4 Things to Consider When Buying a Portable SSD for Your Mac

How do you store your memories? If you’re like most, you probably use a product like iCloud or Dropbox to keep up with everything. But if you need a serious amount of storage, online backup is never quite enough and can get pretty costly. 

Local storage is essential when you’re dealing with cloud drawbacks such as intermittent broadband access or frustratingly slow speeds.. And, of course, it never hurts to have a backup. Many Mac users turn to an external hard drive for a solid portable external storage option that they can keep close. Specifically, Mac users are looking at Solid State Drives, also known as SSDs. A solid-state drive doesn't have moving parts and has up to four times faster read speeds. 

There are a plethora of Mac portable SSD devices on the market but it can be overwhelming on knowing where to start. Whether you're at home creative editing a family video, keeping all of your personal photos, sharing large PowerPoint decks, keeping your MP3 collection at the ready, or making quick backups at a critical time, local storage always beats the cloud, especially in terms of performance and accessibility.

For the sake of this article, we are looking beyond generic USB sticks and SD cards. The below considerations are for people who need high-capacity storage: multi-terabyte hard disks and multi-gigabyte flash drives and want the best portable SSD to fit their Mac needs. 

Mac portable SSD drives are physically smaller, cheaper, and faster than ever before and the market is flooded with promises of high data transfer speeds, high write speeds, and the ability to quickly move around large files. A quick Google search will yield 100s of products ranging from Samsung portable SSD, Western Digital, and our own Fledging Shell.  

Because many of these are "bus-powered," meaning they all draw power from the host computer (and, in some cases, even from phones or tablets) through the connecting data cable, there's no need to carry a separate power adapter around. Which has become a game-changer for the reading and writing needed to make these devices perform at their peak potential. 

With that in mind, here are 4 things to consider when looking for the best portable SSD for mac. 

Choose the right connection

It all comes down to USB vs. Thunderbolt now that other types of connections are largely obsolete. Obviously you'll want to get a drive that can work with your computer. So if your machine has a Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port (most popular in pre-2016 Mac computers) then you'll want to get a Thunderbolt drive. 

On the other hand, since most computers have at least one regular USB port, getting a USB-based drive is a safe bet. Some portable drives support both Thunderbolt and USB. However, if you intend to use your drive for at least a few years, even with new computers, make sure you get one that's future-proof by following the right connection trend.

And if you’re just not sure which connection is right for you then check out our Fledging Shell. Our Fledging Shell comes with both a USB and USB-C cable to ensure it works with whatever plugs your Macbook might have handy. 

Keep up with the trend

And the trend is the USB Type-C (or USB-C) connector. This new connector type is used by both the latest USB gadgets and all Thunderbolt 3 devices. In other words, all Thunderbolt 3 ports are USB-C ports. 

So if you get a new computer now, chances are it will have USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports. (This is the case for all Macs released in 2016 and likely those to be released in the future.)

Note that a USB-C portable drive can work with both a USB-C port and the regular USB (aka USB-A) port via a compatible cable, but a non-USB-C portable drive will not work with a USB-C port unless you have an adapter. That said, if you get a USB-C portable drive, it will work with all existing computers and future ones. The only catch is currently they're generally more expensive, but this will likely change in coming years.

Make sure it's fast enough

A major advantage in using a solid-state drive (SSD) for storage tends to be the super fast processing speeds and how quickly they work for heavy tasks such as editing an HD movie file. They can also be useful if you need to copy a large amount of data in a short time. 

But SSDs can also be expensive. If performance isn't that much of a concern for you, getting a hard-drive-based portable drive (non-SSD) will save you a lot of money. If all you're doing is glancing through family photos or backing up your data on a daily basis, for example, speed won't be your biggest concern.

Also, keep in mind that Thunderbolt drives are generally faster than USB drives. And among USB drives, the USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 gigabits per second) standard has twice the rated speed of USB 3.0 (or USB 3.1 Gen 1), which in turn is 10 times faster than USB 2.0.

For a good frame of reference, our Fledging Shell Thunder is faster than the Samsung T5 and WD My Passport, two of the more popular portable SSDs on the market. Shell Thunder works with any standard NVMe SSD, testing at 2,700 MB/s Read and 2300Mb/s write, at max, using WD drives. You can download, edit, and upload whole movies in a few seconds.

Another consideration to think of is overheating. Many external SSDs can run hot and thus slow your computer (and its processing) down immensely. Our Shell Thunder is the only high-performance Thunderbolt 3 enclosure engineered for active cooling. 

We stress-tested this design with an Intel SSD by writing 3 terabytes in 60 minutes. The whisper-quiet 4000 PM fan kept Shell Thunder as cool as the palms of our hands. So whatever you can throw at the Fledging Shell Thunder it can take it.

Does it have enough storage?

Obviously, the more storage space, the better. But you don't want to pay for the storage you're not going to use. Generally, for backup purposes, you'll want a drive that has more storage space than your laptop's internal drive. That way your external SSD can handle all the heavy lifting and your laptop can handle the daily grind. 

If storage capacity is your biggest concern, a portable hard drive is the way to go. Our Fledging Shell Thunder holds up to 2TB of data storage and is a top pick for creators worldwide. It’s perfect for the novice photographer, the seasoned developer, and everything in between!

While there are a host of products on the market, the primary concern to consider when thinking about the best portable SSD for your Mac is “will this work for what I need?” Not sure if a Fledging Shell is right for you? Consider reaching out to our Customer Support page. 

We have a handy chat feature that lets you live chat with a real Fledging team member. We also have a contact form and a helpful FAQ that will empower you to use your shell to the epitome of its ability. At the end of the day, we want you to be happy with your purchase. So please reach out to us with questions or concerns! 

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