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Best portable SSD of 2021

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Included in this guide:

Two Samsung portable SSD's alongside a smartphone and laptop.

What makes the best portable SSDs so stellar is their ability to quickly and smoothly give you access to your files while ensuring that those files are kept safe. However, because of their portable nature, they’re also able to let you easily share files between PCs, add more capacity to an overwhelmed laptop, and backup sensitive files.

Because portable SSDs are being made increasingly robust and efficient, they’re not only designed to be fast but secure as well, boasting a more durable build to survive drops, bumps, and any other potential accidents while in transit.

No matter what you’re looking for, even if brand is a consideration, we have some great options for you here including ones from Seagate, Western Digital, and more. These are especially popular during the holidays since portable SSDs tend to get a good amount of deals and sales. That means that this is the perfect time to do your research and pick out the SSD that fits your needs and your budget. 

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(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung T7 SSD

Best external SSD for the security-conscious

Specifications
Capacity: 50GB, 1TB or 2TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen2
Reasons to buy
+Built-in security with fingerprint access+Incredibly fast+Compact
Reasons to avoid
-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.

Overall, the Samsung T7 SSD is one of the best portable SSD's currently available and well worth considering for a purchase.

2. Samsung T5 SSD

Our pick for the best portable SSD

Specifications
Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface: USB Type-C
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly fast+Highly compact
Reasons to avoid
-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.

3. Seagate Fast SSD

One of the best value portable SSDs

Specifications
Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface: USB Type-C
Reasons to buy
+Impressive performance+Good price
Reasons to avoid
-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. 

The Seagate Fast SSD is well worth considering if you're looking for a the best portable SSD for a low price.

4. Samsung X5 Portable SSD

Thunderbolt 3 and NVMe come together to deliver top notch performance

Specifications
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface: Thunderbolt 3
Reasons to buy
+Exceptional performance+Hardware encryption
Reasons to avoid
-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.

5. Adata SE730H External SSD

The best high-speed external storage device

Specifications
Capacity: 256GB, 1TB
Interface: USB 3.1 (Gen 2)
Reasons to buy
+Small+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-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.

6. WD My Passport Wireless SSD

The best portable SSD for travelling photographers

Specifications
Capacity: 250 GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface: USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
+Drop-resistant rubber bumper+Excellent USB transfer speeds
Reasons to avoid
-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. 

The WD My Passport Wireless SSD 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 utilizing 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.

7. Adata SD700 External SSD

One of the best cheap portable SSDs

Specifications
Capacity: 256GB, 512GB or 1TB
Interface: USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
+Great performance+IP68 rating
Reasons to avoid
-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. 

The Adata SD700 External SSD 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.

(Image credit: LaCie)

8. LaCie Portable High Performance External SSD

Light and minimalist

Specifications
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface: USB-C, USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Shock-resistant
Reasons to avoid
-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, making them rugged enough to survive most accidental drops, as well as being lightweight and shock-resistant. 

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.

(Image credit: G-Technology)

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

Keep your files safe and secure

Specifications
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface: USB-C, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 3 compatibility
Reasons to buy
+Rugged+Compact+Fast enough to improve workflow
Reasons to avoid
-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.

(Image credit: GNARBOX)

10. GNARBOX 2.0 SSD

Best for photographers and videographers

Specifications
Capacity: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Interface: 2 x USB-C, SD and Micro HDMI ports
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly convenient to use+Built for the outdoors
Reasons to avoid
-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.

Kingston XS2000 Review Listing

(Image credit: Future)

A portable SSD with speeds almost as fast as Thunderbolt 3

Specifications
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB and 2TB
Interface: USB-C, USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
Reasons to buy
+Very solidly built+Rugged with IP55 rating+Fantastic speed if you have a compatible system
Reasons to avoid
-Requires the right hardware to maintain USP-Expensive if you just want plenty of fast storage

The Kingston XS2000 is one of the first and maybe only portable SSDs to feature USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. As a result, the device has impressive speeds with Kingston claiming it can reach up to 20000MBps read/write. Keep in mind though that your hardware will need to be compatible with the USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 protocol to take full advantage of this portable drive.

In addition to being fast, the Kingston XS2000 is also light at just 29g and quite compact. Kingston also includes a rubber sleeve to further protect this water resistant, dust resistant and shockproof drive.

Read the full review: Kingston XS2000


What is NAND flash?

Anthony Spence, from SSD and memory specialist Silicon Power , answers this question.

"NAND Flash is a type of non-volatile storage technology. Non-volatile simply means that NAND, unlike DRAM (or system memory), does not require power to retain data. The ability to retain data after turning off the power makes NAND a great option for external on-the-go storage devices.

In contrast to hard disk drives (HDD), NAND Flash isn’t a magnetic technology, instead it makes use of electric circuits and a number of memory cells to store data. 

NAND holds several advantages over HDD, for instance it has no moving parts, thus in theory data won’t be affected by accidental drops or falls. NAND Flash devices tend to be smaller and lighter in comparison to HDD, but most importantly, the performance of NAND Flash devices is considerably larger than the one from HDD ones.

The major drawback from NAND comes from the fact that they tend to be expensive on a dollar per gigabyte basis, especially when compared to more traditional hard drives. The two most common ways to offset this problem are by either adding bits per cell or by moving away from 2D planar technology to 3D NAND technology and beyond."

What is 3D NAND flash?

3D NAND also known as V-NAND technology enables NAND cells to be layered up. Layering NAND contributes to overcoming planar NAND capacity limitations. As NAND cells are stacked vertically instead of horizontally higher density can be achieved without sacrificing data integrity. 

3D NAND not only offers higher memory density when compared to 2D NAND, but also is able to achieve lower power consumption, better endurance, higher read and write speeds and an overall lower cost per gigabyte.

Matt Hanson

Senior Computing editor

Matt (Twitter) is TechRadar's Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. If you're encountering a problem or need some advice with your PC or Mac, drop him a line on Twitter.