(Pocket-lint) - With more laptops and devices being equipped with flash memory, that often means it becomes too expensive to get a good amount of storage built-in.
And, with so many more of us travelling around for work, working from home or needing to use more than one machine, it's more important than ever to have an external drive of sorts.
Thankfully, there's a lot of them around. And most of the portable options are small enough to go in a pocket.
SSD (solid-state) drives like these are preferable to HDD (more traditional style hard-drives) with the former being a bit more expensive, but also faster, smaller and more portable. They're also more likely to last you a long time because there are no moving parts. For editing movies and photos on an external drive, nothing really gets the job done like an SSD.
We've tested each of the following, using each of them to edit 4K video footage in Final Cut Pro, keeping the original files on the external drive, and each of them performed really well, with no real frame-drop issues, slow export or render times. So, regardless of which of the following you get, you'll enjoy the speediness and efficiency.
Judging them based on portability, design, performance and value for money, here are our top picks.
Samsung T7 Touch
The Samsung T7 Touch is the latest in ultra-fast portable drives from Samsung that joins our list and replaces our previous favourite - the T5.
With the T7 Touch, Samsung has taken the brilliant foundations of the previous drive and improved upon them. Not only is the transfer speed of the T7 almost double that of the T5 (at up to 1,050 MB/s) but it's also interesting in other ways too.
This is a drive that's designed to blur the lines between professional and personal use with the inclusion of AES 256-bit hardware data encryption and a fingerprint sensor/password setup. It includes both USB type-C-to-C, USB type-C-to-A cables in the box and software for Mac, PC and Android phones too. Using that software you can set a secure password and scan your fingerprints to secure the drive so no one else can access it. Plugged in without scanning it simply won't show any files on the drive.
You also have the option of registering as many as four different fingerprints, meaning you can scan your preferred fingers or give access to family or team members with ease.
All this is rounded off in a durable, aesthetically pleasing aluminium housing with a nifty "Motion LED" light around the fingerprint reader. The T7 Touch is a brilliant balance of speed, portability and security that we love and are sure you will too.
The WD_Black P10 is one of several variants of external SSDs Western Digitial has designed specifically for gamers. This drive comes with a robust, snazzy-looking housing that includes an aluminium top for passive cooling goodness. It's available in several size formats and offers extra space for your games.
An external drive like this is a brilliantly simple way to upgrade your storage space for more games without messing about with internals. We've written before on how to upgrade your PS4 and Xbox One using this sort of drive and the WD_Black range is an awesome option. The bonus of the P10 is it's plug and play. We used it on PC, installing a multitude of Steam games, then booting them straight from the drive with reasonable speed. The P10 isn't the fastest of the line-up (that honour goes to the P50) but it is a brilliant balance of speed, size and value for money.
If you want something faster, the P50 is a niftier option with a rear/write speed of 1980MB/s and USB SuperSpeed 20Gbps too. While if you need insane amounts of space there's the D10 which offers up to 12 TBs of storage space and can hold as many as 200 games.
Surefire Gaming Bunker SSD
The Surefire Gaming Bunker SSD is designed for gamers. It offers extra external storage space for large and ever-expanding games libraries with fast transfer speeds and snazzy looks too.
This drive offers 450MB/s read speeds and a USB 3.2 GEN 1 interface for transfer speeds of up to 5 Gbps.
In real-world terms, it means you can install your games directly on the drive and boot them up from it with ease. Plus is looks the business with some nifty RGB accents.
Seagate FireCuda gaming SSD
Gamers love RGB and speed. At least that's what Seagate seems to be saying with this external FireCuda Gaming SSD. A drive in a solid, robust casing that's rubber backed and sports a customisable RGB lighting strip.
This is a compact drive you could easily slip in your pocket, but it's also a great looking bit of kit with up to 2TB storage space and as much as 2,000MB/s max speed with USB 3.2 gen 2x2 tech.
Fast, fabulous and a fantastic addition to your gaming setup.
G-Technology is a unit of Western Digital for pro users known for fast speeds and rugged storage. But ArmorLock goes a step further for data security of large amounts of data.
ArmorLock doesn’t work with a password. Instead, the platform works with a mobile app to unlock the drive. You can control who accesses the data on the drive as well as what they can access – you can give people a QR code for access which can be restricted. It uses top-notch 256-bit AES-XTS hardware-based encryption.
As it’s an NVMe SSD you can expect fast read and write speeds in the region of 1,000MB per second.
G-Technology suggests that ArmorLock drives ideal for content creators, for example, where data needs to be carried around but is, perhaps, under embargo or would be problematic if it leaked. It's also ideal for financial records, personal data or any other case where you have sensitive
Providing you have authorised access, you can securely erase and reformat the drive in a single step or track its last-known location on a map if you left it somewhere. You can also update the drive’s firmware through the app, too.
The drive casing is designed for protection from the elements with IP67 dust and water resistance (dust-tight plus full immersion up to 1m) plus up to 3m drop protection. It’s also designed to be protected from being crushed (up to 1000lb), too.
Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD
Testing the transfer speeds from our MacBook Pro desktop to the Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD, we got virtually identical results to the Samsung. The same 9.3GB collection of files was transferred in 20.66 seconds, and the discrepancy easily ignorable, and probably explained by the pace of human reaction, rather than the speed of the transfer itself.
So performance is essentially as good, but there's one real reason you might want this over the Samsung: design. Not only is the Sandisk (somehow) considerably smaller and lighter than the T5, but it's also got some water and dust resistance.
You can't submerge it, but it'll survive the odd accidental splash. As a bonus, it also has a handy little cutout in the corner to feed a carabiner through so you can attach it to your keys if you want to.
Samsung X5 Thunderbolt drive
If you want a stupendously fast external drive, look no further. The Samsung X5 is it, featuring sequential read speeds up to 2,800MB/s and sequential write speeds up to 2,300MB/s. Using the same 9.3GB collection of seven video files, we tested the transfer speeds and were blown away. Those same files that take 20-25 seconds on the previously mentioned drives took less than 6.5 seconds on the Samsung X5.
You may be wondering, why with those speeds is it not our top recommendation? Two simple reasons: it is pretty expensive, and it only achieves those speeds if you use a Thunderbolt 3 port on your Mac/Laptop. If you can afford it, and you have TB3 ports on your computer, it's well worth it. It's so ridiculously fast.
Taking a different approach to the T5, Samsung clad the X5 in plastic, but in the form that looks more like the outer shell of a sports car than an external drive. What's more, inside it has a protection guard built from magnesium and a heat sink to ensure the NVMe SSD inside is kept at a temperature below 45 degrees C.
All of this innovation and design comes at a cost, both literally in terms of cash outlay and in portability. It's not exactly huge, but it's three times heavier than the Samsung T5, and considerably taller, wider and thicker. Still, it's not difficult to carry around and comfortably fits in a pocket.
ADATA SE800 External Solid State Drive
The ADATA SE800 is a compact, lightweight, blazingly fast portable SSD. This is an external drive that comes in a uber-snazzy looking protective shell that looks like it's made of brushed aluminium. That shell is also IP-68 rated, meaning that (as long as it is properly sealed) it's waterproof, dustproof and shockproof too. So your data is safe if you happen to take a soaking while carrying it or accidentally drop it into a small body water - the bath, a puddle, a river, the toilet. We're not here to judge.
This drive isn't just about looks and waterproofing though, it's also a powerhouse. Thanks to USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C connectivity, it's able to transfer data at speeds of up to 1,0000MB/s making it one of the fastest drives on this list. It comes bundled with both a USB 3.2 Type-C to C cable and USB 3.2 Type-C to A cable meaning it will also connect to basically anything you own with ease too.
WD My Passport Portable SSD
If you want a tiny drive that can slip into a pocket or bag really easily, this option from Western Digital is a great shout.
It's up there with the faster drives on this list, at 1,000MB/s for both reading and writing and is extremely easy to set up. You can easily password protect the drive with an included tool, while it has shock resistance to protect from falls (although it doesn't feel as durable as it apparently should be!).
As you'd hope, you get a USB 2.3 Type-C cable and an adapter in case you don't have a modern port.
LaCie Rugged SSD
By SSD standards, the LaCie is big and bulky but - as the name suggests - it's very durable. It can survive drops up to 2 metres, and conforms to Military Standard 810-F. It's recognisable instantly too, thanks to its bright orange chunky, texturised silicone outer casing that absorbs all the shocks and bumps you can throw its way.
Don't confuse its chunky, hefty looks for slow pace though. It's just as speedy as most of the others on this list, thanks to that SSD storage. Using our same selection of video files, it transferred them in around 20.2 seconds, bringing it up to speed with the Samsung T5 and SanDisk options.
As a bonus, for those who still have computers rocking the old style Thunderbolt port, it has one of those connectors built into the unit, wrapped around safely in the rubber sleeve.
Toshiba Canvio Basics Portable HD
If you're looking for really great value for money, the Toshiba Canvio Basics is one way to go. It's compatible with USB 3.0, so it's not a snail, and it's compatible with Xbox and PS4, although it is formatted to NTFS for Windows machines, rather than the system Mac uses. It can be reformatted to work with Mac, however, or you can download plugins to make your Mac read NTFS-formatted drives.
In our file transfer test, it was slightly faster than the Seagate Backup Plus, but not by much. The 9.3GB collection of videos transferred across in around 1min 12 seconds.