The days when external SSDs were expensive toys for technology fans are thankfully long gone. The test candidates also show this: An SSD with 500 gigabytes of storage space is currently available for around £50, good models with 1 terabyte already under £100 and 2 terabytes from around £150. That is enough for many users, who are happy about far more speed and significantly less weight. An external SSD is much better than an external hard disk (HDD).
Add Your Heading ROG Strix Arion S500 M.2 External SSDText Here
- Robust aluminium case with effective cooling
- Aura Sync-capable RGB lighting
- SSD maxes out USB speed
- 256-bit AES encryption
- Not particularly fast for an NVMe SSD
The Asus ROG Strix Arion S500 is an external SSD hard drive that is at least visually designed for gaming and houses an NVMe SSD. It comes in a robust aluminium housing that guarantees reliable cooling under load. In addition, fancy RGB elements are built into the housing – including the ROG logo and a smaller light strip. The lighting is fully configurable via software and can be synchronised with other Aura Sync-enabled peripherals via Aura Sync. Inside is an NVMe SSD, which is unfortunately not the fastest. It only achieves a maximum speed of 1050 MB/s; in practice, the value should be somewhat lower. That is by no means a top value for an NVMe drive. However, it doesn’t make much more sense, as the SSD uses a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port. In theory, this does not deliver more than 1250 MB/s. So, the Asus SSD uses the USB standard to the fullest. With an even faster USB-C 3.2 Gen 2×2, five times the speed would easily be possible, but the price would no longer be as acceptable as it is with the ROG Strix Arion S500. However, you also have to pay for the design of the ROG Strix Arion S500.
Intenso Externe SSD Business 500GB
- Solid speeds
- Relatively cheap
- Not water and dustproof
The Intenso Portable SSD Business is an affordable external SSD that can be connected to an end device via USB 3.0 and USB-C. It achieves read and write speeds of 320 MB/s, which is mid-range for portable SSDs. It reaches read and write speeds of 320 MB/s and is thus in the midfield of portable SSDs. It comes in a stylish, shock-resistant aluminium case that fits easily into a trouser pocket. However, the SSD is not protected against water and dust. The SSD can be connected to the computer via the USB-C connector, built directly into the housing, or via the included extension cable. Support for the noticeably faster USB 3.1 or 3.2 standards would have been desirable, but it is not necessarily performance-enhancing, especially for older computers. In summary, the Intenso Portable SSD Business will make everyone happy looking for a cheap, compact and plain mass storage device.
Transcend 1TB ESD370C Portable SSD
- Compact design
- Good read and write rates
- USB 3.2 Gen 2
- 38 cm long cable
- Only three-year limited warranty
- Only a maximum of 1 TB capacity
Transcend’s small SSD ESD370C is available with 250 GB, 500 GB or 1 TB capacity. It is primarily intended as a small data storage device for on-the-go use. Still, it is unsuitable for outdoor use due to the lack of additional protection mechanisms, such as waterproof housing. The SSD can undoubtedly achieve the data rates promised by the manufacturer when connected to a USB 3.2 Gen2 port and reading or writing very large files. During the test, it was one of the fastest candidates among the external SSDs. The small SSD also performs well in more complicated processes. It weighs only 109 g, and the cable is 38 cm long. The scope of delivery includes a cable for USB Type C to Type A, and one for USB Type C to USB Type C. Transcend provides a three-year warranty on the SSD – other manufacturers often offer five years here.
Samsung T7 Portable SSD - 2 TB
- Very high reading speed
- Very high writing speed
Suppose you need a lot of fast memory. In that case, the Samsung Portable SSD T7 is the best choice: it has a whopping 1,863 gigabytes of usable memory and impressed us with its very high speed in the test: the Portable SSD T7 reads at up to 806 megabytes per second and writes at up to 644 megabytes per second. The Samsung is very small (dimensions 8.5×5.7×0.8 centimetres), light (74 grams), and quickly disappears in a shirt or trouser pocket.
We can say that the Samsung Portable SSD T7 does really well. It did not quite reach the specified data rates in our test, but the test system was not 100% suitable to get the maximum performance out of the T7. Nevertheless, the performance is also convincing in terms of temperature handling.
Compared to the T7 Touch, the only disadvantage is that the user’s own data can only be protected with a password. However, this is more a matter of personal preference, and we can confidently recommend both SSDs, even if they may be a little more expensive for the performance.
Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD - 1 TB
- Fully supports USB 3.2 Gen2
- Security via 256-bit AES and fingerprint scan
- Robust chassis
- Comparatively expensive
The Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch achieved consistently high speeds in the test and is currently one of the fastest external SSDs with a USB connection. When reading files, up to 764 megabytes per second flowed over the USB cable, and when writing, up to 626 megabytes per second. The built-in fingerprint sensor enables an additional practical function: private data is protected from unauthorised access once set up.
USB technology is important
Currently, external SSDs with USB sockets use three variants of the USB standard with different speeds:
- USB 3.1 Gen1 / USB 3.2 Gen1: Data runs at a maximum of 5 gigabits per second (Gbps). This allows up to 600 megabytes per second to be transferred.
- USB 3.1 Gen2 / USB 3.2 Gen2: Doubles the speed up to 10 Gbps. This makes up to 1.2 gigabytes per second possible.
- USB 3.2 Gen2x2: Data flows at a maximum of 20 Gbps. This allows up to 2.4 gigabytes per second to be transferred.
- USB 4 Gen3x2: Here, up to 40 Gbps are possible – but no USB device uses the possible 4.8 gigabytes per second.
- USB 4 2.0: The last doubling of speed to date to 80 Gbps – theoretically (there are no devices yet), almost 10 gigabytes per second are possible with this.
Only a few models have a particularly fast Gen2x2 socket, such as the SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD V2, the Seagate Firecuda Gaming SSD and the WD Black P50 Game Drive. This is of little use in everyday life because most current notebooks, PCs or tablets have USB 3.2 Gen2 sockets on board at most. And the new USB 4 standard is not yet available for external SSDs.
Full speed only with USB 3.1 Gen2 and higher
A fast USB 3.1 Gen2 (or USB 3.2 Gen2) port on a PC or notebook is also required if data flows at full speed with fast SSDs. The benchmarks of the test programs used in the lab showed that SSDs with NVMe technology could theoretically achieve values of up to 1,014 megabytes per second. The more practical transfer of data was still up to 873 megabytes per second. This significant leap in speed compared to older SSDs is made possible by NVMe technology: NVMe stands for “non-volatile memory”, an internal interface for SSDs. This allows more memory components of an SSD to be addressed simultaneously and thus more quickly. The fastest SSDs with NVMe include the Asus ROG Strix Arion S, the WD My Passport SSD 1000 GB and the SanDisk Professional G-Drive SSD. This means that the NVMe SSDs leave the now rarer models with the older SATA technology behind.
More expensive is often more robust
If you take an external SSD with you on your travels, you should consider spending a little more because inexpensive SSDs often come in a housing made of plastic or thin sheet metal. More expensive models, on the other hand, often come in robust metal housing, such as the Extreme Pro models from SanDisk or the WD Black Game Drive D30. Some manufacturers such as Samsung even build particularly robust models such as the Samsung Portable SSD T7 Shield – its housing complies with the IP65 standard and is thus supposed to protect against the ingress of dust and water and survive a fall from a height of up to three metres without damage.
SATA: The technology is no longer up to date
The fastest SATA models packed up to 534 megabytes in the benchmarks. If they transferred data, it was up to 475 megabytes per second. The difference between benchmarks and data transfer is smaller for SATA SSDs than for NVMe models. Why? The bottleneck here is the transfer technology. The built-in chips could work faster in some SSDs, but the SATA technology does not allow for more. The speed advantage of the NVMe models is noticeable with particularly large files. Videos with several gigabytes and extensive photo or music files went through the cable much faster. The fastest SSDs with NVMe manage up to 671 megabytes per second for pictures or music and up to 876 megabytes for videos. Even fast SATA models like the Media Range External SSD cannot keep up: In the test, it managed a maximum of 297 megabytes with photo and music files. This is noticeable when the user copies larger pictures and video collections. The technology used now also plays a role for smaller files: with SATA models, a maximum of 10 megabytes per second flowed over the data cable. In comparison, the fastest NVMe models now manage 54 megabytes per second. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is faster than other storage media, such as SD cards or external hard drives.
NVMe: professional technology becomes the standard
One thing is clear: the manufacturers are relying on NVMe technology. There are practically no new models with SATA technology for the larger SSDs with more than 1 terabyte of storage space; even for smaller SSDs, most manufacturers are building more models with NVMe technology. Only for SSDs up to 500 gigabytes is there still a larger selection of (mostly older) SATA models, which are usually somewhat cheaper than models with NVMe technology, but also significantly slower.
The advantages of hard drives
An external SSD is faster than a conventional hard drive with a USB connection – and much smaller and lighter. Hard disks in 2.5-inch format weigh between 170 and 230 grams, and the most lightweight SSD in the test weighs just 47 grams. The faster SSDs with NVMe technology are often somewhat heavier than SATA models. The reason is that the manufacturers build in heat sinks to better dissipate heat generated at full SSD speed. The heaviest in the test (but also particularly solid) was the WD Black D30 with 158 grams. The candidates are also compact: the smallest SSD tested, the Media Range, fits easily into a trouser pocket. But larger models like the WD Black P50 quickly disappear in a jacket.
The cable does not always fit
Unfortunately, no external SSD comes with a perfect universal cable because depending on which device the user wants to connect it to, different lengths of cable with different connectors are needed. A shorter cable is usually more practical for a notebook, but a longer one is for a desktop PC in a tower case if the SSD is to be placed on the desk. Also important, so that the SSD is as versatile as possible: the manufacturer should consider both connection options: a cable for devices with a USB-A connection, such as computers or TVs and a cable for devices with a USB-C socket, such as tablets or current MacBooks.
Disadvantages compared to hard drives
If you use an external SSD for data backup, you must be even more careful than with an external hard drive. The reason: SSDs store data more scattered than hard drives. In everyday life, this is not a problem because of the super-fast access, but it is when it comes to data recovery, for example, if the SSD was accidentally deleted or formatted. Rescue programmes do not always manage to recover all the data. Users should therefore store particularly important data on two SSDs so that the second, undamaged copy can be used in an emergency.
Most frequent questions and answers
An external SSD is the ideal additional storage for a PC or notebook. Current models are small, light and fast. They also offer enough storage space to take larger amounts of data with you. An external SSD can be connected to many mobile phones and tablets. Sometimes an adapter and often an app suitable for the SSD are needed for this.
The WD My Passport SSD 1000 GB is currently at the top of the best list: it is cheap, really fast thanks to NVMe technology and, with 1 terabyte, large enough for most users. Also the top is the Asus ROG Strix Arion S (500 GB), the Transcend ESD370C (1000 GB) and the SanDisk Professional G-Drive SSD (1000 GB). The best 2-terabyte SSD is currently the Samsung Portable SSD T7.
That depends on the use. All data that needs to be accessed quickly belongs on an SSD because it is often faster than a hard disk drive (HDD). A hard disk is a good choice when a lot of storage space is needed because the cost per gigabyte of storage space is much lower. This makes HDDs particularly suitable for backing up data – for example, keeping multiple copies of important files is easy. In addition, data recovery, for example, after an accidental deletion, is easier with a hard drive. Important when taking them with you: SSDs (unlike hard drives) are usually insensitive to drops.