The Best External SSDs (2021 Reviews)

Looking for a portable SSD (solid-state drive) that you can bring with you anywhere? Here are the best external SSDs to buy right now.

best overall

Samsung T5

External Ssd Drive
  • Sleek metal exterior
  • Sturdy build
  • Great performance
premium pick

Samsung X5

External Ssd Hard Drive
  • Unmatched performance
  • Still compact and portable

It feels like it was only yesterday that SSDs entered the mainstream, lightning-fast and completely outclassing old-school HDDs in the performance department. However, this enhanced performance came at a price as SSDs used to come with a very high price per gigabyte.

Yet now in 2021, SSDs are more affordable than ever.

What’s more, they are also perfectly viable external storage solutions.

In this guide, we’ll be going over some of the best external SSDs that money can buy in 2021, so if you’re thinking about buying one, stick around.

Table of ContentsShow

The Pros:

  • Sturdy metal exterior
  • Sleek finish

The Cons:

  • Color cannot be customized

About The SSD

What better way to kick off an SSD buying guide than with a product from Samsung? Indeed, this Korean giant is one of the leading suppliers of SSDs, so it’s no wonder that they have some external SSDs to offer as well.

The product in question is the Samsung T5, an SSD that is clean, simple, compact, and to the point. The metal frame and the rounded edges give off an impression of a sleek and high-quality product, which this SSD most certainly is.

Furthermore, it comes in blue and black, with the former being reserved for the 250 GB and the 500 GB variants, while the latter is only available for 1 TB and 2 TB versions.

Our Thoughts

Overall, the Samsung T5 is just the simplest no-frills external SSD that you can get. The exterior design is clean and inconspicuous, the frame is sturdy, and it is very lightweight and highly portable.

Meanwhile, the performance is the usual 540 MB/s read/write speed that is the norm with NAND SSDs, so it’s more than fast enough – at least as far as external storage is concerned. On top of that, it is also cheaper than most other external SSDs, though not by much.

Our only qualm with the T5 is that choosing the color is not an option, as blue is only available for the two smaller variants and black for the other two versions with greater storage capacity.

The Pros:

  • Highly compact
  • Extremely portable
  • Water, dust, and shock resistant

The Cons:

  • Would look better without the perforated front

About The SSD

The next model on our list comes from SanDisk, another big name in the digital storage industry. The SSD in question is the SanDisk Extreme, another highly compact external SSD that places an accent on portability.

This external SSD (eSSD) has the same four storage options like the Samsung T5, while the performance and pricing are roughly on par as well.

The key difference here is that the SanDisk Extreme is a bit slimmer, making it easier to carry around in your pocket, and not to mention just how convenient the orange plastic loop is since it allows for the SSD to be hung conveniently from a clip.

Our Thoughts

So, all in all, the SanDisk Extreme external SSD is essentially the same thing as the Samsung T5, at least as far as the performance and the storage capacity are concerned.

The design may be a bit too much for some people, but even if you prefer a simple and clean exterior, there’s just no denying: this is the best external SSD if portability is your chief concern. It is also IP55-certified for water and dust resistance, all the while the rubber exterior ensures it won’t get damaged easily.

In the end, if we had to find something to hold against the SanDisk Extreme, it would once again have to be aesthetic in nature. As already mentioned, not everyone is a fan of detail-heavy designs, especially in compact external products like this.

The Pros:

  • Compact, light, and portable
  • Unusual and standout design

The Cons:

  • No color options like the external HDDs from this series

About The SSD

Moving on, we have yet another big name that everyone has undoubtedly heard of, and it’s Western Digital. The external SSD of theirs that we’ll be taking a look at is the My Passport SSD which shares its design with the company’s My Passport external HDD products.

Once again, we are looking at the same NAND performance and roughly the same prices as before, though the My Passport is a bit pricier if you don’t catch it at a discount. Design-wise, it is also very slim, lightweight, and comfortable to hold, though it is blockier than most other SSDs.

Our Thoughts

At the end of the day, the WD My Passport SSD is just another NAND SSD that doesn’t differ significantly from the two preceding models – it offers similar performance and is not significantly more expensive nor significantly larger and heavier.

With that said, the main reason as to why you may want to go with this SSD instead of the Samsung T5 or the SanDisk Extreme is the aesthetics.

As mentioned above, the My Passport has a unique black/gray exterior and is quite blocky, which may be a good or a bad thing based on how you look at it.

One thing that we know for sure is that the My Passport eHDDs come in an array of beautiful colors while the SSD, for whatever reason, is stuck with the basic black and gray exterior.

The Pros:

  • Unmatched speed
  • Fairly compact and portable

The Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Not water/dust resistant

About The SSD

And for the final entry, we have yet another model from Samsung, although this one is a much more serious performance-oriented contender. The Samsung X5, unlike the other entries on this list, is not a NAND SSD. Rather, it is an NVMe SSD so fast that it puts the regular NAND models to shame.

It is not very large and while it is quite a bit heavier than most external SSDs, it is still not so heavy to pose a problem when it comes to portability. It is quite sturdy and shock resistant, though it sadly lacks an IP certificate, something that we would have liked to see in a product this expensive.

Our Thoughts

The Samsung X5 is the best choice if you want the fastest external SSD that money can buy, at least for now. But of course, NVMe SSDs are always quite a bit more expensive than their NAND counterparts, and the X5 is no exception, as it is much pricier than the other external SSDs listed here.

Ultimately, the biggest issue with the X5 is its hefty price, though as mentioned above, an IP certificate would have been a welcome addition, especially considering the price.

Apart from that, many will notice that the particular design approach that Samsung took with the X5 is a bit unusual, as it is quite angular and flashy.

How To Pick The Best External SSD For Your Needs

Best External Ssd

At the end of the day, what factors do you need to keep in mind when picking an external SSD? As you can see, they do not vary wildly in regards to the performance or the features that they offer, but there are still some things that you should consider before investing in one.

First and foremost, if you’re considering buying an external SSD, you should first ask yourself whether you truly need one i.e. whether a more affordable alternative might be a better choice.

To answer this, we need to take a look at two key factors: the type of device you’ll be using the external storage with, as well as the performance and storage requirements.

Internal VS External

best ssd 2018

Now, external storage is great for several reasons. The most obvious one is, of course, portability, but it also allows you to expand a device’s storage without having to mess with the internals.

While this is not an issue with desktop PCs, it is particularly great for laptops and consoles, as you cannot install extra storage internally with those devices.

But of course, even if you have a desktop PC, an external SSD can serve either as a portable system drive or a very fast means of transferring large amounts of data between different devices.

However, if you only intend on using the SSD with your PC, an internal SSD might be a better solution since they usually cost a little less and are a little faster, too, plus it’s a lot cleaner than having an SSD sitting on top of your case or desk.

External SSD VS External HDD VS Flash Drive

Best Portable Ssd

This brings us to the following question: do you really need all the performance that an external SSD offers?

Well, to put it bluntly, you only really ought to invest in one if you want to use it as a system drive or if you need to transfer large amounts of data regularly. If not, an external HDD or just a regular flash drive might be a better choice.

An external HDD can offer much more storage at a significantly lower price, while a flash drive is much more compact and usually also very affordable, depending on the capacity of course.

How Much Storage Is Enough?

Best Solid State External Hard Drive

As you can see, external SSDs usually come in 250 GB, 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB variants, so which would be the best choice?

Well, as usual, it is a highly subjective matter. However, many will agree that 250 GB can easily get a bit cramped, both when it comes to storing multimedia and when using an SSD as a system drive. Meanwhile, 1 TB and 2 TB variants offer ample storage, though they get very expensive.

As such, we’d say that a 500 GB external SSD is something of a sweet spot when it comes to finding the most cost-effective solution. Most users won’t fill this up very quickly and 500 GB SSDs, internal and external alike, go for about $100 now, which is quite affordable compared to what we’ve had only two years ago.

Conclusion – The Best External SSD For 2021

Ssd External Hard Drive

In the end, if we had to pick one of these as our eSSD of choice, which would we choose?

Well, our vote would have to go to the Samsung T5. It is compact, boasts as sturdy and sleek metal exterior, comes in a variety of storage capacity options and at price points to suit nearly every budget.

Granted, both the SanDisk Extreme and the WD My Passport are equally viable choices, as they all offer near-identical performance, though the SanDisk one will appeal to the more outdoorsy users who would prefer a more sturdy external SSD.

Also, it goes without saying that the Samsung X5 will only appeal to those who want the very best external SSD that they can get and are willing (and able) to pay for it.

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Samuel Stewart
Samuel Stewart

Samuel is GamingScan's editor-in-chief. He describes himself as a dedicated gamer and programmer. He enjoys helping others discover the joys of gaming. Samuel closely follows the latest trends in the gaming industry in order to keep the visitors in the flow.

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