ThunderBolt SSD | Mac Compatible SSD News And Reviews

Samsung Thunderbolt 3 SSD Mac Backup Drive

New Mac models with 3rd generation Thunderbolt ports deserve an equally fast backup solution. Samsung's performance leadership with SSD's in general makes their Apple compatible Samsung X5 Thunderbolt 3 external SSD drive a good choice. With sequential Reads up to 2800MBps and Writes in the 2300 MBps range, the speeds will blow away your previous notions of how fast data backups and file transfers can be.

Thunderbolt 3 Samsung External SSD

500GB, 1TB and 2TB Storage Capacities


The Mac friendly X5 Thunderbolt 3 portable drive uses Samsung's NVMe PCIe based blades using the same 64-layer V-NAND flash as their highly regarded 860 EVO series laptop SSDs. The solid-state drive is supported on recent MacBooks and Macintosh desktop computers with the modern Thunderbolt 3 ports running MacOS Sierra, High Sierra and Mojave.

Although the 1TB and 2TB models may be a bit pricey for the average Macintosh owner, the 500GB version of the X5 solid-state drive is VERY price competitive with all the other smaller capacity Thunderbolt3 solid-state drives competing in this space.

The Cheapest Mac Compatible Thunderbolt 3 SSD - So Far

You might think 'Cheap' and 'ThunderBolt' are an oxymoron and shouldn't be used in the same sentence. Indeed, the emerging market for Apple compatible ThunderBolt 3 backup drives are likely to induce sticker shock. But you may have been searching the internet for the 'cheapest thunderbolt 3 ssd' and here is what we recommend:

Cheap Thunderbolt3 SSD Drive

OWC Envoy Pro EX 500GB SSD


The collapsing cost of solid-state flash memory helps. Conventional off-the-shelf 2.5" SATA SSD's have become ridiculously cheap - and the trend towards high-density PCIe SSD modules / blades are even faster using far less raw materials and space. So Thunderbolt 3 SSD blade drives are appearing (or have been announced) leveraging the prowess of both technologies. We've seen LaCie introduce a $1999 Bolt 3 SSD months ahead of everyone else at a price few mortals could justifiably afford. We've also seen OWC ship their ThunderBlade(tm) 3 portable drive with prices ranging from $1199-$4999 MSRP. Ouch!

Fortunately some low-cost portable SSD ThunderBolt 3 drive alternatives came to market early. Both CableMatters and Plugable's TB3 external SSD's appear to be pretty much identical OEM devices, both 480GB in a portable form-factor with a short 6 inch ThunderBolt 3 cable integrated into the drive's case. These are shipping from both Plugable and Cable Matters with Plugable's offering currently about 30 bucks cheaper than the other. Priced just under $300 USD,they were temporarily the cheapest ThunderBolt3 SSD of 2018 and will deliver the most bang for the buck. The tradeoffs include incompatibility with USB 3.1, lack of Thunderbolt 3 pass-through ports for other devices and a non-removable cable.

OWC now sells their 'low priced' Envoy Pro EX ThunderBolt 3 SSD for Mac in either very affordable 240GB or 500GB versions. They're now on the shelves or available at online retailers.

As more competition arrives in force, downward price pressures will help somewhat. The insanely competitive USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 USB-C Mac backup drive market for HDD and SSD storage for Apple computers has become ridiculously cheap, TBolt will and always has carried a price premium for more demanding enterprise and professional market applications.

Relatively Cheap SSD Thunderbolt 3 External Blade Drives For Mac

We're seeing the first of the fastest Thunderbolt 3 SSD drives ever made hitting the market. It's always been hard to say 'cheap' and 'Thunderbolt' in the same sentence when compared to low-cost USB 3.0 and 3.1 drives. However, these two kinda cheap ThunderBolt3 SSD's are within financial reach of the average Mac user.

These screamingly fast full 40Gbps Thunderbolt3 SSD drives from CableMatters and Plugable use PCIe NVMe SSD blade modules to achieve their impressive Read / Write speeds never before seen in consumer storage with a price tag near or just under $300 USD. For well under $1/Gigabyte they can deliver up to 2400MBps Reads and 1200MBps writes.

Cheap ThunderBolt 3 SSD

480GB - TBolt3 ONLY


Cheapest ThunderBolt3 SSD
480GB - TBolt3 ONLY


These currently shipping drives from Cable Matters and Plugable both offer 480GB solid-state modules tied to a ThunderBolt 3 ONLY interface. Note that a new Mac's ThunderBolt 3 ports transmit BOTH native 40GbpsTBolt3 AND 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 protocols. However the two drives featured above do not operate on Type-C ports in USB 3.1 mode. So they are ThunderBolt 3 ONLY.

Also note that on some PC and Mac computer models (notably the first 2016 MacBook Pro series), some ThunderBolt 3 ports might operate at a maximum of 20Gbps -- Not the maximum 40Gbps. In these cases, the cheapest ThunderBolt 3 drives shown above will perform at somewhat lower speeds due to the reduced available bandwidth. Confusing, huh?

5 Portable SSD ThunderBolt External Drive Recommendations

Shopping for a swift, cool and silent portable ThunderBolt SSD external backup drive for your Apple MacBook? Here are 5 compact and mobile 10Gbps ThunderBolt solid-state drives to fit the bill for rugged data storage needs when you travel - or as a fast, minimal backup solution for any ThunderBolt enabled Macintosh desktop computer.

SiliconPower Mini ThunderBolt SSD

Smallest Portable ThunderBolt Solid-State Drive


1. The size of a matchbox, the world's smallest eternal ThunderBolt SSD might be ideal paired with an Apple MacBook Air for ultimate mobility. 120GB and 240GB capacities from SiliconPower.


Akitio Portable ThunderBolt RAID SSD

Dual Solid-State MSATA Modules


2. The fastest portable SSD ThunderBolt solution ever uses 2 mSATA solid-state modules in a RAID 0 Striped Array for over 700+ MBps performance ideal for MacBook using Videographers and heavy Photographer needs. It also supports a RAID 1 Mirrored configuration from Akitio.


Portable SSD ThunderBolt From Monster Digital

With Integrated ThunderBolt Cable


3. Slim and affordable, this solid-state mobile ThunderBolt drive with attached cable delivers great bang for the buck - from Monster.


Transcend Portable SSD Drive

Preformatted For Mac - Capacity To 1TB


4. The very price-competitive portable ThunderBolt solid-state drive is pre-formatted for Mac OSX right out of the box. From Transcend.


LaCie Combo Interface Portable SSD

Integrated ThunderBolt Cable + USB 3.0 Port


5. One of the first to market, this very orange ThunderBolt SSD also features a SuperSpeed USB3 port for use with a wide variety of Apple computers. From LaCie.

All told, there's a reasonable selection of compact and highly mobile ThunderBolt storage devices available that leverage the high Read/Write speeds of flash memory based solid-state technology. If you can afford the slight price-premium over USB 3, they're a great way to take advantage of the often under-used ThunderBolt port(s) on your Apple computer.

Who Makes A Cheap DIY External ThunderBolt SSD Drive Enclosure?

Looking to assemble your own DIY external ThunderBolt SSD backup drive for your Mac on the cheap? It's hard to put the words 'cheap' and 'ThunderBolt' in the same sentence due to the cost of licensing Intel's ThunderBolt or ThunderBolt 2 chipset. For nearly any drive or enclosure product on the market, ThunderBolt adds $50, $75, $100+ over the cost of a comparable USB 3.X drive case.

2.5" SATA ThunderBolt SSD Enclosure

Ruggedized + Integrated TBolt Cable


That said, for those who want the utmost in performance (especially for multi-drive ThunderBolt SSD RAID arrays) ThunderBolt is the way to go to FULLY maximize a solid-state drive's potential Read / Write speeds without some of the additional overhead and limitations of USB protocol.

Currently the most affordable choice is G-Technologies ruggedized 2.5" SATA ThunderBolt drive case that comes with a short but integrated ThunderBolt cable that tucks away when needed. Paired with any of the top performing SATA III solid-state drives currently available it's quite possible to come up with a DIY drive for Mac OSX or Apple's TimeMachine for $200 or so.

In the earliest days of ThunderBolt, Seagate's ThunderBolt 2.5" drive SLED was the only and most affordable option. You could simply press a 2.5" SATA drive (HDD or Solid-State) onto the standard edge connector and have an instant DIY ThunderBolt SSD drive ready to go.