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Best portable SSD of 2020: top external solid state drives

Best portable SSD

These days, the best external SSDs have become an integral part of many people’s setup. The demand for storage space has grown over the years, especially with everything from photos to important documents moving farther and farther away from traditional hard copies. Expanding your computer’s storage space, therefore, is the new norm, especially for laptop users who don’t quite have as much of it.

The best external SSDs are not only useful for expanding your storage space, however. Unlike portable hard drives, they have no moving parts so they’re faster and less likely to break, keeping your files portable while protected. And, quite few of them have a rugged build, so you can take them on your travels and adventures.

As the best external SSDs bring quite a few benefits to the table, they’re worth considering if you’re thinking about getting additional storage for your laptop or computer. The key to finding the ideal one for you is to see that it ticks all the right boxes, so we picked out the best portable SSDs to make your search easier. Whatever it is you’re looking for, you’ll find it on this list.

1. Samsung T5 SSD

Our pick for the best portable SSD of 2020

Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | Interface: USB Type-C

Incredibly fast
Highly compact
Expensive

Samsung is a company that has made some brilliant portable SSDs, and you'll see a number of its devices on this list, however the Samsung Portable SSD T5 is our pick of the best portable SSD of 2018. It builds on the brilliant design and performance of its predecessor, the Samsung T3 SSD (also on this best portable SSD list), but brings it up to date with an incredibly fast USB Type-C connection that ekes out every last drop of performance from the solid state drive inside. Of course, it's also backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 if your PC doesn't have USB Type-C. It's expensive, but it's well worth the cash.

Read the full review: Samsung Portable SSD T5

2. Seagate Fast SSD

One of the best value portable SSDs in 2020

Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | Interface: USB Type-C

Impressive performance
Good price
Short cable length

Seagate is a well-known brand when it comes to storage, and it's brought its impressive experience to the portable SSD market with the brilliant Seagate Fast SSD. This is an impressively slim external SSD, at only 9mm thick with a footprint of 94 x 79mm. Best of all, it's affordable – with prices likely to drop – and it’s an excellent performer, relatively small, plus it has a nice design and a three-year warranty. Well worth considering if you're looking for a the best portable SSD for a low price.

Read the full review: Seagate Fast SSD 500GB

3. Samsung X5 Portable SSD

Thunderbolt 3 and NVMe come together to deliver top notch performance

Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | Interface: Thunderbolt 3

Exceptional performance
Hardware encryption
Expensive
Not compact or waterproof

If you want speed above all else, and money is (almost) no object, than the Samsung X5 Portable SSD is the best portable SSD for you. It comes with a Thunderbolt 3 connection that takes full advantage of the super-fast speeds of the brilliant Samsung 970 Evo NVMe SSD that comes inside. However, that pure dedication to speed comes at some expense. First, there's the financial expense, as this is a pricey external SSD. It's also larger and bulkier than the Samsung T3 or Samsung T5, which are also on this list. The device is fairly heavy at 150g, triple the weight of the Samsung T5, and at 116 x 60 x 18mm, it can best be described as portable rather than miniature. However, when it comes to performance, the Samsung X5 Portable SSD is definitely the portable SSD to go for.

Read the full review: Samsung X5 Portable SSD

Adata SE730H External SSD

4. Adata SE730H External SSD

The best high-speed external storage device

Capacity: 256GB, 1TB | Interface: USB 3.1 (Gen 2)

Small
Great performance
Expensive
Lack of color options

This small and compact external hard drive offers very decent speeds, as well as a rugged body that keeps it safe from water - as well as drops and knocks. It's not the fastest drive out there - as it's still reliant on the aging SATA technology, rather than the newer - and faster - NVMe tech, but for the money you're still getting a brilliant performer. Adata claims this is the most compact external SSD, and with dimensions of 72.7 x 44 x 12.2mm and weighing only 37g excluding the cable, it is smaller and lighter than Samsung’s T3 and T5 drives - which are also on this list of the best portable SSDs. While it is pricey compared to some of the other external SSDs we have on this list, remember that it comes with military-certified protection. The stringent MIL-STD-810G 516.6 impact resistance test so it should survive accidental drops and shocks without much damage. If you shop around, you can also get it for less than its RRP.

5. WD My Passport Wireless SSD

The best portable SSD for travelling photographers

Capacity: 250 GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Drop-resistant rubber bumper
Excellent USB transfer speeds
Premium price
Extra SSD speed useless over Wi-Fi

Storage giant Western Digital is no stranger when it comes to storage gear aimed specifically at pro photographers, and with the WD My Passport Wireless SSD it has created another brilliant device that photographers (or even regular users) will love. It joins WD's growing stable of wireless hard drives, which allow you to view and move files via a Wi-Fi connection, rather than with a cable, which is handy. However, over Wi-Fi, you're not utilising the full speed of the SSD. It also connects via USB 3.0, which offers very good speeds, but not quite as fast as USB Type-C or Thunderbolt. But the flexibility and durability of the WD My Passport Wireless SSD is certainly tempting, plus it comes with a built-in SD card reader, making it one of the best portable SSDs for photographers.

Read the full review: WD My Passport Wireless SSD

Samsung T7 SSD

(Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung T7 SSD

Best external SSD for the security-conscious

Capacity: 50GB, 1TB or 2TB | Interface: USB 3.2 Gen2

Built-in security with fingerprint access
Incredibly fast
Compact
Not cheap
No rugged case

If you’re looking for a portable SSD with lots of features, then you might want to take a look at the Samsung T7 SSD. This external storage is not only fast – with sequential read and write speeds of up to 1,050 and 1,000 MB/s, respectively – but it also boasts quite a few nifty features in its palm-sized package. The most important of those features is, of course, its built-in security options that use AES 256-bit encryption and give you the option to use fingerprint sign-in, which you can set-up through its own management software.

Adata SD700 External SSD

7. Adata SD700 External SSD

One of the best cheap portable SSDs

Capacity: 256GB, 512GB or 1TB | Interface: USB 3.0

Great performance
IP68 rating
No USB Type-C

The Adata SD700 will suit those looking for a rugged storage device that can provide ample capacity without costing too much. It offers good speeds, and it's IP68 rated, which means you can carry it around with you without worrying about it getting damaged. It  comes in capacities up to 1TB, so you don't have to worry about missing out on storage space just because it uses an SSD. However, it doesn't come with the new USB Type-C connection, which means speeds aren't quite as fast as they could be.

LaCie Portable High Performance External SSD

(Image credit: LaCie)

8. LaCie Portable High Performance External SSD

Light and minimalist

Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | Interface: USB-C, USB 3.0

Lightweight
Shock-resistant
There are other more affordable options

There’s a reason why LaCie is among the few brands trusted by creators and digital nomads alike. The manufacturer has designed its hard and solid state drives to be travel-friendly, whether that’s rugged enough to survive accidental drops or lightweight and shock-resistant. The LaCie Portable High Performance External SSD falls in the second category. That is, while it may not have that rugged build that Lacie’s storage drives are known for, it is still built for travel. It’s versatile too when it comes to connectivity – while it does have that USB-C connection that’s best for MacBooks and the Dell XPS line, it also allows USB 3.0 connectivity for the other laptops out there.

G-Technology 1TB G-DRIVE mobile SSD

(Image credit: G-Technology)

9. G-Technology 1TB G-DRIVE mobile SSD

Keep your files safe and secure

Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | Interface: USB-C, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 3 compatibility

Rugged
Compact
Fast enough to improve workflow
Not cheap
Can heat up very quickly

When it comes to keeping your files safe and secure – whether from prying eyes or accidents – G-Technology is still king. The manufacturer’s G-Technology 1TB G-DRIVE mobile SSD, for example, is IP67 water and dust resistant, can survive falls of up to 3 meters, and has a 1,000-lb crush resistance. Impressed yet? Its transfer rate of up to 560MB/s and USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 3 compatibility should sweeten the pot. That is, as long as you’re willing to pay for it. Much like the LaCie Portable High Performance External SSD, this isn’t exactly among the cheapest options out there.

GNARBOX 2.0 SSD

(Image credit: GNARBOX)

10. GNARBOX 2.0 SSD

Best for photographers and videographers

Capacity: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB | Interface: 2 x USB-C, SD and Micro HDMI ports

Incredibly convenient to use
Built for the outdoors
Very expensive
Not for regular users

Gnarbox’s rugged backup SSDs have a very specific purpose. They’re designed for photographers and videographers to have a convenient and reliable backup drive for their precious high-resolutions files while in the field. The GNARBOX 2.0 SSD might not be for regular users, but it’s kind of an ingenious piece of peripheral for content creators – not just for backing up files but also for making space. Who hasn’t run out space in their SD card while they’re on a shoot? And, because it is designed to survive the great outdoors, it’s water, dust and shock resistant as well. This is, hands down, the best external ssd for the adventurous creative set.