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 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.
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?
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.
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.
3. Slim and affordable, this solid-state mobile ThunderBolt drive with attached cable delivers great bang for the buck - from Monster.
4. The very price-competitive portable ThunderBolt solid-state drive is pre-formatted for Mac OSX right out of the box. From Transcend.
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.
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.