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Best External SSD Drives for M1 MacBook Air and Pro

ssds for m1 mac pro and air

Flash Drives and portable HDDs have passed their prime. The future belongs to External SSDs. They combine the compact nature and high capacity of flash drives and portable HDDs and add their advantages.

For instance, external SSDs can read and write data at a much faster rate. This is primarily thanks to the use of Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.2 (Gen 2 and Gen 2×2). Presently, the best you can do is get your hand on a USB-C pen drive. However, that will not match the storage capacity of an External SSD. Further, the lack of Thunderbolt 4 flash drives also makes it a one-horse race.

In comparison, portable HDDs can offer the storage space you need. And they are far more economical than external SSDs. Unfortunately, they do not even come close to the data transfer speeds of an SSD. Additionally, portable HDDs have moving parts. This means they are prone to damage and malfunction when you do not have an ideal working space.

The M1 MacBooks Air and Pro do not feature the USB-A port. Thus, you need an external SSD that uses a Thunderbolt or USB-C port.

In this article, we bring you the Best External SSDs to use with your M1 MacBooks. There are plenty of variants to choose from. For this, we will review and compare what each has to offer. Later, our buying guide will help you select the perfect device to suit your need. Finally, we will help you find answers to frequently asked questions to clarify any confusion.

Comparison of the Best External SSD Drives for M1 MacBook Air and Pro

ImageProductDetailsCheck Price
OWC Envoy Pro SX on Amazon
OWC Envoy Pro Capacity: 240GB, 480GB, 1TB, and 2TB
Interface: Thunderbolt 3
Transfer Speed: 2800 MB/s
Warranty: 3 years
Buy on Amazon
Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q on Amazon
Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 8TB, and 16TB
Interface: Thunderbolt 3
Transfer Speed: 2700 MB/s
Warranty: 3 years
Buy on Amazon
LaCie Rugged SSD Pro on Amazon
LaCie Rugged SSD Pro Capacity: 1TB, and 2TB
Interface: Thunderbolt 3
Transfer Speed: 2700 MB/s
Warranty: 5 years
Buy on Amazon
Kingston XS2000 on Amazon
Kingston XS2000 Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
Transfer Speed: 2000 MB/s
Warranty: 5 years
Buy on Amazon
ADATA SE800 1TB on Amazon
ADATA SE800 1TB Capacity: 512GB, 1TB
Interface: USB 3. 2 Gen 2
Transfer Speed: 1000 MB/s
Warranty: 3 years
Buy on Amazon
SAMSUNG T7 Touch on Amazon
SAMSUNG T7 Touch Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2
Transfer Speed: 1050 MB/s
Warranty: 3 years
Buy on Amazon
SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD on Amazon
SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2
Transfer Speed: 1050 MB/s
Warranty: 5 years
Buy on Amazon
Seagate One Touch SSD 1TB on Amazon
Seagate One Touch SSD 1TB Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2
Transfer Speed: 1030 MB/s
Warranty: 3 years
Buy on Amazon
WD_BLACK 1TB P50 on Amazon
WD_BLACK 1TB P50 Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB
Interface: USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
Transfer Speed: 2000 MB/s
Warranty: 3 years
Buy on Amazon

1. OWC Envoy Pro SX – Fast External SSD

The OWC Envoy Pro SX offers one of the fastest read and write speeds that you can buy presently. Although only marginally faster, the SSD is advertised as reaching speeds up to 2800MB/s instead of the 2700MB/s other external SSDs offer.

Agreed, it may not make too much of a difference in everyday use. However, every little bit counts when you want to transfer large amounts of data between devices.

In our Blackmagicdesign on Mac Air M1 test, using a 20GB load, it reached the speeds below. Although, not the advertised max speeds, I’m sure there are better scenarios that allow it to reach the claimed 2800MB/s, like using a more powerful machine than the entry-level Mac Air 8GB, 256GB.

owc-ssd-speed-data
The Thunderbolt 3 Interface allows the OWC Envoy Pro SX to reach impressive speeds, even when connected to an entry-level Mac Air M1.

The Envoy Pro SX does it efficiently, and with its fin design, it will keep cool while doing it. Apart from the efficient heat dissipation, you also get a device that will take a bit of rough handling. It sports a lightweight aluminum body. And its sealed cover protects from dust, water, and accidental drops.

Further, the design features a status LED to indicate an active connection. And draws its power from the data bus, so you do not end up carrying bulky power cords or chargers.

OWC SSD
The Envoy SX comes with a Thunderbolt 3 cable in the box. It connects to the Mac using 1 cable.

You get the choice of four variants starting from 240GB, doubling at each iteration, and going up to 2TB. It uses a Thunderbolt 3 interface to deliver the promised speed. And it is compatible with encryption that comes with Mac and Windows.

Mac air with ssd and earbudson desk
The OWC Envoy near Mac Air M1 and Airbuds Pro for scale.
Our Take

The Envoy Pro SX is for users whose primary focus is getting a high-speed device. It does a wonderful job with it and remains unmatched on our list.

PROS
  • Multiple capacities to choose from give you the flexibility of choice.
  • A data transfer speed of 2800MB/s is among the faster you can get.
  • The aluminum body makes the device lightweight and durable.
  • Data remains secure with compatibility for OS-level encryption (Mac and Windows).
CONS
  • As with most premium products, the price is spicy.

2. Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q – Large Capacity Thunderbolt 3 SSD

The Sabrent Rocker XTRM-Q comes with six capacity variants. The highest capacity offers 16TB; thus, making it one of the very few to do so. Further, it is the only one on our list to offer more than 8TB of storage space.

Like OWC, the XTRM-Q uses an aluminum body. Thus, making it lightweight and allowing it to dissipate the heat. This is done efficiently thanks to the integrated temperature and health monitoring system. Unfortunately, the XTRM-Q lacks a decent IP rating. Hence, you should use it in a controlled environment like an office or home.

The drive delivers speeds of 900MB/s when using USB 3.2 and 2700MB/s when using Thunderbolt 3, which it detects automatically. What’s more, your MacBook will automatically detect the drive. Thus, you do not bother yourself with installing drivers.

Just plug it into the laptop, and you are good to go. In fact, you do not need an external power supply; the drive uses the data bus to draw its power.

Our Take

The XTRM-Q is for you if you have a hard time deciding what files to keep and what not. If money is not a concern, get the 16TB variant and dump all that data relentlessly. Remember, you do not get dustproof and waterproof protection; this will limit the use considerably.

PROS
  • A 16TB variant will store all your data, movies, photos, and much more.
  • Thunderbolt 3 gives you a fast data transfer speed of 2700MB/s.
  • Six capacity variants give you plenty of choices.
  • Five-year warranty keeps you protected for longer.
CONS
  • Little protection from the elements, like dust and water.

3. LaCie Rugged SSD Pro – Toughest External SSD with IP67 Rating

As the name suggests, this is one rugged external SSD. Thus, it makes for the best storage device for outdoor enthusiasts who seek adventure. It will survive the harsh outdoor thanks to its IP67 rating.

The LaCie Rugged SSD Pro will withstand a reasonable amount of water and dust. Further, it will take a bit of bashing in case of accidental drops from up to three meters. But this is enough about its ruggedness.

It is primarily an external SSD. So, you get to between a 1TB and a 2TB capacity. Agreed, the choice is limited, but a 2TB NVMe SSD will take care of most real-world use cases. It offers a data transfer speed of 2800MB/s with Thunderbolt 3 and 900MB/s with USB-C.

It is a tough SSD that will take considerable rough handling. However, you get a Rescue Data Recovery Service valid for five years if you break through its defenses. You also get a 5-year warranty on the device.

Our Take

The LaCie Rugged Pro is for you if you often find yourself in harsh environments, working or otherwise. The drive comes with a fast NVMe storage and up to 2TB storage capacity. So, you can relentlessly transfer your videos and photos on the drive. Or, you can carry all your favorite high-definition content to consume while in the rugged outdoors.

PROS
  • Thunderbolt 3 gives you a fast data transfer speed of 2800MB/s.
  • Five-year warranty keeps you protected for longer.
  • An IP67 rating makes the device rugged and difficult to damage.
  • Data Recovery service included in case of damage.
CONS
  • Only two variants to choose from.
  • Protection from the elements comes at a price

4. Kingston XS2000 – Small Size External SSD

The Kingston XS2000 is only marginally bigger than a conventional USB flash drive. Thus, giving it a considerable size advantage over its SSD peers.

The XS2000 measures 2.74 x 1.28 x 0.53 inches in dimensions and weighs under 30gms. But, do not think that small size means low capacity. You get three variants, starting from 500GB and going up to 2TB.

It does not offer Thunderbolt 3. Instead, it offers the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 that delivers a speed of 2000MB/s. Thus, you will not have a problem editing high-definition videos or images.

The design is similar to an old-fashioned flash drive. Hence, it easily fits in your pocket. You get a rubberized sleeve that helps protect it from scratches caused by accidental drops. Further, the device comes with an IP55 rating. This means it will withstand some about of dust and water. But it is best to avoid tempting fate.

Finally, the device is compatible with all major operating systems. Thus, you will not have to install drivers. The plug-and-play design ensures smooth operations.

Our Take

The Kingston XS2000 defeats its competition on more than one count. For instance, it is among the smallest external SSD out there. And, it offers an unmissable price advantage over similar storage capacities.

PROS
  • Five-year warranty keeps you protected for longer.
  • IP55 rating keeps the devise safe from dust and water.
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2X2 gives you a data transfer speed of 2000MB/s
  • Good value
  • The compact and lightweight design makes it pocket friendly.
CONS
  • No provision for encryption at the OS level.
  • No security features like AES 256-bit encryption.

5. ADATA SE800 1TB – External SSD with IP68 Rating

The ADATA SE800 is a balanced external SSD. It comes with plenty of hits but also its share of misses.

Let’s have a look at the hits first. You get a compact device that will fit in your pocket. Also, it is lightweight, and carrying it around is easy. Just like the Kingston, the SE800 is among the smallest external SSD you can buy.

Additionally, the SE800 conforms to the US Military MIL-STD-810G 516.6 standards. This makes it shockproof. Hence, accidental drops and rough handling are no problem for the SE800. Further, it has an IP68 rating that ensures it will survive extremely dusty environments. It will survive for an hour underwater up to 1.5meters depth.

Now for the misses. The SE800 gives you a USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface. As a result, you get a data transfer speed of 1000MB/s. This is not particularly slow. However, considering the competition and the price, faster devices are available that also provide high IP ratings.

Next, Adata offers the SE800 in only two variants, the 1TB and 2TB. As a user, this limits your choice because not everyone can make do with 2TB storage.

Our Take

Buy the Adata SE800 if you need a durable device. The military-grade toughness and the IP68 rate are hard to find, which is its key strength.

PROS
  • MIL-STD-810G 516.6 testing ensures you get a sturdy device.
  • The IP68 rating help keep it safe from dust and water.
  • The lightweight and compact design make it easy to carry.
  • The LED indicator shows the status of the device’s operation.
CONS
  • Only two capacity variants limit the choices.
  • The included cables are too short; hence, connections with a desktop are challenging.
  • A three-year warranty is far below the industry norm of five years.

6. SAMSUNG T7 Touch – External SSD with Security

We have covered SSDs that offer IP ratings. We have also covered SSDs that offer AES 256-encryption. The SanDisk Extreme has both and comes at an attractive price.

It uses the USB 3.2 Gen 2 protocol and offers a write speed of 1050MB/s and a read speed of 1000MB/s. And, you get four capacity variants starting from 500GB going up to 4TB.

The design features a rugged rubber-coated body with excellent grip in wet conditions. Thankfully, the IP55 rating ensures the SSD will withstand more than a splash of water. It will survive falls from up to two meters which means it is built for the outdoors. As a result, it comes with a Carabiner loop, so you can secure it by attaching it to your gear.

Further, it keeps your sensitive data safe under password protection with the AES 256-bit encryption. You also get the Memory Zone file manager. It is a handy tool to have when you want to access data while on the move.

Our Take

True to its name, the SanDisk Extreme is built for extreme environments. The IP55 rating will help secure it physically, and the AES 256-bit encryption will keep digital spies at bay.

PROS
  • The IP55 rating help keep it safe from dust and water.
  • Hardware-level AES 256-bit encryption will keep your sensitive data password protected.
  • Four capacity variants allow the flexibility of choice.
  • Five years warranty will keep you protected longer.
CONS
  • No Thunderbolt 3 support
  • No LED status indicator
  • You need to install drivers before using the device.

8. Seagate One Touch SSD 1TB – External SSD with Data Recovery Service

The Seagate One Touch drive offers you considerable peace of mind thanks to Rescue Data Recovery Service.

Should disaster strike, Seagate comes to the rescue with its three years warranty that includes its Rescue Data Recovery Service. Thus, you stay protected from data loss caused by viruses, program errors, physical damage, and more. Seagate will have the best data recovery experts work on the device so you can sleep in peace. And that you can do, as Seagate has a 90% success rate with this service.

As for the device, it features the USB 3.2 Gen 2 protocol. So, you get speeds of 1030MB/s. You also can choose from three capacity and color variants to suit your need.

The design is a modest one with no attractive element. It is pretty similar to the HDD model, so double-check what you add to the cart.

Our Take

External SSDs are portable storage devices. And, like all portable devices, they face a greater risk of damage (and data loss). Seagate’s Rescue Data Recovery Service is the main reason why one must consider this device. Its impressive track record will keep you carefree.

PROS
  • Seagate’s Rescue Data Recovery Service ensures you recover your data in a mishap.
  • Three capacity and color variants give you nine options to choose from.
  • Compact and lightweight design
CONS
  • A three-year warranty is less compared to the competition
  • No IP rating
  • No AES 256-bit encryption

9. WD_BLACK 1TB P50 – External SSD with USB 3.2 Gen 2X2

WD_Black P50 offers the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 interface. It may not be as fast as the Thunderbolt 3 interface, but it still provides you with speed up to 2000MB/s.

The design of the P50 resembles an industrial-strength trunk. The body is black and uses forged aluminum to give it a bit of strength. But the P50 does not have a declared IP rating. So, the aluminum body will only protect it from minor falls around the house. If you need something more durable, look elsewhere and do not be taken in by the P50’s look.

The P50 offers four capacity variants starting from 500GB and going up to 4TB. Thus, you can carry all the latest games and high-definition videos with relative ease.

Unfortunately, it is not very pocket friendly, physically and figuratively speaking. It is bulky, so you cannot carry it in your pocket, and it comes at a considerable price premium.

Our Take

The P50 is an excellent choice for users looking for fast and high-capacity drives. Further, the unconventional look and feel of the P50 will catch a few eyeballs. However, if you want all of this, you must be prepared to shell out some extra cash for it.

PROS
  • Multiple capacities to choose from give you the flexibility of choice.
  • A data transfer speed of 2800MB/s is among the faster you can get.
  • The aluminum body makes the device lightweight.
  • 4TB capacity will take care of almost all user needs
CONS
  • No IP rating to promise protection from water, dust, and accidental drops.
  • No AES 256-bit encryption
  • You pay a considerable price premium.

Best External SSD Drives for M1 MacBook Air and Pro – Our Buying Guide

You must keep these vital considerations in mind while buying an External SSD for your M1 MacBooks:

Capacity

The primary concern when buying an external SSD has to be the capacity. Some devices come with 240GB of storage which is good for keeping a backup of your data.

However, if you need to carry large files like high-definition video or high-resolution images, you will need more. A 1TB to 2TB capacity would serve you better in such use cases.

Connection Interface

The connection interface with the external SSD governs the data transfer speed.

A Thunderbolt 3 interface will give you 2800MB/s. In comparison, a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 will provide you with 2000MB/s and the Gen 2 variant, about 1050MB/s.

The M1 MacBook will support all three. Thus, based on how much data you intend to transfer back and forth, you have the choice of three interfaces.

IP Rating

IP ratings is a rating system that classifies a device based on its tolerance to elements like dust, water, and shock absorption.

IP5X-rated devices will tolerate dust, splashes of water, and accidental drop for a low height.

IP6X-rated devices will have a higher tolerance. They will not allow any dust particles through and may survive submerged in water for a short duration.

IP-rated devices are desirable since portable devices are often exposed to these elements.

Security

Portable storage devices are often used to store private and sensitive data. Thus, it is essential to secure it with a password and encrypt it. Hence, if you lose it or the device is stolen, your data remains safe.

Look for devices that feature AES 256-bit encryption. These devices will encrypt your data and use a password to protect it.

Price

Based on the above feature, the price for such devices varies quite a bit. Hence, make a list of absolute must-have features and set yourself a budget. There are plenty of options to choose from to suit each use case and budget.
In the real world, the difference in speed between a USB 3.2 and a Thunderbolt drive is not that noticeable. Sure, Thunderbolt will offer bragging rights, but if you’re not using the drive professionally, you’ll be just fine with a USB 3.2 interface, while saving a lot of money.

Thunderbolt drives are expensive when compared to USB 3.2 ones.

Best External SSD Drives for M1 MacBook Air and Pro – Our Buying Guide

Why use an external SSD?

External SSDs are the modern equivalent of portable HDDs. They offer the advantage of faster data transfer speed. Also, they are less prone to error or damage than mechanical HDDs. This is because they have no moving parts.

Additionally, external SSDs are far more compact and lightweight when compared to HDDs, and offer better speeds and reliability than a thumb drive.  If you have important data that needs to be moved it should be stored on an external SSD.

Also, the entry-level Macbook Air M1 comes with only 256GB of storage. External drives are the only way of expanding it, as they are not built to be upgraded.

What is AES 256-bit Encryption?

AES 256- bit Encryption is a 256-bit encryption algorithm that works with plaintext data.

AES or Advanced Encryption Standard is state-of-the-art encryption developed in 2001 by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. AES uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt the data, making it a symmetric-key encryption algorithm.

It is a highly complicated encryption to crack, and for this reason, an advanced variation of the same is used by the U.S National Security Agency.

What is IP Rating?

IP Rating or IP Code or Ingress Protection Code is a rating system to measure the tolerance of a device to particles and liquid.

An IP Rating or IP Code usually follows the format “IPXX.” The first “X” measures the tolerance to different levels/density of particles. And the second “X” measures the tolerance to the invasive level of liquids.

Can I use an external SSD with my phone or tablet?

Yes, you can use most external SSD devices with phones and tablets. However, it is advisable to check the compatibility of the SSD’s device with the operating system on the phone or tablet.

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