If you regularly move large files between computers and need a quick, small device to try to to it with, you ought to get a transportable SSD. After researching 17 portable SSD and testing the five most promising in 2019, we found that the 500 GB Samsung T5 was the best. It’s fast, compact, competitively priced, and reliable, and the one we tested has worked well for the past two years.
The 500 GB Samsung T5 Portable SSD is about as costly per gigabyte as another external SSDs. It’s also very light and compact, so you can easily throw it in your bag (or even tuck it inside your pocket) when you’re on the go. The T5 has one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port that supports USB transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps, and unlike other portable SSDs we tested, it includes cables to connect to both new and old devices, as well as useful AES 256-bit hardware encryption to protect your sensitive data. The T5 had software that was pleasant to navigate, with a clean layout; other portable SSDs we tested didn’t include software, or their software was bloated and less intuitive. With the T5, it’s a breeze to set up encryption or check for updates. Plus it has an indicator that lights up when it’s connected and blinks while it’s actively transferring (a minor perk, but one that makes life easier), and it comes with a three-year warranty.
If you would like more storage and you’re willing to buy it, we recommend the 1 TB Samsung T5 Portable SSD. Since higher-capacity solid-state drives often provide slightly improved performance, we expect the 1 TB version to be a touch faster than the five hundred GB model, although we weren’t ready to test it. It’s otherwise just like the five hundred GB model in size and features, and it costs about an equivalent per gigabyte because of the 500 GB version.
If the Samsung T5 is sold out or unavailable, or if the T5 is significantly costlier, we recommend the 512 GB Western Digital My Passport SSD. just like the T5, the My Passport SSD supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 transfer speeds, and in our testing, it had been about 10 MB/s slower than the Samsung T5, a borderline imperceptible difference. The My Passport SSD is longer, thinner, and a touch lighter than the Samsung, but they’re both pretty darn compact—and they’re smaller than everything else we tested that performed comparably. it’s one USB-C port and comes with a USB-C–to–USB-C cable, also as a small USB-C–to–USB-A adapter, which seems easy to lose compared with the USB-C–to–USB-A cable that comes with the Samsung T5. just like the Samsung—and unlike its competition—the My Passport SSD has AES 256-bit hardware encryption to reliably protect your sensitive information. And it comes with a solid, three-year warranty. But some Amazon reviewers found its software annoying, and it lacks Samsung’s helpful activity indicator light.
How we picked
This is what you ought to search for during a portable solid-state drive:
- Reliability: a transportable SSD must keep your data safe.
- Toughness: Since portable SSDs lack moving parts, they’re less susceptible than mechanical drives to total failure when dropped, jostled, or subjected to changes in temperature or vibration. a transportable SSD should even be sturdily built and not feel creaky or hollow. Manufacturers like Samsung, SanDisk, and Western Digital control all aspect of SSD development by building their own SSD controllers, firmware, and NAND. this suggests that they will design their portable SSDs to figure reliably from the beginning.
- Endurance: non-volatile storage cells are often written to only numerous times before wearing out. You’d need to write many terabytes of data to even begin to wear out the drive, though, and really few people will ever get near that limit. But high endurance may be a bonus, especially if you’re performing a high-intensity task on the drive, like 4K video editing. SSD manufacturers don’t report durability ratings for external drives (only for internal ones), but we wish they might. We’ll keep an eye fixed on customer reviews for reliability data.
- Drive speed: Speed is that the reason you’re spending tons more for a transportable SSD over a transportable or desktop disk drive, so we tested both sequential and random speeds. Although fast sequential speeds are important for transferring and backing up large blocks of knowledge to your drive, quick random speeds are essential if you want to run programs or games directly off of the portable SSD. (That’s not ideal; your internal solid-state drive are going to be faster and not vulnerable to corruption if a cable gets jostled.)
- Connection type: We considered both USB-A and USB-C models during this review. this means the form of the physical connector, but not necessarily the info transfer speed or power delivery speed. USB-C ports can support data transfers of anywhere from 480 Mbps (USB 2.0) to 40 Gbps (Thunderbolt 3).1 during this review, we considered only external SSDs that support USB 3.1 Gen 1 or faster (also referred to as USB 3.0 or USB 3.2 Gen 1). USB 3.1 Gen 1 can theoretically transfer data at a maximum speed of 625 MB/s (5 Gbps), USB 3.1 Gen 2 is twice as fast, with a maximum theoretical speed of 1,250 MB/s (10 Gbps), and USB 3.2 2×2 is fourfold as fast, at 2,500 MB/s (20 Gbps). Thunderbolt 3 features a maximum theoretical speed of 5,000 MB/s (40 Gbps).
- Price: costlier portable SSDs offer faster speeds, but you shouldn’t overpay to urge extra speed or other features you’ll not notice. as an example, Samsung claims the X5 Portable SSD has read and write speeds of two, 800 MB/s and a couple of, 100 MB/s, respectively—more than five times as fast because the Samsung T5’s. except for most of the people, paying about 3 times the maximum amount for that speed isn’t necessary.
- Capacity: An SSD with a capacity of around 500 GB and a tag of $100 approximately currently represents the simplest mixture of affordability, space, and speed. Drives with capacities of 1 TB and a couple of TB tend to be about as cost-effective, but they typically cost about $200 and $330, respectively. On the opposite hand, 250 GB versions are too small for several people; they’re less widely available and typically costlier per gigabyte.
- Size and weight: a transportable SSD should be light and compact—many are roughly the dimensions of a stack of sticky notes, or maybe smaller.
- Encryption: Portable SSDs that support the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), can more reliably protect your sensitive information. External solid-state drives with AES don’t require software to line it up, although they ought to include password-protection software to enable encryption to stay your data safe from unauthorized access, albeit the drive is faraway from its housing. Not all portable SSDs offer this feature, and that we prioritize drives that do.
- Software: Backup software may be a nice addition to a transportable SSD, but it’s not essential. If you would like, you’ll find many backup service alternatives online.
- Indicator light: Some drives feature an LED indicator which will illuminate when the drive is connected to your device, and although it’s not a requirement, we found this to be very useful.
- Warranty and customer service: Three-year warranties are standard among portable solid-state drives, although we found a couple with less impressive warranties. Strong customer service is additionally valuable for when something goes wrong.
We investigated the foremost popular portable solid-state drives on Amazon, and that we scoured the websites of well-known external SSD manufacturers like Samsung, SanDisk, Western Digital, and LaCie for worthy contenders. We came up with five finalists: the Samsung T5 Portable SSD, the Western Digital My Passport SSD, the SanDisk Extreme Portable External SSD, the Seagate Fast SSD, and therefore the Adata SE730H Portable External SSD.
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How we tested
We used CrystalDiskMark, Anvil Storage Utilities, and ATTO Disk Benchmark to test each drive’s sequential and random speeds. (We show our CrystalDiskMark results as points of comparison, but the more-thorough Anvil and ATTO tests were in line with that data.) We ran all of our tests on a Lenovo Yoga C930 laptop. Its PCIe solid-state drive and Thunderbolt 3 port were fast enough to avoid bottlenecking the drives we tested. We also explored each drive’s included software, if it had any, and checked build quality to make sure there were no obvious red flags.
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Our pick: 500 GB Samsung T5 Portable SSD
Samsung T5 Portable SSD (500 GB)
The 500 GB Samsung T5 Portable SSD is that the best portable solid-state drive for many people because it’s reliable, fast, and fairly priced, and it’s more compact than most of the portable SSDs we tested. At around 18¢ per gigabyte of storage, it costs about the same as most portable SSDs, many of which are slower and physically larger, although the race was tight. The T5 has a single USB-C port that supports transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps and includes both a USB-C–to–USB-C cable and a USB-C–to–USB-A cable, which makes the T5 easier to use than portable SSDs that provide adapters rather than cables. It also comes with the easiest-to-use software of the drives we tested and AES 256-bit hardware encryption to protect your data. Plus, it has a handy indicator light—so you know when it’s transferring data—and a three-year warranty.
Using a Thunderbolt 3 port, the Samsung T5 gave us sequential read and write speeds of 547.3 MB/s and 491.3 MB/s, respectively. Because Thunderbolt 3 has up to 40 Gbps of throughput, it lets drives that support USB 3.x Gen 2 (10 Gbps), such as the T5, run at their full speeds. Every drive we tested was faster when connected to a Thunderbolt port than to a 5 Gbps port (variously called USB 3.0, 3.1 Gen 1, and 3.2 Gen 1). In the case of the T5, its read and write speeds when connected to a Thunderbolt 3 port were 24 percent and 12 percent faster, respectively, than when connected to a USB 3.0 port. The T5’s USB 3.0 sequential speeds of 441.4 MB/s and 438.9 MB/s were virtually just like those of each other portable SSD we tested.
When plugged into a Thunderbolt 3 port, the Samsung T5 had random read and write speeds of about 20.8 MB/s and 39.9 MB/s, respectively; every drive we tested had similar speeds.
At the time of writing, the 500 GB model was priced at about $90, or 18¢ per gigabyte, which is in line with other USB 3.x Gen 2 portable SSDs; the Western Digital My Passport SSD cost about an equivalent. When we started suggesting portable SSDs in late 2017, a 500 GB Samsung T3 cost about $200. Since then, SSDs have dropped in price by more than half.
At 2.9 inches long, 2.3 inches wide, and 0.4 inch thick, the Samsung T5 Portable SSD is one of the smallest external SSDs we found. It weighs just 1.8 ounces—despite an aluminum enclosure that feels solid and robust—making it easy to throw in your backpack (or pocket) when you have somewhere you need to go. The size and weight differences among the portable solid-state drives we tested weren’t significant, though. The heaviest drive we tested was 2.9 ounces, only about an ounce more than the Samsung T5, so most people wouldn’t notice the difference in weight.
The Samsung T5 includes Portable SSD drivers on the drive for MacOS, Windows, and Android. Once you’ve installed the software, you can add (or remove) a password to enable or disable the drive’s AES 256-bit hardware encryption, which protects your sensitive information from unauthorized access. You can also use it to check for software and firmware updates. There’s not much else to do here, but it’s easy to use and pleasant to look at, unlike some of the bloated and dated-looking software that came with the other portable SSDs we tested, such as SanDisk’s SecureAccess software. (And it’s much better than working with portable SSDs that don’t offer software at all, such as the Adata SE730H.)
The Samsung T5 has a useful LED indicator on its side that lights up when the drive is connected and blinks when it’s transferring data. Samsung includes a three-year warranty, which is standard for most solid-state drives.
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Long-term test notes
Wirecutter senior writer Joel Santo Domingo has used the Samsung T5 for about a year and calls it a “daily commute companion.” He was able to consolidate several USB sticks’ worth of data onto the drive without giving up the benefits of solid-state storage, and he also praised the included cable. “I liked that it was a USB-A–to–USB-C cable, and not an adapter,” he said. “The latter is too easy to lose in a laptop bag.” He said the indicator light is a nice bonus, too.
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More storage: 1 TB Samsung T5 Portable SSD
Samsung T5 Portable SSD (1 TB)
If you need double the storage and you’re willing to spend about twice as much, we recommend the 1 TB Samsung T5 Portable SSD. Since higher-capacity solid-state drives often provide slightly improved performance, we expect the 1 TB to be a little faster than the 500 GB Samsung T5 (even though we tested only the 500 GB capacity). At around $170, it costs about the same per gigabyte as the 500 GB version, with the same dimensions, features, and warranty.
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Runner-up: 512 GB Western Digital My Passport SSD
Western Digital My Passport SSD (512 GB)
We recommend the 512 GB Western Digital My Passport SSD if you’ll find it for significantly but the Samsung T5, or if the T5 is unavailable. The My Passport is about as fast and costs about an equivalent, and, just like the T5, it’s a USB-C port and supports USB 3.x Gen 2 (transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps). It’s longer, thinner, and a touch lighter than the Samsung T5, but we don’t think you’d notice a size difference in use. just like the T5, it’s extra features, like encryption and software, that make it a far better choice than the competition. It lacks the indicator light that the Samsung T5 has, though, and therefore the software isn’t nearly as good.
The My Passport SSD features a USB-C port, and it comes with a USB-C–to–USB-C cable. It also includes a small USB-C–to–USB-A adapter for older systems that’s easy to pop on and off, but we’re concerned which will be easy to lose.
The 512 GB My Passport SSD costs about an equivalent because the faster Samsung T5. The 256 GB model is out there only on Western Digital’s website, and it costs about $100 (more than the 512 GB model). Western Digital’s 1 TB model is about 1¢ less costly per gigabyte than the 512 GB model.
At 3.5 inches long, 1.8 inches wide, and 0.4 inch thick, the Western Digital joins the Samsung T5 together of the foremost compact portable solid-state drives we found. Associated with the Samsung T5, the My Passport SSD is 0.6 inch longer and a half-inch skinnier. It weighs 1.4 ounces—0.2 ounce lighter than our top pick—making it one among the lightest solid-state drives we tested. The My Passport SSD’s enclosure felt as sturdy because the Samsung T5’s, although its metallic gray bottom may be a fingerprint magnet.
My Passport SSD introduces Western Digital Discovery installations for Mac and Windows. Using Discovery, you can access Western Digital Security, where you can set and remove your password to activate the drive’s AES 256-bit hardware encryption. You can also prefer to back up your portable solid-state drive through Western Digital’s Discovery software. Although the software is easy to use, it has ads for different applications—like Plex, Upthere Home, and Acronis True Image—which performs it feel bloated. (You can hide the ads by pressing the down arrow on the Available Apps tab, but you’ll have to do this every time you open the app.) We read in some Amazon customer reviews that WD’s software is annoying which it sends your laptop prompts every hour to see for updates. We didn’t have this experience ourselves.
The My Passport SSD doesn’t have an indicator light just like the Samsung T5 Portable SSD, but it does have a three-year warranty.
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Other good portable SSDs
These portable SSDs are even as fast as our top picks, but all of them have a minimum of one flaw that has kept them from being our top picks—such as a scarcity of encryption, a better price, or a heavier weight. But they’re still good options which will meet your particular needs, especially if they happen to get on sale. (And all of them have a three-year warranty.)
The 512 GB SanDisk Extreme Portable External SSD was as fast because of the Samsung T5. It doesn’t allow a helpful indicator light, however, which we missed. And although SanDisk does provide removable SecureAccess software—which is that the only thanks to allowing hardware encryption on the portable SSD—many people really dislike using it (especially Mac owners). It offers weaker encryption, too: 128-bit versus the Samsung T5’s 256-bit encryption.
Like the SanDisk, the 500 GB Seagate Fast SSD was even as speedy because the Samsung T5, and it’s an indicator light. The Seagate lacks hardware encryption. It weighs 2.9 ounces (nearly twice the maximum amount because the T5), but it’s still extremely light, so though the load increase is notable, we don’t think it matters an excessive amount of. The Seagate also offers folder-syncing software.