An external drive is the easiest way to boost the storage capacity of your computer, but at the cost of bulk, convenience, and speed. There’s not a lot to be done about the added bulk or pain of wrangling cables, and while an external SSD usually can’t compete with the transfer speeds of having a solid-state drive inside your machine, Samsung’s new portable X5 just made a few giant performance leaps towards catching up—if you have $1,400 just laying around.
That’s ridiculously expensive until you consider the competition. When it comes to performance, LaCie’s Bolt is currently one of the fastest external storage solutions you can buy. Using a pair of SSD drives inside, it claims read speeds of up to 2,800 MB/s, and write speeds that max out at 1,300 MB/s on machines with a USB-C port that supports Thunderbolt 3. But with a $2,000 price tag for just two terabytes, you’re paying a premium for performance there.
In comparison, while Samsung’s new SSD X5 is by no means a cheap solution to speedy external storage, at $1,400 for the two-terabyte model, it’s cheaper than LaCie’s Bolt, much smaller, and can draw all the power it needs from a computer’s Thunderbolt 3 port. And that’s the catch: if you want to get anywhere close to the SSD X5's promised read speeds of up to 2,800 MB/s, and 2,300 MB/s when writing data, you’ll need a computer with a Thunderbolt 3 port on board to max out its performance. They’re not hard to find these days, but it’s not a feature you’ll find on lower-end and more affordable machines.
Though if you’re dropping $1,400 on an external hard drive, you can probably afford a laptop with Thunderbolt 3 built in.
If you don’t need two-terabytes of speedy external storage, starting on September 3 the SSD X5 will also be available in a one-terabyte model for $700, and a half-terabyte option for $400. You can also still opt for Samsung’s T5—its previous external SSD speed champ—which gets you one-terabyte of storage for $280. But with a max transfer speed of just 540 MB/s, it now seems almost embarrassingly slow.