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The best portable hard drives

Macworld Favorite Portable Drives Primary Image

At a Glance

If you're paying for a Thunderbolt drive you're probably going to be expecting some decent performance from the drive, however the 5400 RPM drive in the MiniStation Thunderbolt from Buffalo Technology makes it feel like a waste. Speeds were consistently low in all our tests, across both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 making me wonder why include a Thunderbolt connection at all.

Price when rated: $230.00

Pros

  • Both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connections

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy
  • Internal 5400 RPM drive slows drive to a crawl
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Where to buy
Price when rated: $150
Lowest price: $140.00 via PCNation.com

Pros

  • Slim form factor
  • Fast USB 3.0 speeds

Cons

  • Small drive capacity
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At a Glance

The DashDrive Elite SE720 from ADATA is a super skinny portable SSD that performed quite well in our AJA tests.

Price when rated: $116

Pros

  • Super slim and light
  • Fast AJA read and write speeds

Cons

  • Small capacity
ADATA DashDrive Elite SE720
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At a Glance

The G-DRIVE mobile with Thunderbolt from G-Technology is a decent portable option featuring a 7200 RPM 2.5-inch drive inside an enclosure featuring both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 ports. This gives you a greater range of connection options, but with a single rotational drive the Thunderbolt options feels needless.

Price when rated: $220

Pros

  • Both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt

Cons

  • Speeds never get close to Thunderbolt
bymacpro
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At a Glance

Performance in our Mac tests was erratic, probably due to the small size of the drive (128GB). If you're looking for a tiny Thunderbolt drive, you won't be disappointed, but don't expect over the top performance.

Price when rated: $230.00

Pros

  • Small and light

Cons

  • Gets hot with rapid reading and writing
Silicon Power T11
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At a Glance

The Canvio Slim II is a basic portable drive. It's inexpensive and reliable with average speeds. A great option if you think you might not see your drive again any time soon.

Price when rated: $75
slim standing
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At a Glance

The Envoy Pro EX is a SSD that is a great combination of speed and portability.

Price when rated: $315 (240GB); $570 (480GB)
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At a Glance

The SSD versions of the Aegis Portable 3.0 offer far better write performance than the hard-drive models, and are lighter and more rugged. But they cost nearly four times as much.

Price when rated: $399

Pros

  • Fast (internal SATA 6Gbps interface)
  • USB 3.0 external interface, with cable
  • SSD version is very light

Cons

  • SSD version is expensive for its capacity
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At a Glance

Despite having two drive pressed together, Seagate's Backup Plus Fast drive gets all the power it needs from the host's USB port. And since the two drives are running in RAID 0, it delivers speeds faster than other portables with a single mechanical drive.

Price when rated: $270

Pros

  • Large capacity
  • Fast speeds for portable drive

Cons

  • RAID 0 can increase potential failure rate
  • Heavier than single drive options
backup plus fast portable back
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Where to buy

At a Glance

The Aegis Bio 3.0 is a hard drive meant for users who want to make sure that their files remain secure, and are willing to pay for it.

Price when rated: $199 (500GB), $219 (700GB), and $249 (1TB)
Lowest price: $190.00 via Dell Home

Pros

  • USB 3.0 port
  • Good overall performance

Cons

  • Biometric feature adds considerably to the price tag
 Compare
Price when rated: $140.00

Pros

  • 7200 RPM internal drive
onlaptop
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At a Glance

A plain and simple drive, with ample room for storage. The DashDrive HV620 from ADATA isn't flashy or faster than average, but it's got a lot of space and average speeds, with a great price-per-gigabyte.

Price when rated: $110.00

Pros

  • Plain and simple with lots of space
AData HV620 portable hard drive
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At a Glance

The speeds of the MiniStation Extreme are slightly below the average for similar drives. There are a few unique things about the drive, like a built in USB 3.0 cable which nicely hugs the side of the drive. This cable can be removed exposing a normal USB 3.0 port in case you want a longer cable. This is often the case if you're going to plug it into the back of a machine and don't want the drive to simply dangle from the short cable. It also features AES Full Disk Encryption if you want to deal with their software. The drive is slightly large in your hand, one side covered with a faux leather and the other hard plastic.

Price when rated: $140

Pros

  • Convenient cable that wraps, but can be removed or replaced
  • Military spec shock resistant

Cons

  • Lackluster performance compared to similar drives
Buffalo Technology MiniStation Extreme
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At a Glance

The DashDrive Elite HE720 from ADATA is a super thin mechanical drive sporting a 1TB capacity and average speeds. The drive is super thin, and features a metal enclosure that gives it some heft which is actually kind of nice. The drive feel sturdy and should fit in just about any travel bag.

Price when rated: $128.00

Pros

  • Super thin
ADATA DashDrive Elite HE720
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At a Glance

The HD710 from ADATA is a ruggedized drive featuring a bumper made of rubber and a carbon fiber casing. The rubber bumper has notches to keep a USB 3.0 cable on hand and a flap covers the port itself, making it somewhat water resistant. The drive is quite bulky though.

Price when rated: $88.00

Pros

  • Durrable
  • Water resistant
  • Convenient cable carrying slot

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Lackluster speeds
Adata DashDrive HD710
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Where to buy
Price when rated: $100
Lowest price: $80.00 via Dell Home

Pros

  • USB bus powered
  • 1TB capacity

Cons

  • Middling performance
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At a Glance

More secure portable storage than a thumb drive can provide, and the on-device keypad provides easy access. It's pricey, but so is the competition.

Price when rated: $499

Pros

  • FIPS 140-2 Level 2 validated
  • Good performance (for an encrypted drive)
  • Super portable

Cons

  • No battery
  • Stubby USB cable
apricorn aegis padlock ssd portable hard drive
 Compare

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