The best external solid state drives offer your laptop more storage space with incredible speeds. Higher read and write rates translate into faster data transfers and improved application load times over external hard drives. Even better, these drives offer the same plug-and-play ease of use as external hard drives, but in a slicker form factor. Since SSDs have no moving parts, you’re also benefitting from a decreased chance of mechanical failure.
As SSD technology becomes both more common and affordable (the best gaming laptops use SSD over HDD), more portable external solutions have become available for purchase. Below, we’ve picked the best external solid state drives based on performance, price and form factor.
(Image credit: Samsung)Pick 1: Samsung T7 Portable SSD
Configurations: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Blazing fast transfer rate
Dynamic Thermal Guard
Vibrant design variety
Requires USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 equipped laptop for fastest speeds
Sporadic disconnects noted by some users
Nimble with a high storage capacity, the T7 portable SSD drive from Samsung holds a ton of data while providing a speedy 1,050 MB/S transfer rate. Offering dynamic thermal protection to prevent overheating, a shock-resistant chassis that can withstand up to a six-foot drop and vibrant color options, the T7 is the best external SSD for most people. The drive plays nicely with all data formats and is backed by Samsung’s three year warranty.
If you want to experience the lightning fast speeds of the T7 Drive, you’ll need to have a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2-equipped laptop. Without these specific ports, the drive will perform similarly to the cheaper T5. Users have also noted random disconnects during large data transfers in reviews. Overall, the T7 is a solid performer, perfect for every need from gaming to content creation.
(Image credit: SanDisk)Pick 2: SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
Configurations: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Rugged shock-resistant material
Backed by a three year warranty
Half the speed of top performers
Incompatible With MacOS data encryption
Are you storing important files, like years of family media and/or work documents? SanDisk’s Extreme Portable SSD trades the highest possible transfer speeds for peace of mind. Withstanding ordinarily fatal drops, water submersion and dust damage, you’ll never have to worry about losing your data. Perfect for rapidly transferring high-resolution photos and videos, this drive is popular with active creators who are usually on the move. However, parents of destructive pets and toddlers can also benefit from the added resilience this portable SSD offers.
Unfortunately, Sandisk’s external SSD is incompatible with cacOS’s disk encryption. Whether you’re a commercial photographer looking to protect your work or an average Joe with risque photos from last Valentine’s Day, we’d recommend you look at other SSDs if privacy is your concern. For those OK with the lacki of security, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is worthy of its title thanks to ruggedness that can weather almost any storm.
(Image credit: PNY)Pick 3: PNY Elite USB 3.0 External SSD
Configurations: 240GB, 480GB and 960GB
Unbelievably small form factor
Limited storage configurations
If you only have a few files to move back and forth, the PNY Elite External SSD is the most portable option on the list. Smaller than a credit card, the PNY Elite transfers files at 430 MB/S in an ultra compact form factor. The speed may not blow you away, but an SSD the size of a USB stick sure as hell will. Weighing in at just a bit over one ounce, the PNY Elite SSD makes for a great travel companion.
PNY is leaving money on the table, manufacturing devices with such limited capacity. The largest drive in the lineup holds just under 1TB of data. This translates to about 20 AAA games. With services like Xbox Game Pass offering gamers a huge catalogue of games, 960GB can fill up quickly. Creatives who shoot in high resolution will also manage to rapidly eat away at the drive’s space. For everyone else, PNY’s Elite SSD is definitely serviceable for the price, but won’t hold as much data as the competition.
(Image credit: Seagate)Pick 4: Seagate Barracuda SSD
Configurations: 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB
Sleek and stylish design that features LED indicator light
Solid backup software
Incompatible with older computers that only have USB-2 controllers
With a focus on faster game boot times, Seagate’s slick external Barracuda SSD boasts up to 2TB of storage space in an ultra-thin chassis. An aesthetically pleasing neon green indicator light adds a bit of flair to the SSD’s otherwise minimalist look. While most drive backup software can be difficult to navigate, Seagate’s SyncPlus interface is pleasantly straightforward.
A premium price point and incompatibility with older laptops housing older USB-2 controllers relegates the Barracuda to being just a good choice for gamers. The drive is suitable for use with current generation gaming consoles, including the PS4 and Xbox One. You’ll see faster installations, menu navigation and load times in some of your favorite games. If you want a portable SSD that blends personality with performance, look no further than the Seagate Barracuda.
(Image credit: Silicon Power)Pick 5: Silicon Power
Configurations: 240GB, 480GB, 1TB and 2TB
Functional design that is protective and portable
Transfer speeds slower than the bigger brands
For those looking to get the most bang for their buck, Silicon Power offers a rugged external SSD solution with solid functionality. While on paper, its speeds are on a par with the bigger brands, this simply isn’t the case. Silicon Power heavily undercuts the competition in price at the cost of cut corners in construction. The drive’s design may not be the prettiest and its plastic exterior may not feel the best, but this external SSD is practical and compact.
Transferring large amounts of data lowers transfer speeds to a fraction of the advertised 540MB/s. We recommend using this device for reading data and transferring smaller workloads. Those looking to expand their storage on the cheap will find the Silicon Power portable SSD offers exceptional value.