Many of us find us in a war against storage. As a video editor, gamer, audio producer, or anyone who simply has a lot of large files, hard drives seem to go by fast. Perhaps you’re in the same situation as me, constantly checking the “properties” of your Windows drives; or in Apple-land, inspecting your “About This Mac” to see how much space your stupid System files are taking up.
Fortunately, Thunderbolt 3 offers us an escape into the promise land of high-speed data rates and huge storage spaces. In this article we’ll cover a few types of drives including SSD, HDD, RAID, and units that will allow you to dock whatever drive you please. Each is great for certain users with certain use cases. Read on to discover which may work for your application and budget.
Here’s the top 5 best Thunderbolt 3 hard drives.
1. The Speed Demon – Samsung T5 SSD (500GB, USB 3.1)
If you’re looking for a fast SSD drive that won’t break the bank, this Samsung T5 is a great way to get started. While 500GB is by no means expansive, it’s big enough for most short film projects or to use as a working, easily portable drive on a smaller projects. At data rates of 540MB/s, it’s going to take some seriously gnarly footage to come anywhere close to hitting its max.
If you’re into audio production, this would be a great drive to throw your Komplete or sample library on; with this kind of data transfer speed, samples will load super fast.
The biggest drawback with this drive is that it’s on the pricey side in terms of price per terabyte. If you need a lot of storage, this drive doesn’t offer the best value out there. That said, if you want a super fast drive and don’t need a huge amount of space, this drive offers convenience, a solid amount of space, and it’s pretty reasonably priced.
Max Read & Write Speed: 540MB/s
Price Per Terabyte: $319.76
See more information and reviews about the Samsung T5 here
2. The Slim One – G Technology 1TB G-Drive
With transfer speeds up to 540MB/s, this is a large capacity drive that waits for no one. If you want a nice, convenient drive, this is a great way to go. It’s low profile, built to last, and easy to setup and use. Of course, with that convenience, comes a high price. Unfortunately, this drive has the highest cost per terabyte on this list. Still, this isn’t a terrible option; for many, 500GB simply isn’t enough. This is a great way to go if you need the full TB and don’t want to MacGuyver it with number four on our list.
Max Read & Write Speed: 540MB/s
Price Per Terabyte: $400
See more information and reviews about the G Technology 1TB G-Drive here
3. The Hard Disk Rugged – Lacie 2TB HDD (7200RPM HDD)
There’s a reason this drive is so popular. Lacie’s orange drive is practically iconic in the media world because quite simply, it’s built to last. It doesn’t matter if you work in an office or in the jungle, you’re going to drop your drive at some point, and that’s what the rugged has always aimed to compensate for. That said, this drive has some serious drawbacks that will live you wondering, “Wait, why do I even need Thunderbolt 3?” The problem is that using Thunderbolt 3 with a 7200RPM HDD means that the transfer speed is limited by the hard drive itself, not the connection.
The truth is that the max speed for drives like this can be limiting. Personally, I have run into serious issues on Windows using slower drives; they simply can’t keep up and this means your video projects will stall. For audio production, you’ll be hard-pressed to hit up on the limits of the drive, but it is possible. In both cases, you’ll be dealing with significant latency as this is plainly much slower.
Still, this is a great drive for those who want to stay in hard disk land and simply want a fast and reliable Thunderbolt connection – but you might as well just save some money and get a cheaper external HDD, such as this same model of drive with USB 3.0 for only $119.94. This may lead you to ask, “Well, who exactly is this drive for?” Actually, it’s likely marketed toward Apple users; new Macbooks and Macbook Pros have but one type of port: Thunderbolt 3. For those who don’t want to use a dock, this HDD offers a lot of convenience at a slightly premium price. For the rest of us with normal USB ports, Thunderbolt 3 offers zero advantage. This is really only a recommended buy if using Thunderbolt 3 is more convenient for you.
Max Read & Write Speed: 130MB/s
Price Per Terabyte: $89.97
See more information and reviews about the LaCie Rugged here
4. The MacGuyver – USB-C to SATA Cable + Affordable Internal SSD (2TB)
This solution may not be pretty, but let’s face it: SSDs are essentially giant memory cards. They don’t need to be in fancy cases with rugged exteriors. Sure, you don’t want to throw it at the ground, but the enclosure and things of this nature essentially mask that an SSD is already quite portable. It has no moving parts. The Macguyver solution is really quite simple: attach an internal SSD to an affordable adapter and voila, you have an external SSD. There’s no real disadvantage here except well, it’s a bit ugly. Beyond this, the numbers peak for themselves: this is the cheapest way to get to a terabyte, by far. Plus internal SSDs are slightly cheaper than external ones.
Max Read & Write Speed: 520MB/s (depends on exact internal SSD chosen)
Price: $11.99 (Cable Matters USB 3.1 to SATA III) + $499.99 (2TB Crucial Drive) = $512
Price Per Terabyte: $256
See more information and reviews about the Crucial Internal SSD here
5. The Monster RAID – Lacie 2Big RAID 12TB (7200RPM HDD)
Again, if you don’t need an SSD, Thunderbolt 3 offers you basically zero advantage. It’s only slightly faster (on average) than USB 3.0 not because it is slow, but because hard drives max read and write speeds tend to max out near the top of USB 3.0 max throughput. Of course, with a 7200RPM hard disk drive, Thunderbolt 3 is drastically overkill. This is another product aimed at people who own Macbooks or Macbook Pros and don’t want to use a dock.
That said, having extra overhead in your connector won’t hurt you, just don’t expect drastic speed increases. In the end, you’re always tied to the hard disk’s limitations. Still, for those of you who need massive, redundant, and reliable storage, this Lacie RAID solution does the job beautifully.
Max Read & Write Speed: 130MB/s
Price Per Terabyte: $62.41
See more information and reviews about the Lacie 2Bighere