Just a while ago I shared a tutorial about building your own external SSD and how easy it is to do so. All you need is an internal SSD along with a compatible NVMe enclosure. Fix the SSD into the enclosure and you are done. It’s that simple, really.
The idea behind building your own SSD is cost-effectiveness. Buying a computer with in-built SSD storage is very expensive. Apple’s Mac lineup is a proof – $800 extra for a 2TB internal storage, and that too, is possible only while buying the Mac. By building an external SSD, you still get fast storage, although it’s external and not as ‘neat’ as having it internal.
But on the brighter side, it’s also less expensive to build your own external hard drive. A PCIe 3.0 SSD like Crucial P5 costs around $250 for 2TB while a compatible enclosure will be about $20 extra. Most brands give you 5 years warranty on SSDs and endurance value is usually as high as 1200 TBW. So not only it’s less expensive, it’s also reliable and gives you peace of mind.
If you are thinking of taking this route and make your own external SSD storage, this list will help you choose an NVMe exclosure. Your choice will basically come down to either a USB 3.2 or a Thunderbolt 3.0 compatible enclosure – the latter being faster and more expensive – irrespective of the brand and model you choose.
Sabrent Tool-Free Enclosure
Sabrent is a reputed name when it comes to SSDs and enclosures. It’s sleek SSD enclosure features a tool-free design. Just insert the SSD and close the enclosure and you are done.
Many tool-free enclosures have a slide-in design while this Sabrent enclosure has what they call a ‘sandwich design.’ The way it’s closed, it puts more pressure between the heat pad and SSD, leaving no space between the drive and heat pad – forcing the heat out.
The enclosure features a slim aluminium case with ABS frame and looks sleek. It supports both NVMe M.2 and SATA SSDs – although the latter is not the focus of this list. When connected to a USB 3.2 Type-C port with the provided cable, this Sabrent enclosure shall give you up to 1000MB/s read and write speeds.
Price: $22.94 | Buy Now
ASUS ROG STRIX Arion
ROG is a gaming lineup from ASUS under which it sells gaming laptops, monitors, keyboard, mouse and more. The ROG STRIX Arion is also made to look attractive like other ROG offerings, featuring ASUS Aura Sync RGB lighting technology to provide ambient lighting. And its looks make ROG STRIX Arion stand apart from other enclosures in this list.
The ROG STRIX Arion features a ‘pin-design and thumbscrew-installation system.’ It’s easy to mount the SSD into the enclosure and a screwdriver is not needed. The aluminium alloy case with included thermal pads does a great job at dissipating heat.
This ASUS enclosure supports M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD s with 2230/2242/2260/2280 form factors. The USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C interface provides speed up to 1000MB/s. A USB Type-C to Type-C cable and a USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable is included. It comes with a protective holder with a detachable ‘R-hook’ that offers extra protection from bumps.
If you would like your SSD to stand apart, ASUS ROG STRIX Arion is a great option, albeit an expensive one.
Price: $56.99 | Buy Now
PowerExpand by Anker features a slim aluminium casing and supports a variety of SSDs. This includes NVMe and SATA SSD sizes 2230, 2242, 2260, and 2280 with M or B&M keys. Compatible with USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 interfaces, the Anker PowerExpand provides up to 1000MB/s transfer speeds.
It features a design that makes it easy to place an SSD inside – although it’s not completely screwdriver-less operation. USB-C to USB A cable doubles as USB-C to USB-C cable with an attached adapter, although I am not personally a fan of this design.
Along with the Anker SSD enclosure a screwdriver, two screws, and a travel pouch is included. The best part is its 18 months warranty that tops most enclosures, which is usually 1 year. A heat pad is not included. I would recommend using one in a way that the SSD makes contact to the enclosure casing through the pad.
Price: $39.99 | Buy Now
Orico is a popular SSD enclosure brand offering products at competitive price. This particular enclosure supports M key M.2 NVMe SSDs up to 2TB, SATA-based B and B+M key M.2 SSDs, and PCIe AHCI SSDs.
ORICO M2PV-C3 features a sleek, lightweight aluminium build, although I find the design prone to debris pileup. It comes with USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables, a heat pad, a screwdriver, a screw, an a rubber support to keep the SSD in place.
The Orico enclosure is easy to use, economic, and gets the job done as promised.
Price: $18.99 | Buy Now
Fledging Shell Thunder
All other SSD enclosures in this list are compatible with Thunderbolt 3 interface but none of them are really Thunderbolt 3 enclosures. That means although while these enclosures will work with TB3 ports, none can give you as much speed as a true Thunderbolt 3 enclosure.
Shell Thunder supports speeds as high as 2700MB/s read and 2000 MB/s write with compatible devices. It supports PCIe M.2 NVMe 2260 and 2280 SSDs but not SATA or other SSDs. To get closer to the maximum speed, you will need a fast SSD, a Thunderbolt 3 cable, and a device with TB3 port. New Macs and some Windows devices now come with Thunderbolt 3 USB-C type ports. The enclosure does not work with USB-C ports. So make sure your device has a Thunderbolt 3 port.
That being said, the Shell Thunder enclosure is one of the best real TB3 enclosures. It features active cooling with an in-built 4000 RPM fan. The brand calls it a ‘whisper quiet’ fan but it can get noisy at times. A thermal pad, a screwdriver, screws, and a Thunderbolt 3 cable is included. Some users complain about the cable being a bottleneck so if you are not getting expected speed, start by replacing the cable with a true Thunderbolt 3 one.
Price: $134.99 | Buy Now
OWC Envoy Express
While Shell Thunder is a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, it’s not TB3 certified. OWC (Other World Computing)’s Envoy Express is, in the company’s own words, [the] ‘first bus-powered enclosure that meets stringent Thunderbolt power requirements.’ Although its rated speeds – up to 1553MB/s – are lower than Shell Thunder.
OWN Envoy Express supports NVMe M.2 2280 SSDs and runs on Thunderbolt 3 interface. It’s worth mentioning that like Thunder, this OWC enclosure will not work with USB interface. You will need an SSD that supports the enclosure’s speed and a compatible cable (included) to get near the highest speeds.
The sleek black anodized aluminium casing looks good. If you prefer it to be out of sight while working, you can use the provided ‘screen slide mount’ to attach the enclosure to the back of your laptop screen.
If you find the Shell Thunder expensive and are okay with reduction in speed, you can go for OWC Envoy Express instead. For $10 more, you can also choose Sabrent’s Thunderbolt 3 certified enclosure that gives up to 1600MB/s speeds.
Price: $79 | Buy Now
Things to Consider While Buying An Enclosure
Whichever brand and model you choose, make sure it’s compatible with your SSD and your device. For example, a Thunderbolt 3 certified enclosure won’t work with USB-C ports. Not all enclosures support all SSD sizes. Some take M.2 2280 SSD only.
To get the best speed, you need the combination of SSD, enclosure, cable, and port to be on the same page. If you buy a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure because your device has a TB3 port but you use a SATA SSD, you won’t get the high speed of TB3.
If cost is a concern, go with a PCIe 3.0 M.2 NVMe SSD like Crucial P2 and an enclosure like Orico M2PV-C3. If your device has a Thunderbolt 3 port, you can opt for a PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe SSD like Samsung 980 PRO and an enclosure like OWC Envoy Express.
Don’t get alarmed over the heat that your DIY SSD produces. It’s normal for it to run warm and get hot during extensive data transfers. Allow it some time to cool off after such operations. Just make sure you have applied the thermal pad in a way that it’s sandwiched between the SSD and the enclosure shell.