What’s a solid-state drive and which one should I buy?

Ultra-fast storage with no moving parts.

person walking with a backpack and ssd drive attached
Portable, reliable storage.Amazon

Solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HHDs) both store data, but SSDs use semiconductor chips rather than a series of magnetic disks. The lack of moving parts can make SSDs more resistant to drops––though we still don’t recommend it. The technology is most commonly used in back-up and external storage, but manufacturers including Apple and Dell are also equipping laptops with SSDs in place of traditional hard drives. That’s because these devices are lighter, smaller, and faster than HHDs. They typically read and write data at around 550MB/s (megabytes per second) and 520MB/s, respectively, more than four times faster than the disk drives. Take note that this ultra-fast, super light tech is more expensive per gigabyte than its predecessor, too. But if you’re ready to take the plunge, here are some of the best SSDs to start with.

RAVPower Mini External SSD

RAVPower Mini External SSD

Storing above its size.Amazon

This RAVPower Mini is the size of a typical thumb drive but can store more than half a terabyte of data (512GB, to be exact). It also reads and writes at 540MB/s and is encased in shock-proof zinc alloy. This drive also comes with data encryption that guarantees that only the correct password can unlock, and therefore read or write data to, the SSD. Mac users should be aware that this drive’s encryption software isn’t compatible with MacOS Catalina.

Samsung T5 Portable SSD 1TB

Samsung T5 Portable SSD 1TB

Step up in storage.Amazon

This Samsung isn’t quite as tiny as the RAVPower Mini but it’ll still fit in the palm of your hand and has twice as much storage capacity. It’s the best option if you’re after an affordable, fast, and reliable back-up storage option and don’t foresee needing to cart this storage around too much. The system includes both USB Type C to C and USB Type C to A cables so you can connect it to most devices.

SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD

SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable External SSD

Rugged storage that travels with you.Amazon

If you need durable, portable, and reliable storage, the SanDisk Extreme is your best bet. It comes in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB options and is ideal for backing up photos, video, and other data in the field. The Extreme is dust-, water-, and shock-resistant and is perfectly fine operating in temperatures between 32 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Its non-operating temperatures are even more impressive: this device can survive in non-operating temps as low as -4 degrees and as high as 158 degrees.