Portable SSDs are a good way to increase the amount of storage you have to preserve digital data and take that data with you wherever you go. These powerful accessories let you pack a huge amount of storage in your daily bag, giving you a place where you can offload files from your computer or smartphone, access files you only need in certain circumstances, and backup important information on the go.
But the world of portable SSDs is a large one, and choosing the best device for your needs can be a challenge. It’s not just about how small the device is, how durable it is, or how many gigabytes of storage it has—the speed of a portable SSD can heavily influence your satisfaction with it. SSDs in general promise better read and write speeds than HDDs, so you’ll see a general increase if you’re going from one to the other. However, not all portable SSDs perform the same—even if they advertise similar maximum speeds.
To help you decide which portable SSD might work for you, Ars put some of the newest and most popular portable SSDs on the market to the test and judged them on speed, design, durability, compatibility, and price. Here are our findings:
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The short version
The best portable SSD you can buy right now is the $149 CalDigit Tuff Nano (512GB). It was one of the fastest performing SSDs we tested, beating out most of the competition in read and write speeds. It’s one of the most portable drives as well, with a metal body that has dimensions smaller than the size of a typical credit card. The device is IP67 water- and dust-resistant, and it has a special USB-C port that has its own waterproof rating. We only wish it came in more capacity variations, but for now, the CalDigit Tuff Nano portable SSD in 512GB is well worth its price of $149. Buy now CalDigit Tuff Nano (512GB) at Amazon.
Our runner-up portable SSD is the Samsung T5 (500GB). This palm-sized drive has been very popular over the past few years as a drive that’s as reliable as it is portable. It’s not as fast as our top pick, but it was one of the fastest among the average performers in our benchmark tests. We also appreciate that it has AES 256-bit hardware encryption and optional password protection to provide even more peace of mind that your data is secure. The Samsung T5 is a good choice if you want a reliable portable SSD that’s reasonably fast and slightly more affordable than our top pick. Buy now Samsung T5 (500GB) at Amazon.
The most durable option is the SanDisk Extreme portable SSD (1TB). We like this drive for its tiny size, shock-, vibration-, drop-, and water-resistant body and its read and write speeds that are nearly identical to our runner up. It also has AES 128-bit hardware encryption for an additional level of data security. If you’re frightened of dropping the Samsung T5’s tiny, all-metal body or just want a drive that has a few more physical safeguards, the SanDisk Extreme is a good option. Buy now SanDisk Extreme SSD (1TB) at Amazon.
Our best luxury pick is the OWC Envoy Pro EX (2TB) thanks to its blazing fast read and write speeds and slick design. It outperformed almost every other portable SSD we tested, reading and writing even the largest files with ease. The OWC Envoy Pro EX starts at $129 for a 240GB model and costs a whopping $499 for a 2TB model. Those who need a portable SSD for their daily workflow that can handle nearly anything they throw at it will find the OWC Envoy Pro EX a good investment. Buy now OWC Envoy Pro EX (2TB) at OWC.