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5 Best Thunderbolt External Hard Drives in 2021

When the technology first came out in the late 2000s, Intel’s project Light Peak promised tech that improved transfer speeds

Thunderbolt was the result and was included in Apple devices, but now, many devices including storage devices are adopting the technology.

If you’re wondering if you can use the thunderbolt port on your computer to connect to external hard drives, then you’re in the right place.

Here you’ll see some of the best thunderbolt external hard drives that will give you great performance. Whether on Windows or a Mac, these will suit your storage needs.

List of Best Thunderbolt External Hard Drives in 2021

The following are what we believe to be the best external hard drives with the thunderbolt port based on popularity and value.

  1. WD My Passport Pro Portable – Large Capacity RAID Storage
  2. Seagate FireCuda Gaming Dock – For Gamers, has expandable storage.
  3. Samsung X5 Portable SSD – 2800MB/s NVMe SSD
  4. Plugable SSD – 2400MB/s SSD, Ideal for Travel
  5. G-Technology G-Drive with Thunderbolt 3 – High Capacity 7200RPM HDD

1. WD My Passport Pro Portable –233MB/s Portable RAID Storage

Users who are looking for the best thunderbolt external hard drive that also provides high data security will love the WD My Passport Pro Portable.

For a portable RAID device, it comes with large storage capacities of 2 – 4 TB and part of it can be attributed to the fact that it’s a dual-drive device.

What this does is, it gives you the ability to store much more data but you can sacrifice this by implementing a RAID 0 redundancy measure that inherently reduces your total storage capacity by half.

It does this by cloning all your data onto both drives and the biggest advantage of this is that if one drive fails, you will retain all your files.

Aside from being secure in terms of data protection, the device is also portable, considering you get two drives in one.

As such, you can easily travel with your files and access them quickly thanks to Thunderbolt support.

Having HDDs, you get speeds of up to 233MB/s. It’s not the best, but still, the performance is decent enough for most users.

2. Seagate FireCuda Gaming Dock – For Gamers, has expandable storage

Gamers might already know that they can use Thunderbolt 3 to connect an external graphics card to their computer.

Likewise, this gamer-centric hard drive, the Seagate FireCuda Gaming Dock is a great hard drive for gamers and just as you guessed, uses Thunderbolt 3.

What makes the FireCuda gaming dock the best thunderbolt external hard drive is the fact that it’s a hybrid solution.

Seagate supply it with a 4TB HDD that you can use to store your games and other files in, but once you pull out the front part that contains the LED strips, you get an extra expandable slot for an NVMe drive.

As a result, you can boost the drive’s performance with an NVMe drive and effectively improve your gaming performance.

The drive has a host of ports that you can use to connect to other devices like your keyboard, mouse, and monitors. Afterward, you can use a single Thunderbolt connector to connect to your PC hence routing all the connectors through the drive and reducing wiring clutter on your desk.

3. Samsung X5 Portable SSD – 2800MB/s NVMe SSD

The Samsung X5 Portable SSD has a small and rugged build that makes it super portable and very durable.

At the same time, the device leverages the power of NVMe SSDs to deliver high performance with read speeds of up to 2800MB/s. At the same time, write speeds go up to 2300MB/s which is a significant improvement from other drives including SATA SSDs.

With the inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 support, users can run file transfers extremely fast between the drive and compatible host devices and this can help improve workflow for professionals.

The drive has a metal enclosure that aids in its durability. The design is further accentuated with a glossy top and a bottom that provides it with grip hence reducing sudden slipping and drops.

Speaking of drops, the drive can survive drops of up to 2M and is shock-resistant by design.

You get encryption with this unit and it helps keep your files safe if an unauthorized person gets access to your drive.

What makes this the best thunderbolt external hard drive is its performance and security features.

4. Plugable SSD – 2400MB/s SSD, Ideal for Travel

For users who are looking for a simple Thunderbolt 3 hard drive that offers good performance, this might be appealing.

To start, it is ridiculously fast, and that is all thanks to the NVMe. To put this into perspective, you get transfer speeds of 2400MB/s for reads and writes come up at 1800MB/s.

The drive is costly, but considering the performance you get, the price is expected.

The drive is ideal for users, particularly those working with demanding tasks that rely on a lot of data transfers. Such users will find this to be the best thunderbolt external hard drive.

The drive has a full metal enclosure that gives it added durability against forces and some shocks. At the same time, the metal acts as a heat sink, allowing the device to perform optimally by dissipating any excess heat generated during operation.

It comes preformatted with the exFAT filesystem, making it compatible with Windows, Linux, and macOS.

The thunderbolt cable comes attached to the device, and with it, the largest drawback you’ll face is that it’s only compatible with Thunderbolt 3 meaning you won’t be able to use it over USB.

5. G-Technology G-Drive with Thunderbolt 3 – High Capacity 7200RPM HDD

The G-Drive from G-technology comes with a badge on its front panel that symbolizes its support for Thunderbolt 3.

It has dual ports for this that allows you to connect it to other devices in a daisy chain (up to 5 devices) and have access to all of them through just one interface. The drive also supports USB3.1 Gen-1 for devices that will need it.

For durability, the device has an aluminum case that encloses the drives. This also functions as an aesthetic element while providing a good degree of heat dissipation.

Being a desktop drive ultimately means that portability was not on the agenda during design. But for that sacrifice, you get the chance to have large storage capacities for users who have a large library of files that need to be backed-up or stored in an external drive.

To facilitate data transfers, the device features a 2700RPM hard drive that offers speeds of up to 250MB/s.

What makes this the best thunderbolt external hard drive is its great performance and large storage capacity.


Brief Look into the Phenomenon That is Thunderbolt

Despite being in development much earlier, the first iteration of the thunderbolt connector was announced in 2011. Soon after, devices supporting the interface would start shipping out. Initially, it was Apple devices.

The cables used were connecting to a port that resembled a mini display port, however, the thunderbolt symbol would help tell the difference

What is Thunderbolt 2?

Announced in 2013 by Intel, Thunderbolt 2 used the same connector that Thunderbolt 1 used. However, its biggest advantages were that users got double the bandwidth that Thunderbolt 1 supplied.

At 20Gb/s connecting to devices like external displays exhibited great performance. But thunderbolt was expensive and many users still had a hard time justifying the switch to a tech that required getting adapters for devices that didn’t support it.

Thunderbolt 3, Unifying the Tech

Thunderbolt 3 Lightening Icon
Thunderbolt 3 ports have a distinctive lightening icon next to them

Thunderbolt 3, bridged the gap between USB and Thunderbolt. It was announced in 2015 and unlike the two previous generations, you now had a USB Type-C connector.

Towards the end of the year, the first devices including PC motherboards that supported thunderbolt started shipping out.

At 40Gb/s users had enough bandwidth to output data to two 4K displays at 60 FPs simultaneously.

At the same time, the data rate meant that utilizing storage devices like NVMe drives that have high bandwidths would result in record-breaking speeds and great performance.

Using the Type-C connector increased its field of compatible devices.

Also Read:

Thunderbolt vs USB

best motherboarboards with thunderbolt 3
Despite sharing the same form factor, a Thunderbolt 3 port has far greater transfer speeds. Source:

The fact that Thunderbolt 3 used the Type-C cable meant that users could interchange between USB and Thunderbolt as per their computer’s requirements. As such, many hard drives support both USB 3.0 and later; in conjunction with Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt aggregates the most commonly-used ports for computers into one single device. The same interface can power your device, connect to your display devices, and even transmit data over USB 3.X.

At the same time, the thunderbolt connection is significantly better than USB at power delivery. It makes use of copper cabling for this and allows you to power much larger devices and enclosures than you would with a USB connector.

With a USB Hub, you can connect multiple devices via USB to the same port.

The Thunderbolt technology also allows you to connect multiple devices, but it does so via daisy-chaining, connecting each device to the end of the connector to another device. This can be done with a limit of up to six devices.

best thunderbolt external hard drives
While thunderbolt makes most sense for SSD, you can also find HDD external drives with Thunderbolt. Source: G-technology

Final Words

There is no doubt that the lightening fast transfer speeds of thunderbolt 3 port has made it one of the most coveted port in many devices ranging from external hard drives to PCs.

In this article we looked at the best thunderbolt external hard drives that you can use to high transfer speeds as well as interface them with Apple devices.

While thunderbolt 3 hard drives are generally more expensive, but their high speeds makes them highly lucrative.

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We are team of two engineers with a keen interest and a passion for PC builds and hardware.

PCGearLab.com is essentially the culmination of our enthusiasm towards this subject. We review PC peripherals and hardware, talk about custom builds and informative topics regarding troubleshooting issues, understanding a component better and general tips for DIY PC builders.

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