The best Thunderbolt 3 External SSD for MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or Mac Mini

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Glyph Atom Pro
Photo Credit: Glyph Production Technologies

Online content production requires a lot of storage. Video and photo files can very quickly fill the limited internal SSD storage of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, making an external drive of some description an essential purchase.

While an external hard drive may be sufficient for storing larger files, the speed is just too slow for working with gigabytes of photos, or for video editing, especially at higher resolutions. For that, you really need an SSD.

Although the majority of external SSD’s are USB drives, the fastest external SSD’s currently available use Thunderbolt 3 for read and write speeds several times several times faster than USB, often even approaching the performance of internal PCIe drives.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the best external Thunderbolt 3 SSD’s you can buy today in 2021 for your Mac.

The best Thunderbolt 3 SSD’s for the Mac

Speed comparison

The speed test results listed below were calculated using BlackMagic Desk Speed Test, from an average of multiple runs over a 5 minute period.

SSDRead (MB/s)Write (MB/s)
Glyph Atom Pro24702304
G-Drive Mobile Pro25452300
Samsung X525601998
Lacie Rugged SSD Pro24421928
OWC Envoy Pro EX24301918
Plugable Thunderbolt 314701250

Glyph Atom Pro NVME SSD

Read speed: 2,470MB/s, Write speed: 2,304 MB/s

The Glyph Atom Pro is our choice for the best external Thunderbolt 3 SSD. While the write speed is not quite as fast as the Samsung X5, the read speed is significantly faster, offering more balanced performance. The aluminium enclosure acts as a heatsink, helping to reduce temperatures and maintain performance without throttling. The sleek dark grey aesthetics look right at home next to the space gray MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, and it includes a removable rubber bumper for shock protection from drops or falls.

G-Technology G-Drive Mobile Pro

Read speed: 2,445MB/s, Write speed: 2,300 MB/s

While the transfer speeds of this drive are right up there among the best, in our tests the G-Drive Mobile Pro has an unfortunate tendency to spontaneously disconnect at random. Judging by the Amazon reviews, this is an experience shared by many owners of this drive,

Very close in performance to the Glyph drive.

Samsung X5 Thunderbolt 3 SSD

Read speed: 2,560MB/s, Write speed: 1,998 MB/s

With its glossy, bright red and grey appearance, the X5 would appear to be more at home next to a flash gaming PC than a MacBook Pro. If you’re comfortable with that, for your money you’ll be getting top notch performance and stability. It’s only let down by the write speed, which is somewhat slower than most of the other drives tested.

Lacie Rugged SSD Pro

Read speed: 2,442MB/s, Write speed: 1,928 MB/s

Lacie’s Rugged SSD Pro is encased entirely in rubber for protection from drops or falls of up to 3 metres and it also features an IP67 waterproof rating for use in tough environments. The speed and reliability are excellent, with no connection issues and performance on a par with the other drives tested.

OWC Envoy Pro EX

Read speed: 2,430MB/s, Write speed: 1,918 MB/s

OWC have a long history of producing high quality peripherals for Mac computers, and the Envoy Pro EX is no exception. The drive features a fully aluminium enclosure, finished in grey to match the space grey MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, and also includes a removable rubberised bumper for drop protection from up to four feet.

Plugable Thunderbolt 3 NVMe External SSD

Read speed: 1,470MB/s, Write speed: 1,250 MB/s

The most competitively priced drive out of all those tested, Plugable’s Thunderbolt 3 NVMe SSD offers excellent performance without decimating your bank balance.