Since an external solid state drive or SSD is more drop resistant and (much) faster than a portable hard drive, an external solid state drive or SSD is a great option and you can find the best external solid state drives (and hard drives) we’ve tested. But solid state storage can be costly, especially if your capacity requirements are in the terabyte range.
One way to save money and possibly even more speed is to build your own external SSD. This can be especially economical if you happen to be left with internal storage after upgrading your laptop to something bigger or faster (or both).
But even if you have to start from scratch and buy a new SSD, building your own drive can be cheaper than buying an off-the-shelf external SSD, especially with more capacity. Also, you can get much better performance. But the amount you save often goes up as you increase the capacity, especially if you can buy a large capacity SSD commercially.
For example, a 2TB version of our current favorite portable SSD, SanDisk’s Extreme Portable drive, sells online for about $280. The drive inside it is SATA-based (just like a normal old hard drive), so its performance is limited to about 550 Mbps (Mbps). But you can take, say, a 2TB Intel 660p M.2 SSD sells for around $185 these days, along with a MyDigitalSSD or Plugable NVMe-based enclosure for $30-$50.
By following this path, you’ll save $45 to $65 and get a drive that’s more than three times faster sequential reads and writes (large files) than a SanDisk Extreme SATA portable drive. can ever hope to be. Although, as we’ll see in testing, the actual speeds you’ll see with these NVMe enclosures are only about twice as fast as SATA. That said, almost 1Gb/s sequential read and write speeds are breathtakingly fast, especially if you’re used to moving large files around with a regular old-school USB drive.
If you opt for a lower capacity drive, even a budget NVMe model like Western Digital’s WD Blue SN500 which costs around $65 for its 500GB max capacity, once you add $30 or more for the enclosure you’ll be a bit over the current SanDisk Extreme Portable 500GB prices for $90. But you’ll still get a much faster drive for a similar price.
You will need fast ports to take advantage of NVMe drives
However, be aware that these higher speeds are required to achieve these. If you reconnect to the network via a USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen 1 port, the drive’s speed will be limited to a theoretical maximum of around 640 Mbps. It’s technically faster (by about 90Mbps) than the maximum speed of a SATA based drive, but with the overhead of the bus and everything else going through that USB controller, you probably won’t see a significant speed advantage. . So unless you have a device with newer and faster ports (be it USB-C or USB-A), using an NVMe-based M.2 drive won’t give you a significant speed advantage.
If you you have an existing SATA-based M.2 SSD or want to buy one because you don’t have faster ports or don’t;you don’t need maximum speed to move files to and from the drive, Silverstone sells The MS09 Series Mobile Enclosure is specially designed for SATA-based M.2 drives. This device is available in three colors plus a shorter MS09-Mini model which is even more convenient to use. However, be aware that the shorter model can only handle 42mm drives, which are quite rare in the US and seem to be over 1TB at the moment.
If you need a roomy portable drive, one of the longer cases will suit you, all other cases here support the more common 80mm drive length. It’s also worth noting that while Plugable’s and MyDigitalSSD’s NVMe cases have external detachable cables (so you can switch between USB-C and USB-A when needed), the Silverstone drive has a built-in retractable USB-A connector.
It’s convenient in the sense that there is no extra cable to lose or leave behind.But depending on where your USB ports are located, a 4.3″ long metal case sticking out of your PC with no flex can be uncomfortable.And if you happen to run into it or hit it with something while it’s…;connected to the network, you could potentially damage your device and/or port.
At a glance Performance
We wanted to give you an idea of what speeds are available with these M.2 enclosures, so we put some of them in the standard CrystalDiskMark a startup focused primarily on sequential reads and writes, since such capacious portable drives are used in mainly for storing a collection of large files. If you’re dealing with huge volumes of small files, it’s probably more convenient to put your files in the cloud or on your own locally hosted NAS, as access speed for smaller files is less important.
Because we don’t ’we don’t have a SanDisk Extreme Portable on hand to run this test, we’re going to take advantage of the doubt and run it at a rated disk read speed of “up to 550Mbps” even though our own testing shows that continuous write performance is somewhat slower than usual.
Now, let&rsquo ;s see how much performance we can get from the 500GB WD Blue SN500 NVMe drive we tested. We tested both drives on a custom built AMD Ryzen 2000 PC with an ASRock B450 motherboard, with the drives connected to USB 3.1 Gen2 ports for the best possible performance. First, let’s look at our results from the MyDigitalSSD application:
Here’s a look at the same SSD in a Plug-in Enclosure…
As you can see, as we noted above, the performance with an NVMe drive and a compatible chassis is just under twice what you might expect from an external SSD based SATA base. As we saw In our bare WD Blue SN500 review, the drive is actually capable of faster speeds – about 1700 Mbps read and 1400 Mbps write. But it is obvious that the controller in both of these cases is the bottleneck here. So there is no real benefit in buying a faster drive.
Furthermore, the performance difference between the two cases is about within the benchmark. So there is no performance reason to prefer one over the other. The plug-in enclosure requires no tools, allowing you to flip a switch, open the enclosure, and insert a drive. This is easier than installing the drive into the MyDigitalSSD enclosure, which requires a small Phillips screwdriver. But most users are only going to install the drive once or twice, so we don’t think that makes a huge difference either.
Now let’s see what the Silverstone MS09 SATA enclosure can do. deliver. For this testing we used 500GB WD Blue 3D SATA SSD.
As you can see, the read speed is 553 Mbps and The 523 Mbps sequential write for the WD SilverStone drive also roughly matches the nominal speed of SanDisk’s Extreme Portable SSD. So while you won ’can’t squeeze any more speed out of a SATA drive, you can still get about the same speed if you build your own.
So if you can get a faster or larger external SSD than the off-the-shelf model for about the same price (if you pick the parts wisely), is it easy to build your own? Well, it depends.
Be aware that while either option should withstand accidental drops and bumps about equally well – thanks in large part to the lack of moving parts – external drive cases are generally not have any waterproofing or dust protection.In fact, there are ventilation holes in the MyDigitalSSD case, where, if you look closely, you can see the internal components. So you need to be very careful in bad weather not to expose your drive to dust and/or moisture.
But drives like the SanDisk Extreme Portable (and a few competitors) are well protected from moisture and dust . The SanDisk drive is IP55 rated, which means it should be able to handle low-pressure water and a fair amount of dust (which you might run into during a tough commute or a short trip to your favorite photography spot) without any problems.
In short, you can save some money if you shop smart and build your own external SSD, and get better performance than similarly priced pre-built models. But you’ll save the most money if you need a high-capacity external drive and need devices with fast USB 3 Gen2 ports to take advantage of the extra speed. But if you travel frequently with your drive and especially use it outdoors in adverse weather conditions, you may want to consider opting for a pre-assembled model for the extra dust and water protection that some models provide.
Anyway if you’re using your portable storage for incremental backups, it’s time to consider switching to an external SSD instead of your old portable hard drive. Prices of the former have plummeted, drives have become more capacious, and there’s no denying the sluggish and unreliable nature of “spinning rusty” hard drives – especially in situations where they can (and eventually will) be removed.
I know I will never buy another hard drive again. Over the past few years, I’ve lost too many irreplaceable files on a few failed drives. Are you ready to upgrade to external SSDs, or is the price of capacious portable hard drives still too low for you to resist? Let us know in the comments.