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In this roundup, we’ll be reviewing some of the best external hard drives with Thunderbolt 3 support. Before that, a little insight into why they’re important.

Should you be interested in laptops to go with these hard drives, then do check out our round-up of the Cheapest Laptops with Thunderbolt 3.

High-speed data transfer is sometimes an overlooked process by regular users, but if you take a closer look at what some users or professionals transfer, it becomes a very important issue.

So what is high-speed data transfer, and what does it help you achieve in the long run?

Let’s say that you are someone that works daily with a lot of documents or files and need to stack more and more of them, transfer them quickly from one place to another and so forth. If you just use your MAC’s or PC’s internal storage, you can quickly find out how fast it runs out of space.

So, like a learned young-ling, you scour the internet and find out about external storage devices, but you get a lot of configurations about this and that – “This one has a lot of space and it connects with a USB cable, but the Read and Write speed is low. Look, this other product is faster, but it has a Thunderbolt 3 method of connection. I wonder what that is?”

So you quickly read through tons of posts, products details and get to a baseline of “I have no idea of what I was even doing in the first place”.

If you find yourself in that point, then you should first figure out on what exactly are you going use that external drive. For example, if you want it for a PC, go for USB connection, but if you need for a MAC or another Apple product, then you’ll have no choice but to look only in the Thunderbolt categories.

That brings us to what exactly Thunderbolt is.

In short, it’s a hardware interface that’s currently able to reach transfer speeds of speeds up to 40 Gbit/s. What this means is that you can transfer a 4K movie between devices in less than a minute, or you can connect two 4K monitors at 60Hhz. And that’s not all, there’s a whole mess of other features and combos you can play with.

Started as a joint hardware interface between Intel and Apple, it allows a user to connect an external device or peripheral to a computer or MAC. Among those external devices, we also have hard drives.

Over the years, it went over three periods of growth or changes, starting with the cleverly named Thunderbolt 1 and ending up in the present with Thunderbolt 3. Easy to spell, easy to remember, easy to market. Genius, I know.

While the first two generations were based on the Mini DisplayPort, a port that allowed for audio-video digital interface, the latest model is a more advanced version, while also taking some cues from it’s USB cousin. More precisely, it reuses aspects of the USB-C which helps it to transfer twice as fast as Thunderbolt 2, halves power consumption and is all around a much better hodgepodge of other technologies in one.

Since it first appeared on the market in 2011, the Thunderbolt 3 has gained quite a remarkable popularity among tech developers and it was implemented in many devices, among which we also have the external hard drives. So now that we have the history connection plugged in, let’s move to the main guest of our little show, our top external hard drives.

To get a better understanding of Thunderbolt 3, do check out our previous article What is Thunderbolt 3?.

We will count everything from specifications, user reactions, price and some honest to God, real opinions. Oh, and the list will just be in numerical order, not a top best to worst order. First as a list and further down we get into the details of each external drive.

At a Glance – Our Top Picks

ImageProductDetailsCheck Price
buffalo_ministation
Buffalo MiniStationFeatures: 500GB or 1TB Storage, Thunderbolt 3 + USB Interface, TB3 reaches up to 10Gbps and USB up to 5Gbps
Benefits: Great value at an affordable price.
TB3 Ports: 1x
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g_raid_removable_thunderbolt
G-Technology G-Raid with Thunderbolt 3Features: Massive storage - 8TB/12TB/16TB/20TB , TB3, USB & HDMI Interface, Up to 20Gbps via TB3
Benefits: Fast and with high storage capacity. Good port variation.
TB3 Ports: 2x
Check on Amazon
mydigital_ssd_express_portable_thunderbolt_drive
MyDigitalSSD Pocket Vault Express PVXFeatures: 256GB/512GB/1TB Storage, NVMe SSD, Up to 40Gbps,
Benefits: 3 storage options, each quite affordable. Great transfer speed.
TB3 Ports: 1x
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lacie_thunderbolt_rugged_external_drive
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C Portable Hard DriveFeatures: 2TB/4TB/5TB Storage, Thunderbolt 3 & USB-C, Damage Resistant.
Benefits: Great performance for rugged design. Water, fall and crush resistant.
TB3 Ports: 1x
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patriot_evlvr_thunderbolt_external_drive
Patriot EVLVRFeatures: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB Storage, Can sustain up to 600TB of write data.
Benefits: Good pricing on each variant. Very fast. Sleek design.
TB3 Ports: 1x
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lacie_bolt_3_thunderbolt_3_external_drive
LaCie Bolt 3 Thunderbolt 3Features: 2TB Storage, Thunderbolt 3 & USB-C
Benefits: One of the fastest drives on the market. Quiet, despite it's size.
TB3 Ports: 1x
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transcend_storejet_500_external_drive
Transcend Storejet 500Features: 256GB/512GB/1TB, Thunderbolt 3 & USB-3,
Benefits: Fast read & write speeds on both TB3 and USB-3 ports.
TB3 Ports: 1x
Check on Amazon
wd_mypassport_portable_drive
WD My Passport Pro – Portable RAIDFeatures: 2TB/4TB, Thunderbolt 3, Speed of 230MB/s
Benefits: Large storage capacity. Integrated cable.
TB3 Ports: 1x
Check on Amazon

 

Next, we’ll take a close look.

1. Buffalo MiniStation

These nifty devices come in two flavors of capacities, vanilla 500 GB and double vanilla with sprinkles on top of 1 TB and it all comes down to price and usage.

The Buffalo has also another double attribute, as it has both a Thunderbolt and USB interface and it allows the user more flexibility for its usage. This way you are not stuck with connecting it to just one type of device.

Unfortunately, this also means that it had to cut the number of ports for each one. For example, it only has one Thunderbolt port and one USB. So if either of that malfunction or fry, it’s done it’s a marathon on that interface.

From that, we can also move on to another cursed blessing in disguise, which is that it doesn’t have any separate power adapter, just a bus-powered function. For those unfamiliar with those terms, it means that it can only turn on when it’s connected to a different device through a USB cable. Bus-powered also works with Thunderbolt, but it’s a bit slower than the other option. So keep that in mind.

As for what it has inside that shiny enclosure, it has an internal hard drive, instead of an SSD. That means that it’s Read and Write speed is quite lower than other devices on the market.

With Thunderbolt it can reach up to 10Gbps (10 Gigabits per second) and the USB goes as most to 5Gbps, but it all comes down to flexibility as well.

Oh, and as a last note, it looks very nice and shiny, with an aluminium case and plastic top. Just wanted to throw this one out there for the people who care about that stuff.
OUR TAKE
The Buffalo MiniStation External Hard drive is an overall solid product that can work for every single type of customer out there and it shows that it was made with the purpose of catering (in a good way) for all types of users.

Specifications

Drive typeExternal Hard Drive
Interface OptionsThunderbolt 3, USB 3.0
Available Capacities500GB, 1TB
Dimensions13(L) x 8.13 (W) x 2.29 (H) cm
Weight263.6 grams
OS supportedMac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Windows 7 or later
PROS

  • Affordable price.
  • Great value for the price, as it’s quite fast and reliable.
CONS

  • It only comes with port for each connector.
  • It only it had an SSD, it could have been a lot faster than it is right now.

2. G-Technology G-Raid with Thunderbolt 3

Moving from a sleek design but mediocre abilities to a bulky drive with exceptional results.

What this means is that the G-Technology G-Raid is an exceptional storage unit if you need everything done fast and you want to be able to keep it all in one place.

Unlike our previous entry, the G-Raid has an HDMI interface to boot, besides USB and Thunderbolt 3. And from the looks of it, it seems like it was made specifically for people working in the editing industry.

If you want to, you can search this bad boy out and buy it with the following capacities: 8TB, 12TB, 16TB, and 20TB. From what it looks like, you could fit an entire library worth of movies, songs, and other files and you still would have space for some other things.

In regards to other specifications, the G-Raid is actually comprised of a dual Enterprise-class 7200 RPM hard drive, which explains both space and design. Additionally, it has a small incorporated as not to overheat the unit or any other accidents.

It’s a small one, 40mm, but unfortunately that also brings up some problems with it. Noise. You can’t exactly do anything about, as the fan doesn’t have some control options so it is a bit louder than you want a drive to be.

Read and Write and transfer speeds are also quite reliable, as you would expect by now from a Thunderbolt interface. USB 3, just like before is slower but it still does it’s work perfectly and it works more than fine. Both also come in with a cable, for Thunderbolt 3 being a 20 Gbps, and a shorter and slower USB 3 cable.

OUR TAKE
Now, if we are to say what exactly is the highlight with the G-Raid, I would just mention the price. It’s not for your usual consumer and considering all the specifications mentioned I believe you can tell. It was made for people that absolutely require a big depository for large files. If we take that into consideration, I would say that the G-Raid fits the bill more than ok.

Specifications

Drive typeExternal Hard Drive
Interface OptionsThunderbolt, USB 3.0, HDMI
Available Capacities8TB, 12TB, 16TB, 20TB, 24TB
Dimensions25(L) x 12.5 (W) x 8.6 (H) cm
Weight2.6 Kg
OS supportedMac OS X 10.12 or later, Windows 8.1 or later
PROS

  • Fast and it has a high capacity.
  • 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, 1 USB 3.0 and 1 HDMI marks it for an upgrade above its competition.
  • The drives can be removed and switched.
CONS

  • The fan keeps it cool, but it’s also a noisy device.
  • Expensive.
  • It fits only a certain type of customer.

3. MyDigitalSSD Pocket Vault Express PVX Thunderbolt 3 Capsule

That title really is a mouthful, we know. The great people at MyDigitalsSSD bring us a wallet-friendly (both financially and physically) SSD that combines the Thunderbolt 3 tech with PCIe 3.0 x2 NVMe SSD.

For such a small device, it actually has great Read and Write speeds, the data transfer ranging up to 40Gbps and it’s bus-powered. So, again, it powers on only when you connect to a computer, for example, as it doesn’t have its own power source.

This is both a blessing and a curse, as we pointed out in a previous device on this list. While the maximum speed mentioned there is hypothetical, it has been tested out and the surest type of readings and writings are of 1.6 GB for the first and 1 GB for the latter. Which is quite impressive, it sets quite an example worthy to be followed.

Now, on the market, you can find in three types of capacities, that obviously vary in price, depending on their storage capacity.

Aspect wise, the Pocket Vault Express is encased in an aluminum case, it isn’t that big with a length of 10.2 cm and at 88 grams you could even say that it’s as light a feather. It has a sleek design, which even the makers themselves have said that “fits in the palm of your hand”. Basically, easy to carry and to use.

OUR TAKE
As a final word, the MyDigitalSSD Pocket Vault Express PVX Thunderbolt 3 Capsule is a great product that offers mobility and quick spurs of action for whatever kind of activity you are doing. It comes at a somewhat affordable price and it looks like it was made specific to everyone in mind to be able to use it.

Specifications

Drive typeExternal Hard Drive
Interface OptionsThunderbolt 3
Available Capacities256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB
Dimensions102(L) x 48 (W) x 15 (H)mm
Weight88 grams
OS supportedMac OS X 10.12 or later, Windows 8.1 or later
PROS

  • It comes in three variants, all quite cheap.
  • It is a fast data transfer SSD.
CONS

  • It only has one port.
  • It’s not that flexible as it as has one connector interface.

4. LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C Portable Hard Drive

From a long line of Rugged drives, here we have another one, the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C Portable Hard Drive.

While it doesn’t fit exactly in your palm, it’s quite manageable, easy to pick, easy to use and even easier to admire the goal they had when chose orange for their casing. I don’t know why, but it kind of reminds of sponge. The most important fact though is does it absorbs your data just as quickly like a sponge.

My previous comments about the case don’t provide the entire context of it’s design. While the color is an interesting choice, the enclosure is made in a way that it can withstand all kinds of accidents and misfortunes that may come down on the owner. It’s drop resistant, water-resistant apparently crush-proof, which is perfect if you work in an oil refinery at sea. It’s just the most magical place that you can choose to take a LaCie Rugged with you.

 

Outside appearances are great and all, but about what’s one the inside? How does that work? Does it even work?

While it has both a USB and Thunderbolt interface, it doesn’t take advantage of that and feels a bit underwhelming.

Unlike our previous speed demons, this drive can transfer your data with speeds around 130MB/s. Not that bad, but not that good either.

A nifty trick that the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt has over the competition is that fact both ports have their own cables included with the product, and the Thunderbolt one is integrated directly in the case. So for anyone that has problems remembering where they put their cables, at least it’s got you covered on that end. That, unfortunately, means that in case it has a problem, it’s not as easy to replace it.

As for how much you can carry with it, the LaCie Rugged has 3 versions, two of which are somewhat bigger and heavier than the first one – physically and in terms of memory. The 3 storage capacities are 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB. The prices for all of these models are quite appealing, especially one that offers so much space.

OUR TAKE
In the end, the LaCie Rugged hard drive is a commendable sponge looking drive, that can serve any kind of needs and holds up really well on the market, even if the main requirements aren’t that special.

Specifications

Drive typeExternal Hard Drive
Interface OptionsThunderbolt 3, USB-C
Available Capacities2TB, 4TB, 5 TB
Dimensions15(L) x 9.1 (W) x 3.4(H)cm
Weight0.4 kg and 0.6 kg
OS supportedMac OS X 10.12 or later, Windows 8.1 or later
PROS

  • Integrated Thunderbolt 3 cable.
  • Water and fall resistant.
  • A weird design, that captures you.
CONS

  • Slow speeds for data transfer.
  • Unsure usability of the integrated cable.

5. Patriot EVLVR Thunderbolt 3 External SSD

The Patriot EVLVR is another in a long line of very promising portable SSD’s.

Now, if it delivers or not, well that’s what we are going to find out. To get a bit technical, but the interface is built on for peak PCie Gen 3 performance, so it actually might be up to the standards we are hoping for.

First off, just like the rest of the bunch, Patriot decided to split EVLVR into three main groups, based on storage – 256GB, 512GB and 1TB, with quite a bit of price difference between them. If I had to choose though, I would probably get with the 1 TB, just because it might a bit useful than the rest.

Now, in terms of speeds that data transfer, it’s all done through the Thunderbolt 3 cable and interface, of which unfortunately it has only one. Still, that’s not uncommon in portable SSD and it was to be expected. This also means that it is bus-powered, so take in consideration as well. As for the speeds, since the Patriot EVLVR uses both Thunderbolt 3 and PCIe technology, it can reach transfer speeds up to 1.6 GB for read and 1 GB for write, which up until now seems like a standard for this kind of products.

So here is something new, it looks like the Patriot EVLVR decided to up the game and do an endurance test, which is kind of new. It seems like it was done only for the 512 GB version, but that is ok. As for the result, the EVLVR 512 can sustain up to 600 TB (terabytes) of write data, which means that over the years of usage it won’t break after it arrives at a certain write limit.

Design-wise, it’s a cool, sleek, and it has two rubber feet at the bottom so you won’t have to worry for it rolling around or anything.

OUR TAKE
The Patriot Evlvr is a great external drive for those who want to embrace Thunderbolt 3. While it’s not the fastest or the most rugged, it’s a very fast portable storage device at premium pricing.

Specifications

Drive typeExternal Hard Drive
Interface OptionsThunderbolt 3
Available Capacities256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB
Dimensions10.2(L) x 4.8(W) x 1.4(H)cm
Weight88 grams
OS supportedMac OS X 10.12 or later, Windows 8.1 or later
PROS

  • It uses the Thunderbolt 3 interface right.
  • Every version has an expected price range for this kind of product.
CONS

  • The devices slows down if it reaches the maximum temperature of 70 degrees.

6. LaCie Bolt 3 Thunderbolt 3

Oh boy, someone had a blast when they came with that title. Seems like the people at LaCie have a different sense of humour, but I kind of like them for that, especially when they decided to name this pricey drive. Oh, just to be sure that the joke went so far that people could use as a space transportation device, they decided it launch it during the same time as the newest MacBook in 2018. And it costs somewhere around the same price range. Isn’t that just fun.

Middle-class issues aside though, the Bolt 3 kind of deserves that price (kind of) as it’s probably one of the fastest drives on the market with astonishing write and read speeds up to 2.6 GB per second, so yikes, that is quite a lot. One of the claims made by the producer that you could transfer 1 TB of 4k movies in about 5 minutes, but I still haven’t found out if that’s true or not. So take that with a grain of salt if you can.

The LaCie Bolt 3 actually has two 1 TB SSD and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which is cool but that means that it’s quite limited without the USB port as well. You can only plug it to one type of computer so that’s a bit of a bummer. On the flip side though, this means that it has quite the capabilities in data transfer speed, right?

It looks like it reach up to 2.5 GB, but the manufacturer stated that it go even higher than that, 2.8 to be more precise. I don’t know if the drive can actually get there, but that is impressive, I just don’t feel that it excuses the price for it.

Design, design, just like the rest it has an aluminium enclosure and a weird magnetic metal base that helps it stand vertically, like a glorified statue or something. And power wise, outlets my friend, outlets will be your best friend as this beast requires a lot more power than you could get in a bus-powered one. So that also means that it isn’t the most portable SSD out there.

OUR TAKE
As a last mention, the LaCie Bolt 3 has a lot going for it, but it’s definitely a product that will be used by people working in specific industries. It offers a lot of storage space and high speeds, but the price kind of kills of for some with a limited budget.

Specifications

Drive typeExternal Hard Drive
Interface OptionsThunderbolt 3, USB-C
Available Capacities2 TB
Dimensions20 (L) x 2.5(W) x 11.4(H)cm
Weight771 grams
OS supportedMac OS X 10.12 or later, Windows 8.1 or later
PROS

  • It’s one of the fastest drives on the market.
  • Quiet even though it has quite the size.
CONS

  • No USB 3 port.
  • You need an adapter for Thundebolt 2 or prior

7. Transcend Storejet 500

We finally got an anomaly in our ranks, the Transcend Storejet 500, the drive that somehow manages to achieve higher speeds with it’s USB interface than it’s Thunderbolt 3 one. So that’s weird, especially since we saw that the trend is that Thunderbolt 3 just blows normal USB tech in every category.

Transcend has finally decided to move from hard drives to SSD for their drives and it was quite the time. If you want speed and data stability, then SSD’s are the answer that everyone wanted.

Now to address a possible argument that people might have about this product, yes it’s possible that the USB 3 and Thunderbolt speeds to have only been a glitch. Even so, the difference between them isn’t that big. USB 3 recorded reading speeds of 230 MB per second and write of 170 MB per second. It’s port sister, the Thunderbolt 3 achieved read of 250 MB per second and 200 write. With that marginal difference between them, you can understand how some people might get a different result, so it’s not really that much of a surprise.

The Transcend comes with 3 storage options – 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB, with acceptable price leaps between them, in our opinion.

Minimalist was the main idea when they came with this product, and it shows in the design as well. Grey, plain-looking colors, aluminum case and everything that makes it look quite shiny.

OUR TAKE
In the end if you need something that works, it’s cheap and does the job quite well, then you can’t go wrong with a StoreJet 500 and it shows. Everything from the data transfer speed, design-wise and the transition to SSD for these model shows that Transcend really wanted to create something for the ever-growing market of Thunderbolt 3 external drives. Even if it has it’s occasional problems, like overheating slows it down and so forth, it still a lot more reliable than anything else you might get out there.

Specifications

Drive typeExternal Hard Drive
Interface OptionsThunderbolt 3, USB-3
Available Capacities256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB
Dimensions121.2 (L) x 75.2 (W) x 13.5 (H) mm
Weight136 grams
OS supportedMac OS X 10.12 or later, Windows 8.1 or later
PROS

  • It has both kinds of ports.
  • High speeds, both for read and write.
CONS

  • It works much slower if it overheats.

8. WD My Passport Pro – Portable RAID

On our list, we went through several types of drives and most of them were either bulky with high storage, high speeds but weren’t portable or the vice-versa. Well, what if I tell you that there is a model on the market that has most of those qualities? I present to you the My Passport Pro-Portable RAID, a two-faced Thunderbolt drive. Excited yet?

This magic box comes in two versions, 2TB and 4TB, both at quite reasonable prices. I like where this is going, but for most products that sound too good to be true, there is always a catch, right? Well, it’s mostly a case of the manufacturer trying something new to see if it might catch one. With this one, I think they managed to hit it, somewhere near the border of the park.

The My Passport Pro- Portable Raid has only one method of connection, through a Thunderbolt 3 integrated cable, from which we can also realize that it’s bus-powered. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that we escaped from the noise such a device can make. It also has an incorporated fan that produces some annoying sounds from time to time, but it’s not exactly something that outrages.

In terms of speeds, nothing too special or out of the ordinary. Both the 2TB and 4TB managed to achieve data transfer speeds of around 230 MB per second.

Oh, and unlike other drives, this is one doesn’t need to install or configure your computer for it, it’s a quick Plug and Play, so that is kinda of neat of them.

Design-wise, it features aluminum enclosure but there is a difference in the bulkiness between the two versions. If I had to choose the more portable one, the 2 TB would win over the 4 TB, which reminds me a bit of a break, if I am honest. Both also have the added bonus of being shock resistant, with rubber bumpers that help cushion an impending impact.

OUR TAKE
If you ever wanted a method of transporting all of your data, files and other materials in your pocket, without needs a bag sized one, I would definitely say that the WD My Passport Pro-Portable Raid is a good choice. It has a nice design, an integrated Thunderbolt 3 cable and decent speeds are quite a blessing. Still, the main attractions truly are the storage capabilities, which outshine even more expensive or, technology-wise, advanced this model.

Specifications

Drive typeExternal Hard Drive
Interface OptionsThunderbolt 3
Available Capacities2 TB, 4 TB
Dimensions143 (L) x89 (W) x 29 (H) mm (2 TB), 143 (L) x89 (W) x 44 (H) mm (4TB)
Weight0.46 kg 2TB, 0.72 kg 4 TB
OS supportedMac OS X 10.12 or later, Windows 8.1 or later
PROS

  • Both versions have large storage capacity.
  • Portable and bus-powered.
  • Integrated cable
CONS

  • Noisy fan.
  • No SSD option.
Categories: Reviews

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