Buying Basics: Portable SSDs
These are they key things to look out for when shopping for an external SSD.
COST PER GIGABYTE. The way to calculate relative value on drives like these is perform some simple division, and calculate the cost per gigabyte based on the pricing for a given drive on the day you're shopping. Because SSD pricing fluctuates all the time, relative value changes all the time, too.
INTERFACE. At the moment, portable SSDs universally use standard USB 3.0, though with the Portable SSD T3 above, Samsung shifted to a USB Type-C port on the drive end. This has no speed consequence, but it's easier to plug in. We expect in time, though, for some new drives to eventually adopt USB Type-C ports on the computer end, as well as support for USB 3.1 Gen 2 for faster throughput speeds.
RUGGEDIZATION. This does vary from drive to drive, with SanDisk's offering leading the field at the moment among mainstream drives, and an upcoming update to the Extreme 500, the 510, enhancing the water and dust protection. An alternative to these, though, is the venerable ioSafe Rugged Portable SSD, a practically armored external SSD we tested years back. It's still on the market. We haven't listed it above, though, because it's a niche device whose pricing is not at all competitive with the rest of this pack. (A 1TB version of the Rugged Portable SSD is $1,199!) But if you need a drive that can survive being run over by a series of vehicles or that can deflect shrapnel in a warzone, this is your SSD.
CARRY WEIGHT. All of these drives are a negligible few ounces in carry weight, barring the very hefty ioSafe model. That said, the Samsung Portable SSD T1 feels notably lightweight, with an almost hollow-shell feel, while the others have a more substantial build. We're partial to the retention loop on the SanDisk drive, as these drives are all small and light enough that losing them is too easy and expensive a mistake to make.