The best mobile SSDs for iPad Pro compared

Posted:
in iPad edited September 2020
With USB-C on the iPad Pro, comes the ability to connect external storage. AppleInsider compares our top picks for the best portable SSDs for iPad Pro all with a small form factor, performance, and durability.

There are a lot of great SSDs for iPad Pro
There are a lot of great SSDs for iPad Pro


Apple continues to expand the iPad, advancing the hardware and providing software updates that deliver new and productive features. Pairing a portable SSD with Apple's iPad Pro can help take you even further.

Thanks to recent updates to iPadOS, Apple has enabled external storage access from within Files as well as within third-party apps that utilize iPad storage.






It is now possible now to edit 4K videos off of an external SSD or edit your library of sizable RAW photos from that extra storage. And that's beyond the basics of storing files, sharing content, and much more.

As devout iPad Pro users, we've searched for the best mobile SSDs for our tablets to help get the job done. We're focusing specifically on SSDs that are all USB-C and exceptionally compact, perfect for pairing with a tablet.

An external drive showing in the Files app
An external drive showing the Files app


Of all the SSDs out there we'd consider ideal companions for our iPad Pro, we're dividing them up into two groups -- the ultra-rugged and stylish. That isn't to say the durable SSDs don't look great, they just have that as a priority versus the others.

Rugged iPad Pro SSDs

CalDigit Tuff Nano

Kicking things off is the CalDigit Tuff Nano. This diminutive drive has a strong, aluminum body and is wrapped in a colorful (and identifying) silicone bumper. That bumper not only lets you have multiple of these drives that can be easily distinguishable from one another, but adds some additional drop protection from the other metal drives in the lineup.

CalDigit Tuff Nano
CalDigit Tuff Nano


We've picked up a few of these and we go back to them time and time again for that small size, durable design, and color-coding. With the different colors, we can easily distinguish between our video scratch SSD, out photo library, and our backup for our Mac.

These guys have an IPX8 water resistant USB-C port which is also protected from dust with a silicone dust cover. It sports a 1055 megabytes per second max transfer speed. They come in 512GB and 1TB capacities.

Own your CalDigit Tuff Nano starting at $129.95 from Amazon.

Glyph Atom SSD

The Glyph Atom RAID SSD is another great rugged option. It too has a metal body wrapped in silicone, though it is a big larger and heftier than the Tuff Nano.

Inside it has two SSD modules set up in a hardware RAID for a single volume when connected to your machine. But those two modules in a RAID 5 configuration allows both SSDs to be written to at the same time, roughly doubling its speeds. This yields max speeds of 950 megabytes per second.

It comes in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB capacities.

For those who are looking for more, there is also the Glyph Atom SSD Pro. This newer version of this drive has 2800 megabytes per second read speeds and 2600 megabytes per second write speeds.

Grab your Glyph Atom RAID SSD starting at $249.95 from Amazon.

GDrive Mobile SSD

Rounding out our rugged category is the GDrive Mobile SSD. Available in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB sizes, this drive is the only one specifically rated and tested for crush resistance. It is able to withstand 1000 pounds of pressure without breaking down.

GDrive Mobile SSD
GDrive Mobile SSD


Additionally, it has IP67 water and dust resistance and can withstand drops from up to three meters, making it even more durable. This is due to its multi-level design. It has a matte exterior with a vivid blue aluminum core. This is protective as well as very sleek to look at.

For speed, it can reach 560 megabytes per second which does put it below our first few rugged drives but is still fast being an SSD. Many may prefer its extreme durability for its reduced speeds.

Nab one starting at $89.95 from B&H.

Stylish, fast, & unique iPad Pro SSDs

Samsung T7 and T7 Touch

One of the most prominent names in SSDs is Samsung and its T-line of drives. New this year is the T7 and T7 Touch.

Samsung T7 Touch
Samsung T7 Touch


These drives retain a lot of the style as the previous generations which is an extruded aluminum shell with plastic caps on either end and often many different stylish colors.

The T7 Touch version differs by offering a fingerprint sensor on the drive itself to protect its contents. For sensitive material, it affords a great deal of protection with the iPad Pro being password protected and the drive itself protected via biometrics.

If the additional security isn't necessary, there is the standard T7 which is still faster than the prior-generation T5. The T7 and T7 Touch is able to get 1050 megabytes per second in read speeds and 1000 megabytes per second write speeds.

Grab the T7 Touch from B&H starting at $209 as well as from Amazon.

Samsung T5

If you don't need the speed of the T7 line, then the now-superseded T5 is an excellent option.

Samsung T5 in red
Samsung T5 in red


The T5 comes in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB sizes and a smattering of different colors. They still have the same aluminum body but a slightly different size from the T7.

Instead of the over 1000 megabytes per second of the T7 line, the T5 reached a max of 540 megabytes per second transfer speeds, which is still more than acceptable.

The Samsung T5 is available starting at $169.

RAVPower Mobile SSD

A new entrant to the market, RAVPower is out with its new mobile SSD. This one has a unique shape unlike any of the others on our list. Instead of short and squat, the RAVPower Mobile SSD is long and very thin.

RAVPower SSD
RAVPower mobile SSD


It has a zinc alloy casing with a piano-like baked surface, similar to a ceramic, that aids in cooling on the other. The piano-like surface is a dark grey to black with tiny reflective particles within. It looks fantastic.

It comes in 512GB and 1TB sizes and can reach 540 megabytes per second for its max transfer speed.

Pick up the new RAVPower Mobile SSD on Amazon For $89.98 (currently has an additional $10 off).

LaCie Mobile SSD

LaCie Mobile SSD
LaCie Mobile SSD


Then we have the LaCie Mobile SSD. This unique entrant is very flat and wide, crafted entirely from aluminum. It has diamond-cut edges for a unique look like no other. The space grey option of the bunch is an Apple Store-exclusive which matches the darker hued iPad Pro perfectly.

It is the most designer-esque of the bunch, catching eyes without a doubt. It is available in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities with speeds up to 540 megabytes per second. You can pick it up from Apple.

Get the job done

This list encompasses the best of the best, offering drives that are protective, durable, reliable, small, and blazing fast. Certainly there's something on this list of drives that we like, that will be suitable without breaking the bank.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    neilmneilm Posts: 922member
    Something I've noticed with the very compact SSD drives is that they can get quite hot during sustained writes.

    For instance I have a 1TB Samsung T5 SSD that I use as an intermediate step for migrating a user from their old Mac to a new one. (This allows not having to take both Macs offline at the same time, as well as assuring a just-in-case backup.) The first step is to clone the old Mac to the SSD, which typically means a sustained write of two or three hundred GB.

    The good news is that this goes really fast. The bad news is how hot the SSD gets in the process. The first time I noticed this at home I grabbed an aluminum saucepan lid from the kitchen and put it on top of the SSD to act as a heatsink. This actually worked very well. Since then I've taken another drive with a heavy aluminum case to use as the heatsink, which also does the job.

    I'm guessing that even faster drives, such as the new T7, won't run any cooler than my T5.
    dewmeSpamSandwich
  • Reply 2 of 9
    phredphred Posts: 18member
    What are the transfer speeds of the drives? Will they work with other ipads, such as mini 5?       
  • Reply 3 of 9
    Andrew_OSUAndrew_OSU Posts: 511member, editor
    phred said:
    What are the transfer speeds of the drives? Will they work with other ipads, such as mini 5?       
    We have all the transfer speeds listed in the article. And they may work with different iPads using a Lightning to USB adapter. 
  • Reply 4 of 9
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    It’s unlikely a consumer SSD uses RAID 5. (Glyph Atom SSD)

    Most likely it’s RAID 0.  It says the RAID uses 2 modules, you need 3 for a RAID 5 setup.

    RAID 0 gives you close to double the performance because it can read or write to both drives at the same time.  

    RAID 5 adds parity for redundancy, but you take a performance hit.  (RAID 1 gets you redundancy at the expense of space).

    RAID 0 introduces an additional point of failure.  Which probably not a big deal, but if the quality of the drives is poor it’s a problem.

    Confirmed on Amazon it’s RAID 0 as expected.

    Samsung is the “gold standard” for fast and reliable SSDs.  The Samsung X5 (not T model) is the one you want if you’re going to do a lot of video editing directly from the drive.  Using Thunderbolt it’s basically as fast as your internal SSD.  It’s probably faster that the MacBook Air internal drive.

    SSD’s can be used to backup your internal drive, but remember if you’re using it as the sole location of your data you still need another method to back up your stuff.

  • Reply 5 of 9
    ClarusClarus Posts: 36member
    phred said:
    What are the transfer speeds of the drives? Will they work with other ipads, such as mini 5?       
    We have all the transfer speeds listed in the article. And they may work with different iPads using a Lightning to USB adapter. 
    It's worse than that. The article says "For those who are looking for more, there is also the Glyph Atom SSD Pro. This newer version of this drive has 2800 megabytes per second read speeds and 2600 megabytes per second write speeds." Now hold on here...those speeds are twice what is possible on an iPad Pro, if I'm right that the iPad Pro supports 10Gb/sec USB 3.2 Gen 2. Sure enough, I looked up the Glyph Atom Pro and it is Thunderbolt 3 only. You can use it on a Mac, but this article is about iPads.

    This same mistake was made by commenter Seanismorris above, recommending a Samsung X5 which is Thunderbolt-only, good luck with that on your iPad...

    It's pretty clear how the transfer rates break down in the article. Any drive around 500MB/sec is limited by SATA, any drive around 1000MB/sec is NVMe limited to the 10Gb/sec of USB 3.2 Gen 2, and any drive well above 1000GB/sec is NVMe using Thunderbolt 3 and not appropriate to mention in this article.

    I am also disappointed that the article didn't involve real-world tests, since actual results often vary from what the manufacturer claims. And if they had actually been tested, it would have been more obvious that a drive mentioned simply wouldn't work with an iPad.

    Incidentally, the one I bought is an Oyen Digital Helix Dura, a long slim NVMe USB-C drive not mentioned in the article. In tests it does about 925MB/sec for both read and write. But with all these drives, real world speeds are somewhat lower due to overhead.

    All in all I agree with Marc G that the article demonstrates technical and editorial sloppiness.
    edited June 2020 SpamSandwichsellerington
  • Reply 6 of 9
    Is there any point to TRIM anymore or do all of the controllers negate the need? I'm asking since Macs don't support TRIM over USB.
  • Reply 7 of 9
    Clarus said:
    phred said:
    What are the transfer speeds of the drives? Will they work with other ipads, such as mini 5?       
    We have all the transfer speeds listed in the article. And they may work with different iPads using a Lightning to USB adapter. 
    It's worse than that. The article says "For those who are looking for more, there is also the Glyph Atom SSD Pro. This newer version of this drive has 2800 megabytes per second read speeds and 2600 megabytes per second write speeds." Now hold on here...those speeds are twice what is possible on an iPad Pro, if I'm right that the iPad Pro supports 10Gb/sec USB 3.2 Gen 2. Sure enough, I looked up the Glyph Atom Pro and it is Thunderbolt 3 only. You can use it on a Mac, but this article is about iPads.

    This same mistake was made by commenter Seanismorris above, recommending a Samsung X5 which is Thunderbolt-only, good luck with that on your iPad...

    It's pretty clear how the transfer rates break down in the article. Any drive around 500MB/sec is limited by SATA, any drive around 1000MB/sec is NVMe limited to the 10Gb/sec of USB 3.2 Gen 2, and any drive well above 1000GB/sec is NVMe using Thunderbolt 3 and not appropriate to mention in this article.

    I am also disappointed that the article didn't involve real-world tests, since actual results often vary from what the manufacturer claims. And if they had actually been tested, it would have been more obvious that a drive mentioned simply wouldn't work with an iPad.

    Incidentally, the one I bought is an Oyen Digital Helix Dura, a long slim NVMe USB-C drive not mentioned in the article. In tests it does about 925MB/sec for both read and write. But with all these drives, real world speeds are somewhat lower due to overhead.

    All in all I agree with Marc G that the article demonstrates technical and editorial sloppiness.
    Thank you for your informative post. As I have recently bought a 2018 iPad Pro I have been looking at SSDs that would work with it. Much of the information available seems to be out of date or misleading. Manufacturers such as Western Digital don't help when they offer products under different brands such as SanDisk and G-drive but make it difficult to compare between them. Is it worth the extra for a 500GB SanDisk Extreme Pro with transfer speeds to up to 1050MB/s to use with an iPad Pro 64GB? SanDisk are selling these for £99.99 right now which seems to be a good price. The 500 GB G-DRIVE Mobile SSD with transfer speeds up to 560MB/s costs more at £128.99 and appears to be more robust but would this slower performance be noticeable bearing in mind my iPad Pro capacity is only 64GB so files being transferred will never be very large? I was really hoping that the above video would help me to narrow down the choice but I feel I still have a lot to learn about iPad Pro storage.


    edited June 2020
  • Reply 8 of 9
    What they did not mention was the limited data transfer speed of the iPad Pro from the USB-C port. Apple needs to update data transfer speeds from that USB-C port
  • Reply 9 of 9
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,071member
    Andrew, your voice sounds different in this video than in most others. What's up with that?
Sign In or Register to comment.