14 Top External Drives
October 19, 2016
Whether you’re archiving for the long haul or seeking storage on the road, these drives have your back (ups).
AKiTiO Thunder3 Quad
The Thunder3 Quad is a four-bay hard drive enclosure that uses speedy Thunderbolt 3 technology. It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy chaining and a DisplayPort video output to connect the drive to a 4K/60Hz display. The enclosure fits either 2.5-inch Solid State Drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDD) or 3.5-inch HDDs. It supports up to 4TB of SSD storage and up to 32TB of HDD capacity. It even has a built-in handle if you need to transport it or make a quick getaway.
The stylish Innov8 was the first external hard drive to take advantage of USB-C’s enhanced power capabilities. If you connect this hard drive to a computer’s USB-C port, you won’t need to find an extra AC outlet to power it up. The 8TB Innov8 was designed to be placed in either a vertical or horizontal orientation. It ships with Dashboard software for managing backups and includes 200GB worth of Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage.
Delkin Devices RhinoDrive
This 1TB SSD is built to take a beating. It has a removable rubber bumper that shields a rubberized metal enclosure tough enough to survive impacts and inclement weather. It offers a USB 3.0 connection and is bus powered. The drive includes a year’s worth of Mylio Advanced, a photo management software valued at $250.
SymplyStor is a new desktop RAID storage solution designed to let up to eight different Thunderbolt-connected PCs access files. SymplyStor is available with either SSD or hard drives in capacities up to 64TB. It supports both Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3 speeds. If you opt for the SymplyShare base station, you can double the storage capacity by adding another SymplyStor drive–the two drives in the base station will behave as a single RAID device. SymplyStor uses Apple’s Xsan networking technology to let multiple users access the same storage drives. There are monitoring apps for Mac, Windows, iOS and Apple Watch.
TarDisk is not like the rest of the drives in our roundup. It’s built to double the available hard drive space on a MacBook (Air and Pro). You simply slip the TarDisk into your MacBook’s SD card slot, let it configure itself, and voila, more space. You will permanently lose access to your SD card slot, so you’ll need a USB card reader for image transfers, but you will gain a lot more storage. TarDisk intelligently allocates your extra storage, too, so that frequently accessed files load faster than less frequently accessed items. It also preserves Time Machine backups to protect your data no matter where it’s stored.
Drobo 5D Turbo
The 5D Turbo (5Dt) is a five-bay device that has dual Thunderbolt 2 ports and a USB 3.0 connection. The drive includes a 128 GB mSATA card to power Drobo’s Hot Data Cache technology, which stores a copy of frequently accessed data on SSD memory for faster retrieval. You can enjoy a 3x improvement in read performance in programs like Lightroom when leveraging the Hot Data Cache, Drobo says. Using Thunderbolt 2, you can daisy-chain up to six 5Dts to create a single 240 TB digital archive. The 5Dt is also Drobo’s first storage product to support 4K monitors. Mac owners can allocate dedicated storage on the 5Dt for Time Machine backups. There’s also a built-in battery that protects data stored in the cache in the event of a power outage. Like all Drobo drives, the 5Dt uses the company’s Beyond RAID technology, which virtualizes a traditional RAID array to make it easier to use and more secure.
G-Technology G-DRIVE mobile USB-C
The G-DRIVE uses a USB Type-C connector and draws all the power it needs from a USB connection. It includes a USB-C cable and a USB-C-to-A cable so you can use the drive with older USB-A devices. It delivers 1TB of storage capacity and is sold in gold, space gray and silver—the better to match Apple’s MacBook, if you’re the color-coordinating type. You’ll enjoy transfer rates up to 136 MB/s. While the drives are formatted out-of-the-box for Macs, they can be reformatted for Windows via a free software download from G-Technology. If you need more storage, the company’s G-DRIVE Mobile USB drives come in 2TB and 3TB capacities but use the older USB Type A connection.
Lexar Workflow SSD
The latest addition to the Workflow family are a pair of portable SSDs. Available in 256GB and 512GB capacities, the drives feature an LED capacity meter to view available storage space. When you’re done filling up the drives on the road, you can pop them into the HR2 to offload your files. The HR2 is a compact storage hub that blends memory card readers with storage drives to streamline image transfers and archiving. It sports four bays that you can load with storage drives (256GB or 512GB capacities are currently available) and/or card reader modules, in any combination you wish. The HR2 features a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports and a USB 3.0 connection.
This NAS (network-attached storage) enclosure boasts a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports, plus three HDMI outputs (two HDMI 1.4 and one HDMI 2.0) for connecting monitors and other peripherals, and four USB ports. It accepts four 2.5-inch SSD drives, eight 3.5-inch HDDs and has two slots to add SSD memory for caching, giving you faster access to frequently used data. Included QTier technology intelligently manages your data so less frequently used files are stored on less expensive, slower HDD memory while frequently accessed data is available on faster SSD drives. There are built in speakers for audio playback. If you spring for the expansion enclosure, you can grow your capacity up to 448TB. The TVS-1282T offers either an Intel Core i5 processor with 16GB of RAM or a Core i7 processor with 32GB of RAM to drive real time, 4K or HD video transcoding. It even doubles as a Linux desktop computer.
Thunderbolt 3 This 12-bay RAID unit can deliver up to 96TB in capacity and uses Thunderbolt 3 to deliver transfer speeds of up to 2600MB/s in RAID 0 and 2400MB/s in RAID 5. There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy-chaining other Thunderbolt devices. The LaCie 12big employs 256MB cache/7200RPM Seagate enterprise-class hard drives rated for 8,760 hours of operation per year. The drives are hot swappable. LaCie’s RAID Manager software has also been redesigned to make it simpler to use, the company says. The 12big ships with a USB-C-to-USB-A cable and is available in 48TB, 72TB and 96TB capacities.
SanDisk Extreme 510 Portable SSD
For the assignments that take you well off the beaten path, SanDisk’s Extreme 510 SSD can take a beating. It’s weather-resistant and has a rubber bumper to defend against damage if it’s dropped. This 480GB drive boasts transfer speeds up to 430 MB/s and comes with 128-bit encryption. It connects, and draws power from, a USB 3.0 cable.
ioSafe 216 NAS
Unlike other network-attached storage devices, the ioSafe 216 doesn’t just protect your digital files from virtual calamities. It can survive real-world disasters, too. The hard drive enclosure is fireproof and can withstand about 30 minutes in the flames. It’s also flood proof, capable of being fully submersed in up to 10 feet of water (fresh or salt) for up to 72 hours. It supports hardware encryption and if you’re extra cautious, you can spring for an optional floor mount/padlock kit to physically lock the drive down in place. The 216 has a pair of hot-swappable hard drives for up to 16TB of capacity. It connects to your network via Ethernet but also supports wireless connections with an optional dongle.
The T3 gives you a high-capacity SSD in a diminutive design that could easily slip into a front shirt pocket. Because it’s just 51 grams, you’ll barely notice it’s there, either. The T3 has a shock-resistant metal exterior that can survive falls from up to 6 feet. Inside, the drive has technology to prevent overheating. You’ll enjoy USB 3.1 transfer speeds of up to 450MB/s and AES 256-bit hardware encryption. In addition, there’s an option to password protect the drive. The T3 is available in capacities ranging from 250GB to 2TB.
WD My Cloud Pro (PR 4100)
The My Cloud Pro is a network-attached storage (NAS) device available in either a two-bay or four-bay configuration with capacities up to 32TB. It offers multiple RAID options and 256-bit AES encryption to keep files secure. There’s a front-facing USB port for one-touch data transfers from USB devices. The My Cloud Pro boasts 4GB of RAM and a hardware-accelerated video processor so it can ingest, store
and transcode various video formats for editing and streaming, including 4K content. It includes Plex Media Server software for streaming videos with a Netflix-style user interface and is integrated with Adobe’s Creative Cloud via the My Cloud app. The app also provides remote access to the drive’s contents and additional cloud backup options from Google and Dropbox.