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After researching 28 external solid-state drives and testing the four most promising contenders in 2017, we found that the best portable SSD is the 500 GB Samsung T5 Portable SSD. Samsung’s solid-state drives work reliably, and the T5 was consistently speedier than the competition in our benchmark tests. It supports faster USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds, too.
The 500 GB Samsung T5 Portable SSD is the best portable solid-state drive for most people because it’s reliable, fast, reasonably priced, and compact. At around $200, or 40¢ per gigabyte, it costs about as much per gigabyte as most SSDs—many of which are slower and larger. The T5 has a single USB-C port that supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds and includes both a USB-C–to–USB-C cable and a USB-C–to–USB-A cable. It also comes with software that was the easiest to use 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 connected and actively transferring data, and it comes with a three-year warranty.
When plugged into a USB 3.0 port, the 500 GB Samsung T5 gave us sequential read and write speeds of 409.8 MB/s and 423.6 MB/s, respectively, about as fast as the competition. Using a Thunderbolt 3 port, it was even faster—462.2 MB/s and 493.3 MB/s, respectively. Its random speeds were faster than any of the competition, too.
If you need double the storage and you’re willing to spend around twice as much, we recommend the 1 TB Samsung T5 Portable SSD. Because 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 $400, it costs about the same per gigabyte as the 500 GB version, with the same dimensions, features, and warranty.
If our pick is sold out or unavailable, we recommend the 512 GB Western Digital My Passport SSD for around the same price. In our tests, the My Passport SSD was about 30 to 60 MB/s slower than the Samsung T5, but it was faster than the other two solid-state drives we tested. Like the Samsung T5, it has a USB-C port and supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds. The My Passport SSD is even thinner and lighter (but longer) than the T5, though not by much. Its software is as simple to use as the Samsung’s, and it has hardware encryption as well. The My Passport SSD has a three-year warranty but lacks an indicator light.
Plugged into a USB 3.0 port, the My Passport SSD had sequential read and write speeds of 387 MB/s and 383.9 MB/s, respectively. Although these are respectable speeds, they reflect the slower side of the four solid-state drives we tested. When we plugged the My Passport SSD into a Thunderbolt 3 port, though, it was faster than every drive except the Samsung T5.