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There is no substitute for a solid-state drive (SSD) when it comes to performance. SSD drives provide higher speed than traditional hard drives while being compact and durable. In this guide to the best SSD external hard drives, I’m going to show you the best of all available SSDs today.
I’ve five picks, each bringing something unique feature. I’m going to talk about what I like about each drive and discuss the features they offer.
Before getting to the selections, let’s clarify what an external SSD is and why it’s a better choice than a traditional external hard drive.
Choosing the Best SSD External Hard Drive
- Samsung T7 — Well balanced in terms of speed, price, portability, and performance.
- SanDisk Extreme Portable — The rugged super portable SSDs, resistant to water, dust, vibration, and shocks
- G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD — Best option for rugged and portable SSDs
- Samsung X5 — Pretty expensive, but also an absolute speed monster
- Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD —Wireless streaming and reasonable speed
Although it is easy to find fast external SSDs, that wouldn’t provide much variety. There are plenty of solid performers available, and because of that, simply being fast isn’t enough to make the list. Instead, this list focused on the balance of speed, price, features, and build quality.
What is an External SSD?
“SSD” stands for a solid-state drive. While SSD stores data like any other hard drive, they do so in a different way.
Traditional hard drives use one or more rotating platters to store data, with the magnetic head that reads and writes data to and from the platters. Traditional hard drives are called “magnetic storage.”
Magnetic storage has been used in a multitude of different storage mediums. Everything from tapes to floppy disks to hard-disk drives uses magnetic storage.
There are some disadvantages with Magnetic storage, though. The higher capacity the drive is, the more platters it needs. The more platters it needs, the longer it takes for the read-and-write. As the platters are fragile, they tend to be failing.
SSDs use electric storage instead of using magnetic storage, hence the name “Solid-State”. Data is stored on small memory chips, instead of platters. This makes the SSD smaller and more reliable.
SSDs and Flash Storage
Earlier flash storage was reserved for flash drives, SD cards, and RAM. These low-capacity storage solutions focused on speed rather than capacity, and because of that, they weren’t suitable for any true computer storage.
However, in recent years, the capacity of flash storage has increased significantly, with a 100TB SSD introduced in 2018. That’s made consumer flash storage in the form of SSDs much cheaper and more accessible.
Combined with the introduction of USB 3.1, which has twice the bandwidth of USB 3.0 manufacturers have been able to put SSDs in external enclosures.
Today, there are numerous external SSDs are available to choose from. All SSDs perform better than HHDs in performance. If you’re looking for the fastest possible external storage, an SSD is for you.
1. The Best SSD External Hard Drive: Samsung T7
Samsung takes the top position with the T7 when it comes to balancing features, price, and speed. T7 is beautifully crafted and delivers the best performance at a reasonable price.
The 1TB model costs just over $180, with the 2TB costs $300. We recommend the 500GB model, though, as it’s the same price per gigabyte as the 1TB model, which is rarely seen.
Other Reasons I recommend the Samsung T7
The T7 is fast, which is not the only reason it ranks first. The new T7 is nearly twice as fast as its predecessor T5. Samsung builds this drive that’s not only attractive but also like a business card. It weighs only 57 grams and measures 85 x 57 x 8.0 mm
Given its speed and size, the Samsung T7 for location works. If you’re a videographer or photographer that needs to quickly dump data, the T7 provides an efficient way to do so.
The sequential read speeds of up to 1050 MB/s. The speed is enough that you can fully edit from the drive itself. The T7’s random read and write performance makes it ideal for pulling multiple chucks simultaneously from a large file.
It’s an excellent way to expand laptop storage, and with support for Android, it’s a great way to expand phone or tablet storage, too.
- Excellent speed
- Compact build
- Support for Android
- High capacity models are expensive
2. SanDisk Extreme Portable
If you’re looking for something a little more rugged, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is for you. The drive manages similar performance to the T7 while being enclosed in a smaller casing.
It’s covered in a soft-rubber shroud that has an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance.
Additionally, SanDisk offers an aluminum variant of the 500GB-capacity drive, which increases rigidity and performance. The aluminum drive has an NVMe controller interface, which boasts sequential read speeds of up to 1050 MB/s.
Performance is on par with the Samsung T7, and we’d consider the build quality even better, but the features are lacking. The included encryption software, SecureAccess, is wildly out of date and only protects your data with AES-128. That’s why it is ranked second to T7, though, it’s hard to discredit the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD.
SanDisk is an expert in flash memory. SanDisk Extreme Portable is one of the smallest and fastest external hard drives around, with sequential reads and writes above 500 MB/s and random reads and writes above 150 MB/s.
Other Reasons I recommend the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
Portability is the main draw of the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD. The casing is rugged, but there’s also a small notch in the top-right corner so you can quickly hook it on a carabiner if you’re on the go. Also, it has a USB 3.1 connection, making it simple to plug-in.
Unfortunately, SanDisk doesn’t include a USB-C-to-USB-A cable. In the box, you get a USB-C-to-USB-C cable and a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter, which has a small notch that corresponds to the cable.
The adapter adds additional bulk to the cable and another point of potential failure. More importantly, the adapter can only be used with the provided cable, thanks to the notch.
The SanDisk Extreme Portable comes with some drawbacks, particularly with the included cable and bundled software. However, the build quality and speed can’t be denied, making it one of the best external SSDs around.
- Very fast
- Dust & water-resistant
- Dated, included software
- No USB-C-to-USB-A cable included
3. G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD
If you are after the build quality, the G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD can deliver as best SSD External hard drive. Like the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD, it has a soft rubber feel, but the drive’s top and the bottom are reinforced with metal. The drive is reinforced under the soft-rubber exterior, too.
That extra material comes with extra protection. The G-Drive Mobile’s SSD is IP67-rated for dust and water resistance. Additionally, it can survive a fall of up to 10 feet on concrete and handle up to 1,000 pounds of pressure without breaking.
G-Technology didn’t skimp on performance when trying to make the drive rigid, either. Sequential read and write speeds are on par with the Samsung T7 and SanDisk Extreme Portable. Random speed is excellent, too, with the G-Drive Mobile SSD surpassing the Extreme Portable.
It’ll run you between $50 and $100 more than the SanDisk Extreme Portable and Samsung T7, depending on the capacity you purchase. That said, the G-Drive Mobile SSD comes with a five-year warranty, whereas the T7 and Extreme Portable only offer three.
Other Reasons I Like the G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD
Although the G-Drive Mobile SSD is more expensive than the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD and Samsung T7, it justifies its price tag. In addition to the five-year limited warranty, G-Technology provides some of the best hard-drive support I’ve seen.
Given G-Technology’s focus on media professionals, the extra support makes sense. If you have a question, it’ll be answered promptly, either by browsing the available articles in the knowledgebase or by reaching out through email.
The G-Technology G-Drive Mobile SSD is bulkier and more expensive than the Samsung and SanDisk counterparts, but it comes with an upside in support and builds quality.
- Built like a tank
- Five-year limited warranty
4. Samsung X5
If you’re looking for performance no matter the cost, the Samsung X5 is for you. It’s one of the most expensive external SSDs around, with the 2TB model clocking in at more than $800. However, with its Thunderbolt 3 connection and NVMe controller, it offers some of the fastest speeds available.
It can deliver sequential read speeds of up to 2,800 MB/s and sequential write speeds of up to 2,3000 MB/s, thanks to its Thunderbolt 3 connection. Although Thunderbolt 3 still uses a USB-C connector, it has four times the bandwidth of USB 3.1, making it ideal for ultra-fast transfer rates.
It uses the same software to password-protect your drive, which encrypts your data with AES-256. Like the T7, you can also use the software to check for firmware updates and turn off password protection, should you choose.
Other Reasons I Like the Samsung X5
The Samsung X5 is built like a tank but runs like a sports car. The design is inspired by sports cars. Additionally, the drive’s bottom has a matte finish to prevent it from slipping.
It isn’t fragile, though. Under the shroud are multiple layers of protection, including a frame that reinforces the drive from within and a heatsink that keeps the memory chips inside cool. Based on Samsung’s testing, the drive will stay below 45 degrees Celsius at room temperature and can withstand a two-meter drop, thanks to the magnesium-alloy frame.
Put simply, the Samsung X5 is the best of the best. However, it comes with a price to match. It costs nearly $0.50 per gigabyte, with little discount as you move higher in duration. Considering It’s essentially Samsung’s highest-end NVMe SSD in a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure, the price isn’t too bad.
- Extremely fast
- Built-in heatsink
- Magnesium-alloy frame
- Very expensive
5. Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD
The Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD isn’t that impressive when it comes to performance. It uses USB 3.0 for data transfer, which tops out the sequential read speed at under 400 MB/s and is nearly as expensive as the Samsung X5. However, as the name implies, it’s wireless.
You can access your data wirelessly and stream movies from the drive, but that’s not its ideal function. The drive casts its 802.11ac WiFi signal, allowing photographers and videographers to record and edit directly from and to the drive without any connection. Additionally, you can preview files using a smartphone or tablet with an app like FiLMiC Pro.
Furthermore, the My Passport Wireless SSD has a built-in SD card reader, allowing location photographers and videographers to dump media without the need for a computer. This is especially useful in a nature-photography setting where minimal gear is important.
Other Reasons I Like the Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD
Given Western Digital’s focus on field professionals with the My Passport Wireless SSD, it should come as little surprise that it can handle a beating. The SSD inside is protected from shocks, vibrations and falls up to a meter, no matter if it’s operating or not. Western Digital even includes a drop-protector for the drive in the box.
With its wireless functionality and rigid build quality, the My Passport Wireless SSD is large, but Western Digital puts the extra space to good use. Also packed inside is a 6,700-mAh power bank that provides 1.5A of power when the drive is off and 0.9A when it’s on.
The Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD is a highly specialized external drive with a price to match. For some users, it’s simply an overpriced, underperforming external disk. However, for those that do location work, it’s built with a set of features that optimizes portability, power, and workflow.
- Built-in SD card reader
- Power bank
- Built-in WiFI
If you’re looking for a general-purpose best external hard drive , it’s hard to beat the Samsung T7. The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD provides a smaller form, the G-Drive Mobile SSD is more rigid and the Samsung X5 has faster speed, but the balance of price, performance, features and build is strongest with the T7.