Most PCs and Macs released in last few years come equipped with SSDs as internal storage. Short for Solid State Drive, SSD is a game-changer technology that offers insane data-transfer speeds in extremely small size. While Hard Disk drives or HDDs include a spinning motor to read and write data, SSDs are completely chip-based – allowing reliable data storage in addition to speed.
Although SSDs are insanely fast, they are also expensive. That’s one of the reasons why Apple and other companies won’t give you more SSD storage with base models of their devices. Apple’s M1 MacBook Pro, for instance, starts at only 256GB of storage. If you need more storage, you have to ask Apple to include more space which can cost as high as $800 for 2TB. And you must make this decision at the time of purchasing your Mac because new Mac devices can’t be upgraded later even by Apple.
For those who don’t wish to spend huge amount on company-offered internal storage or those who decide later to upgrade their storage, the best way is to use an external drive. Yes, external SSDs are still relatively expensive compared to HDDs. A 2TB HDD for example, costs less than $100 while a 2TB SSD will set you up for nearly $300. But if you have a new PC or Mac and you still use slow HDDs with it, you aren’t utilising the full potential your device has to offer.
If you are looking for a fast, portable and inexpensive solution to increase the storage of your device, this list will help you choose the best external SSD. You can also make your own external SSD using an NVMe SSD and compatible enclosure. A tutorial for the same is under way.
1. SanDisk Extreme
There is a reason why SanDisk Extreme is one of the most popular external SSDs. With USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface, SanDisk Extreme supports 1050MBps read and 1000MBps write speeds. Unlike Samsung T7, however, it doesn’t come with two cables. It includes a USB-C to C cable and a USB A converter that can be attached to one end of USB-C cable.
SanDisk Extreme offers drop protection from up to 6ft (2 meters) and features IP55 water and dust resistance. 256-bit AES encryption is possible to secure your data.
The 2TB model will cost you $289.99 while a 1TB variant is available for $155. 500GB and 4TB models are also available. Although performance wise it’s as good as Samsung T7, I put it first because of its warranty period of 5 years instead of 3 years in Samsung T7.
2. Samsung T7
Samsung T7 is a crazy small SSD that offers read and write speeds of up to 1050MBps and 1000MBps, respectively. Samsung T7 supports USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface that’s backward compatible. It includes both USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB A cables – for best speed, stick to USB-C to USB-C cable.
To protect the SSD from damage caused by overheating, this drive features Dynamic Thermal Guard technology. It can also withstand falls up to 6ft and is also shock-resistant. Password protection is possible using Samsung software. Another model with fingerprint reader is also available.
The pocket-sized Samsung T7 SSD weighs mere 58 grams. It costs $149.99 for 1TB while 2TB will cost you $299.99. A 500GB model is also available. Samsung offers 3 years warranty on this SSD.
3. Crucial X8
Crucial, a brand by Micron – one of the word’s largest manufacturers of flash storage – is a trusted and reliable option when it comes to SSDs. Crucial X8 is a USB-C 3.2 Gen2 SSD that supports 1050MBps read and 1000MBps write speeds. USB-C to C and USB-C to A cables are included.
Crucial X8 features an anodized aluminium unibody core. It claims to withstand drop from up to 7.5 feet and being extreme-temperature, shock, and vibration proof. It’s not the most good-looking portable SSD but I am not complaining.
Costing $239.95 for 2TB, Crucial X8 is less expensive than competition but you will have to settle for a 3-year warranty period. The 1TB model is available for $134.99
4. Samsung X5
If achieving maximum speed is what you are after, Samsung X5 is worth looking at. It features Thunderbolt 3 interface and is capable of sequential speeds of up to 2,800MBps read and 2,100MBps write.
If you have a device with Thunderbolt 3 port like an M1 Mac, you will be able to achieve X5’s maximum speeds. For older Thunderbolt ports, you are better off choosing other SSD options as you will need a converter and even then, you will not get its full speed. An adapter is also not a neat solution. That being said, if you have a device featuring Thunderbolt 3 port, Samsung X5 will blow you away with its speed.
Featuring a design ‘inspired by a supercar,’ Samsung X5 is reinforced with magnesium alloy that can withstand a 6 ft drop. It’s backed by a 3-year warranty. A USB Thunderbolt 3 Type C-to-C cable is included.
X5’s faster speed thanks to Thunderbolt 3 interface comes at a premium, costing around $380 for 1TB.
5. Crucial X6
If you are looking for a cost-effective solution to own an external SSD, you can opt for an older generation SSD like Crucial X6. Featuring a USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface, Crucial X6 offers sequential write speeds of up to 540MBps which is still very fast than what an HDD can offer you.
The Crucial X6 can withstand a 6.5-foot drop and is shock, vibration, and extreme temperature resistant. Backed by a 3-year warranty, X6 will cost you $187.99 for 2TB model. The 1TB model will cost you around $100. 4TB and 500GB options are available.
Buying An External SSD: Things to Keep in Mind
To get the best speed, your device must be compatible with the SSD interface. Just because an SSD works with your device doesn’t mean it will support the best speed the SSD has to offer. A Thunderbolt 3 drive as mentioned above, will need a Thunderbolt 3 port.
SSDs rely on inbuilt cache to work. Different models and brands offer varying cache size. Once this cache is full, the transfer speed will significantly drop during large amount of data transfers. Depending on the SSD, it might take some time before it can recover its cache and return to its optimal speed.
SSDs have a Terabyte Written (TBW) value which varies by model, size, and company. As you write data on SSD, the TBW value is affected and it may fail when it reaches its maximum value. This doesn’t mean your SSD will fail within months unless you wipe your drive and fill it completely again every day. For portable SSDs, provided warranty is a good indicator of the SSD life because manufacturers don’t release TBW values.
If you are looking for an external SSD for professional use where you might write gigabytes of data every day, I suggest you build your own SSD. Using an NVMe SSD like Crucial P5 and a compatible NVMe enclosure, you can easily build an external drive that can be even cheaper than ready-made SSDs. But the primary reason to choose this way is the TBW value offered on many of NVMe SSDs. Crucial P5 2TB SSD for instance, offers endurance of 1200 TBW with a warranty of 5 years – whichever comes earlier.