The Contenders

Please keep in mind that not all USB-C cables are made equal. If the purpose of the cable is for power (charging), your speeds will drop down to USB 2.0 (under 50MB/s). Make sure you use the right cable.

One thing to note is how the Sabrent’s writes performed over a hub. It dropped to USB 2.0 levels. However, when directly connected to either a USB 3.0 port or USB 3.1 port – it seems fine.

Also, notice how the SanDisk Extreme cards perform similarly – within UHS-I specs. The only way you could get the advertised speeds (150MB/s) is to use a proprietary SanDisk SD card reader. Otherwise, you’ll need a UHS-II card.

The Sabrent with NVMe drive is obviously the top performer at about 1GB/s (10Gbps!). It does produce the most heat and does consume the most CPU, however. As far as portability and use, I feel the Samsung T5 strikes the best balance between convenience, capacity, and speed. It’s also much thinner and lighter than the Sabrent. The Sabrent is best used as a cache or scratch drive for hardcore video editing tasks.

The Western Digital Passport was surprisingly slow – but does offer the highest capacity. It’s most likely a 5,400 rpm drive. Unlike most of the other drives, it also seems to maintain the same speed, even through a USB 3.0 hub. Most of the time, you’ll get a speed boost if you connect your drive directly to your PC or laptop (as opposed to a 4-port hub, etc).

At this day and age, I feel if the drive is portable, it should be as fast as possible. Especially when it comes down to travel. Sometimes you forget to offload files and have a tight schedule to follow. Every minute counts – and slowdowns are costly (not just from a money perspective). Also, having a USB 3.1 port provides a substantial improvement in performance – especially for NVMe drives. SATA SSDs also benefit heavily from the 10Gbps (vs. USB 3.0 5Gbps) port. In this example, the T5 doubles its random read/write performance.