this will not affect them.

USB 3.1 isn’t always USB 3.1

The USB C USB 3.1 port isn’t always USB 3.1. I could be wrong, but it’s as if Samsung have implemented a crafty measure to slow the USB port as a means to lower current draw from the battery and therefore minimise heat (if you know about last year’s disaster, you probably know where I’m going with this theory…)

It’s not mentioned in the documentation anywhere and I am hugely interested in USB C USB 3.1 phones as I can use them as a portable backup device for my Sony a7rII camera (taking a laptop isn’t an option on long hikes.)

It’s not all doom and gloom though, take a look at this screenshot for example —

If you’re just plugging in the one USB device i.e. an SD card reader, and you copy files from that device to the onboard storage or the built in microSD card, you will receive full USB 3.1 speeds (my cards aren’t super quick, but I’ve gotten over 70MB/sec so I know it’s not using USB 2.0, for sure.)

Here’s the problem though… If you plug in a memory card reader with dual slots, with the intention to move files from a large SD card to a microSD card (NOT the built in microSD card reader) on the same USB reader, i.e. a hub of sorts, then it will revert to USB 2.0 speeds.

Some people have tested a few devices, noticed that a Samsung T3 SSD is fast and that their third party HUB is slow, and then drawn the conclusion that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (actually I think the comment I read was about the Samsung Galaxy s8+ but the same logic applies) favours Samsung’s own equipment. From what I can tell this is not true at all–non causa pro causa.

The limitation is based around the number of devices, not the brand of device. It could be entirely a software based limitation as the phone has the hardware to work in USB 3.1 mode; however, I’m not 100% sure. I suspect the port doesn’t supply the same amount of current as last years model.

There are a few ways to make a battery explode, 1) short it. 2) short it by crushing it. 3) discharge it incredibly fast. 4) charge it incredibly fast. 5) discharge it fast enough to expand and crush itself (if there’s not enough room in the case). 6) charge it fast enough to expand and crush itself (if there’s not enough room in the case).

The battery undoubtedly has more room in the case compared to last years model, and by limiting the amount of current to the USB port, it would be far less likely to discharge too quickly. In other words, I suspect they’ve gone safety mad. I’d be fine with that if they informed the user, but there’s no mention of this.

USB card reader information


USB card readers are mostly bad and most of them do not support sequential writes, but I have found a few decent ones.

When I connect my SD card reader to my computer, as a reference, the speeds slow up a bit and the card reader gets quite hot when writing from one card to another sequentially. With the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the speeds can drop to as low as 13MB/sec after a lot of writing, (that’s 26MB/sec total USB throughput, as they’re both on the same port.)

There are two ways to think about this problem…

Above are two examples of how to transfer data. The last one shows data going from a large SD card to a MicroSD card on the same SD card reader. If you look at the screenshots below, the first one shows sustained sequential writing from an external SD card to an external MicroSD card. It’s not great.

The SD to phone photograph shows the kind of speeds I’ve achieved with the USB port i.e. 70MB/sec+ when only one device is connected. The SD to MicroSD picture is on the breaking point of maximum USB 2.0 speeds, but I suspect the limitation here is with the speed of the MicroSD card in the phone itself rather than it being limited to USB 2.0.

If you look at the MicroSD phone to SD speeds, this is faster than USB 2.0; in other words, I believe the MicroSD card slot in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 phone supports USB 3.1 speeds, and a single device connected to the USB port also supports USB 3.1 speeds. Not only that, but when data is transferred from USB to the MicroSD card in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 phone, the sustained writes do not seem to dip. They’re respectable, and remember, 70MB/sec writing is actually 140MB/sec total throughput.

My advice is to buy a 128GB MicroSD card. Use 64GB for phone storage, and 64GB as a buffer. Copy files from a 64GB SD card to the MicroSD card in the phone. Then plug in a different SD card or even a Samsung T3 SSD, and copy the files from the MicroSD card in the phone onto the second device.

You can leave the MicroSD card in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 at all times; the only reason I suggest this method is because most phone cases suck more dick than a swedish pornstar and do not let you access the MicroSD card slot very well. If you have access to the MicroSD card slot with your phone case or you don’t mind removing your case frequently, then you might as well just put a fresh 64GB MicroSD into the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 phone and copy the files from an external USB card reader onto it.

This is a bit of a convoluted solution, but it is a solution nonetheless. I do not own a Samsung T3 SSD, so I cannot be certain what the speeds are; however, MicroSD in the phone to an SD card gives you 60MB/sec write rates, combine that with the first card at about 50-55MB/sec, and then half the value (as you’ll be copying to two separate places), and you could still be looking at 30MB/sec+ sustained write rates. Moreover, when raw photographs are on the MicroSD card in the phone, you can open them quickly. I would really like to get my hands on a Samsung T3 SSD as I’m curious as to how quickly you can edit photographs on that thing.

Remember, USB 2.0 is 60MB/sec maximum theoretical speed on one port (which you’d have to half if you’re copying from one device to another), so you’re still breaking USB 2.0 speeds in pragmatical terms, with this method and you get the choice of being able to copy to an SD card, MicroSD or an external SSD. With sequential writing on the same memory card reader, you’re pretty much limited to SD card to MicroSD.

UK Holiday and some thoughts about lenses

I’m going to be gone for a week or so, as I’m going on holiday. I’ll mostly be staying in England but I will briefly visit Wales as well. I’ll be doing a bit of hiking despite what the dumbfounded dipshits at the US Embassy think, I do actually like to walk places lol and photography.

When I return home, I should have my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and I’ll work on doing a review for that. I’ll be reviewing it as a portable backup solution and a device to benefit travel photographers, rather than the stereotypical type of review (there’s plenty like that that’re far better than anything I could create; I suggest you check out Krystal Key on YouTube and Flossy Carter.)

A telephoto lens for Canada

I’ve also been looking at more photographs of Canada and it’s really pretty! I need to give lens consideration some serious thought. For my planned Pacific Crest Trail 2018 hike, I thought taking a Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens and a Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 or a Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2.8 lens would be enough. Weight’s a serious problem for a hike like that.

However, as I’ll be going to Canada and will likely not have to stress about hiking speed quite as much, I definitely feel I should concentrate a bit more on photography and I’m considering all options really.

The Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 lens is overpriced (in my opinion), it’s relatively lightweight and it’s a fairly good focal length. If it was a macro lens as well, this lens would be a no-brainer for me.

The Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM lens is beautiful by all accounts, but it’s big and expensive.

The Sony 100-400 f/4.6 to f/5.6 GM lens is lightweight for its focal length but it’s still a heavy lens in its own right. This lens could be incredibly useful for wildlife photography, including bears and wolves.

The Sony 24-70 f/2.8 GM lens is a great standard zoom, it will allow me to take flower shots, landscape shots and various things. Combine this with my Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens and I’d have myself a decent kit, with the exception of being able to take wildlife shots (I mean, you can, but it’s not an ideal focal length.) It’s expensive and heavy but I think it’s priced about where it should be.

I’m considering bringing a Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens, a Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 lens and a Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 lens, but perhaps 135mm isn’t long enough. It’s a really hard judgement to make. I really want a telephoto zoom, but the weight of one might prove to be too much. At about 600 grams, the Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 lens is considerably lighter than all the other longer focal length lenses, and 21mm is incredibly versatile for landscape shots. Plus I’ll be able to use my phone’s cameras a bit; its quality isn’t as good obviously but it will still have its place in my bag.

In truth, the prices of all these lenses stretch my budget beyond what I’m comfortable with, but I really don’t think 21mm to 50mm is long enough. I manually approve all comments, so if something doesn’t appear, please wait a week until I’m back.

Canada, US Visa, Zeiss Batis and stuff

I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing my posts about the Pacific Crest Trail and my US Visa denial, so I’ve decided to make a page dedicated towards it and then limit my blog posts to happier content. Hopefully it will be helpful to someone at least.

I’m going to give Canada some serious thought. Banff looks really pretty. I think I’d like to buy a longer lens, if I do go to Canada. A Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM lens will be a bit heavy, but the Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 lens might just be manageable. It’s a lens I initially laughed at, and the price is extortionate, but it’s really quite lightweight for its focal length. The price is a bit of a problem though.

I’m going on holiday Saturday, for a week, and hopefully I’ll be able to take a few photographs :). When I return home, I will receive my Samsung Galaxy Note 8. I will do a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, I also want to update my Garmin Fenix 5x watch review, and write about how well it functions with a phone.

Using the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as a portable backup device

I plan to buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 as soon as it’s released. With the previous model now called the Samsung Galaxy Note Fan Edition (FE), you can copy files using USB-OTG and a card reader. This is a good backup solution for the Sony a7rII.

You can get some insanely fast microSD cards now e.g. the Samsung Memory Pro Plus 64 GB Micro SD Card with Adapter. There’s also a 100MB/sec version available in the USA.

When I get the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, I will see what the USB speeds are. If I can find an SD card with a 90MB/sec read speed and a microSD card with a 90MB/sec write speed, I’ll be able to copy files from one to the other and see how it works in real world use. The Samsung Galaxy Note Fan Edition (FE) caps out at about 90MB/sec but that might be because my card at the time could only read/write at 90MB/sec.

They’re getting so fast that it might not even be worth buying a Samsung T3.