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Shopping for the best portable hard drive? These models earned our highest ratings

Albert Filice, Michael Brown | April 22, 2014
A good portable hard drive is as handy as a pocket on a shirt. You can use one to back up your PC, carry important files with you on the road, store music and movies without clogging the hard drive on your PC, and more. In fact, there are countless other applications for portable drives, simply because you can never have enough storage. And that goes double when your boot drive is a smallish SSD.

Take a look at the above chart, however, and you'll see that the far cheaper Aegis Portable 3.0 outperformed it when reading a single 10GB file. The drive inside the $900 Thunderbolt Drive+ is a Plextor SATA 6Gbps model that can be purchased directly from Plextor for just $380. So you're paying $520 for a very fancy, water- and dust-resistant enclosure with both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces and a three-year warranty. Given that Thunderbolt is more widely support on the Mac, it's no surprise that the drive comes from the factory formatted HTFS+, so you'll need to reformat as NTFS if you want to use with a PC. (For the record, we benchmarked it as an NTFS drive.)

Apricorn Aegis Padlock SSD (240GB SSD; USB 3.0)

Anyone who carries sensitive information with them should consider storing it on a drive that encrypts the data to keep it from prying eyes. Apricorn's Aegis Padlock SSD features a numeric keypad to prevent unauthorized access, and it's certified Level 2 FIPS 140-2, which means any tampering must be rendered evident.

The Aegis Padlock's read/write performance is lower than what you'll get from other SSDs, but that's to be expected because the data must be decrypted during reads and encrypted during writes. But it's far faster than a comparable mechanical drive. 

Seagate Wireless Plus (1TB mechanical; USB 3.0, Wi-Fi)

Not only can this portable hard drive operate on battery power (or your car battery, with the provided adapter), it can also create a Wi-Fi hotspot so you can stream music, video, and photos to your tablet, smartphone, or PC — without the need of a cable. 

The Wireless Plus features Seagate's USM (Universal Storage Module)  technology, so it can be mated to a variety of interfaces. Seagate ships a USB 3.0 module with the drive, along with a USB wall adapter, a DC-to-USB power cable, and a USB 3.0 cable. The added features push the price of the drive above what you'd typically pay for a 1TB USB 3.0 drive — The Wireless Plus costs $200 — but it makes a great companion for your mobile devices. 


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