If your looking for the fastest & smallest portable external hard drive for your photography available in 2020, the Samsung X5 is for you. Here are the quick facts before I go into more details:
- Read/write speeds: 2,800/2,300 MB/s.
- Connection: Thunderbolt 3 ( peak throughput of up to 40GBps )
- Capacity: up to 2TB
- Weight: 150g
- Dimensions: 119 x 62 x 19.7 mm
Now read that again carefully. It said “READ / WRITE SPEEDS OF UP TO 2800/2300 MBps”! now google the current external drive you are working on and check what its read/write speeds are and let me know in the comments 🙂
What are these specs & why do they matter to a photographer ?
When looking for an external hard drive, most photographers are probably basing their purchase on drive capacity. They have x amount of photos, which needs x amount of space. Its pretty easy these days to pick up a 3TB hard drive for somewhere around $150. While these hard drives are fine for general usage like backing up documents or occasional personal photos, they may not be the best option for a professional photographer. If you read & write large amounts of photos or videos a fast drive is a must.
Don’t take just capacity into account! Professional photographers really should be paying attention to read/write speeds & the drive connection type. If you’ve experienced that slow lag reading files into Lightroom & saving files from photoshop out to your external hard drive, then you should be questioning your external hard drive speed. If you are working on files from your external HD, then a fast drive is definitely going to improve your efficiency.
Second to read/write speeds you should also consider the connection type of your drive. Keep in mind what connections your computer supports. The latest Mac’s all support Thunderbolt 3, however don’t be surprised if your windows PC doesn’t.
- USB 1.1: up to 12 Mbps
- USB 2.0: up to 480 Mbps
- USB 3.0: up to 4.8 Gbps
- Thunderbolt 3: up to 40 Gbps
Read/Write Speed Comparsion ( approximate numbers, but you get the idea )
Seagate Backup Plus Portable 5TB: 130/130MBps
WD MyPassport 4TB: 110/115 MBps
WD MyBook Duo 6TB: 360/360MBps
Samsung X5: 2,800/2,300MBps
So if you are writing files to a Seagate Backup Plus it is going to be ALOT slower than the X5. As an example from the Samsung website, the X5 lets you transfer a 20GB UHD video from your PC to the X5 in just 12 seconds!
The X5 however does come with a price tag ( approx $1500 AUD ). So whats the solution ? I’ve opted to have the X5 2TB as my main working drive, so when I’m editing and constantly saving files I’m using my fastest drive. Once a gallery is complete, I move it over to one of my slower seagate backup plus drives. If you don’t require portability then transfer them over to a RAID for increased resiliency & reliability.
Check out the other contenders for fastest portable external hard drive
- LaCie’s Rugged SSD Pro – built around a Seagate FireCude NVMe SSD, the claimed transfer speed is up to 2800 MB/s when connected over Thunderbolt 3.
- SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD – like the Samsung X5 & LaCie’s Rugged SSD Pro, this drive uses super fast NVMe technology. This particular drive gives speeds up to 1050MB/s.
& Remember, any drive can fail … so make sure you are doing double backups. It is best to have one on a hard drive and one on a cloud based system like Backblaze. Get a month free using my referral link.
It is so important to make sure your photography work is backed up! Many of the moments we photograph can’t be recreated – weddings, births, newborn days. My friend & family photographer Hannah has written a blog on the importance of these moments, in particular for family photography. You can check out here – Cherish Forever Photography