Cheapest External Thunderbolt 3 SSD - So Far

Cheap Mac SSD Thunderbolt Drive
Shopping for the cheapest solid-state Thunderbolt 3 external SSD backup drive for Mac or PC use? Patriot recently threw down the low-price gauntlet with it's EVLVR line of Mac compatible external 512GB and 1TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD storage devices. Price competition is heating up as more computer storage companies enter the emerging market for Thunderbolt 3 peripherals. As flash memory prices continue their downward slide, it's making SSD storage in general downright cheap.

Patriot EVLVR SSD With Thunderbolt 3

PCIe Gen3x2 Solid-State Module

Offering Read speeds up to 1600Mbps and 1000Mbps Writes, the EVLVR from Patriot Memory isn't quite as fast as some competitor's PCIe SSD blade products that cost significantly more. So there's the tradeoff: A cheap Thunderbolt 3 SSD that's more than 'fast enough', or far more expensive ones that deliver proportionately higher speeds at higher prices.

Licensing Intel's Thunderbolt 3 chipset inflates the cost of computer peripherals significantly more than a dirt-cheap USB 3.0 / 3.1 chipset does. But Thunderbolt 3 is taking hold far beyond the Mac into the Windows PC world with unprecedented adoption and deployment. The economies of scale with make cheap Thunderbolt 3 storage and devices a reality sooner than you think.

Thunderbolt3 NVMe PCIe SSD Blade Enclosures For Mac

Wondering who's actually shipping Thunderbolt 3 PCIe NVMe SSD enclosures for Macs with 3rd generation Thunderbolt ports? The first 40Gbps Apple compatible Thunderbolt 3 SSD blade enclosures using the M.2 form-factor are finally hitting the market. They let you fully leverage the full high data transfer speed potential of NVMe solid-state drive modules on a TB3 interface. Their potential bandwidth can easily exceed the bottleneck of what a 10Gbps Gen2 USB 3.1 port is limited to.

Thunderbolt 3 SSD Enclosure

For NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD Modues

Thunderbolt3 PCIe NVMe SSD Enclosure
Single M.2 PCIe SSD Solid-State Drive Case

This highly compact Thunderbolt 3 Enclosure for NVMe SSD's is small and lightweight. It measures around 4.0” x 1.5” x 0.5” (102mm x 38mm x 11mm) and weighs around 2.5 ounces. One of the world’s fastest portable SSD case to rapidly transfer all of your video, music, photography and other large files at lightning fast speeds up to 2800 MB/s. Your particular transfer rates will depend on the model of NVME M.2 SSD blade, your TB3 enabled computer and other factors.

Western-Digital NVMe PCIe SSD

Hi-Speed Flash Blade for Thunderbolt 3 Enclosures

The portable SSD enclosure with Thunderbolt 3 interface supports PCIe Rev. 3.0, has an LED activity indicator, and is completely Thunderbolt 3 bus powered, Passive cooling of the flash memory is assured by the all-metal housing with integrated cooling fins. System Requirements include Windows 7/8/10 as well as MacOS 10.13 and higher. Supports PCs or laptops with an available Thunderbolt 3 port. Most well-known brands of NVMe PCIe modules are supported. It includes the Thunderbolt 3 M-Key PCIe SSD enclosure, a 50cm Thunderbolt 3 Cable; 2x screwdrivers and a 1 Year warranty.

NetStor Thunderbolt3 NVMe PCIe SSD Drive Enclosure

Dual M.2 SSD Blade Slots: RAID 0 or 1 Configuration

It's still early in this space so there's not many TB3 blade enclosures to choose from at this point. The demand for Thunderbolt 3 SSD backup drives for Mac AND PC users is exploding as USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 devices adopt the unifying Type-C connection. Sadly, the cost of the Thunderbolt 3 chipset is making 40Gbps enclosures a far costlier proposition than admittedly slower but far more affordable USB-C USB 3.1 SSD blade enclosures for literally a fifth or tenth the price.

Fastest SSD-Like USB 3.X Flash Drives For Mac

Shopping for one of the fastest Mac compatible USB flash drives that rival solid-state SSD drives in Read / Write performance? Recent advances in NAND flash memory technology and significant price drops are delivering select USB 3.X thumb drives with impressive levels of performance.

That hasn't always been the case as typical flash drives haven't been particularly speedy. One of the performance leaders in the laptop and M.2 SSD storage space - SandDisk delivers a super-fast flash performance. It's Extreme Pro Flash Drive can deliver up to 420 MB/s read speeds on a USB 3.0/3.1 port.

Super-Fast SanDisk Extreme Pro

Read / Write Performance over 400MB Per Second

Other worthy contenders of note are Patriot's SuperSonic RAGE 2 flash drive claiming speeds up to 400 MB/s, or the PNY Pro Elite flash drive claiming similar performance. Note that LARGER flash drives (like SSD's) in the 256GB / 512GB capacity range deliver faster speeds than smaller capacity drives do. So if you can afford it - buy UP in size for the best transfer speeds possible.

Best NVMe USB 3.1 SSD Enclosure For Mac DIY Drives

Shopping for building a fast, affordable USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3 compatible SSD backup drive using off the shelf M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD modules? The best USB 3.1 SSD enclosures for a DIY backup device should incorporate these ideal features:

MyDigitalSSD M.2 NVME SSD Enclosure

Ultra-Fast DIY USB-C Mac Drive Solution

  • Chipset with support FULL Gen2 10Gbps speeds (Not just 5Gbps Gen1 which would bottleneck performance.)
  • Accept a variety of M.2 SSD blade lengths up to 80 millimeters to give you the most flexibility in your solid state drive choices.
  • A SSD blade enclosure made of aluminum to help dissipate the heat that these modules crank out during heavy Read/Write bursts.
  • Support UASP protocol to ensure maximum data transfer rates that older BOT protocols can't match.
  • Come with BOTH new USB-C Type-C and conventional USB 3.0 Type-A cables for connection to Macs or PC's old or new.
  • Be easy to assemble: Either a SSD enclosure that's tool-free or has a minimum number of screws.

For peak performance, we recommend the bleeding edge Samsumg Evo 970 SSD blade, however more affordable M.2 modules like the Crucial P1 or Western Digital's WD Black series are fine choices as well.

High-Performance NVMe SSD Blade For Mac Backup Drives

M.2 PCIe Solid-State Drive Module

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 Mac compatible 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 ultra-fast 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.

Low-Cost Thunderbolt SSD For Mac

Patriot EVLVR TB3 Solid State Drive

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

These currently shipping drives from Cable Matters both offer 480GB / 512GB 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?

MacBook BGA PCIe SSD Modules - Its Inevitable

Samsung BGA Solid-State Drive
About the size of an SD flash memory card or postage stamp and weighing just 1 gram, the new Ball Grid Array (BGA) SSD form factor is almost an inevitability for eventual use in MacBook laptops and Apple iPads.

About a fourth the size of currently typical 22mm x 80mm M.2 PCIe SDS modules, two of the emerging BGA SSD sizes are 12mm x 14mm or 16mm x 20mm. This space savings matter. With motherboards shrinking in size drastically, much of the available space in a notebook or tablet are now devoted to batteries, and that's just that much more space that using a BGA SSD will leave for higher capacity batteries.

Some of the more immediate benefits of BGA solid-state drives will be better heat dissipation directly through the motherboard's surface. Able to operate a lower voltages down to 1.8v, the amount of heat generated will be significantly reduced as well - while still delivering the astonishing Read/Write speeds that PCIe flash memory is capable of.

Samsung's already begun high-capacity production of 3, 16mm x 20mm Ball Grid Array modules in 128 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB capacities using 48-layer MLC V-NAND that can deliver up to 1500MB/s Read speeds. And you can bet Apple's already testing them in lab prototypes of MacBook and iPads. When such products reach market isn't far off.

Mac Compatible mSATA SSD Drive Upgrade Options

Pondering an Apple computer solid-state drive upgrade that uses a mSATA SSD form-factor? Although Apple NEVER used this type of widely standardized SSD card in any of it's computers, they were and still are very common in PC notebooks. That said, there's still ways to for Mac users take advantage of their small size and speed.

Mac Compatible Samsung EVO mSATA SSD

50mm - 2" Solid State Drive Module

For those with older MacBook's or Mac mini's that used conventional 2.5 inch SATA notebook drives, a very affordable 2.5" SATA to mSATA adapter can be used to retrofit a mSATA card to a standard laptop drive form.

Syba Laptop Drive Enclosure

mSATA To 2.5" Converter

There are also Apple users who might want to explore mSATA based SSD backup drives for their OSX setup. Ready made storage solutions often referred to as 'Pocket Drives' can be bought in a variety of standard 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB capacities. They can be used formatted as-is for cross-platform PC/Mac use - or reformatted in Apple's disk utility for optimal use strictly on Macintosh systems.

MyDigital mSATA SSD USB3 Drive Enclosure

High-Speed UASP Protocol Support

You might want to cobble together your own mSATA Mac backup drive using any number of USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 Type-C interface mSATA module drive enclosures available for only $10-$20. Note, make sure 'UASP' protocol is supported in the enclosure to insure your solid-state Apple mSATA based backup drive performs optimally and gets the best data transfer rates possible.

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.