Hard Drives & SSDs

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Learn More About External Hard Drives

We can explain the need for external hard drives with one cliche philosophical thought: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Likewise, you may be a talented photographer or videographer, but without the right gear to capture, edit, and most important of all -- store your precious content, it’s almost like you never took the image or video in the first place. Even if your passions are simply to record memories for your friends, family, and yourself, you need somewhere to put them and your iPhone could only hold so much data before it starts begging you to clear some space.

Bottom line? You must get your hands on external hard drives, preferably the best external hard drives, for maximum storage capacity + to keep your content secured for years to come.

Let’s learn what external hard drives are, features to look for when shopping for one, then show you our Official list of the best external hard drives, rigorously tested by our expert creatives.

What Are External Drives?

As the name implies, external drives are a type of hard drive that connects to your machine as opposed to a pre-installed hard drive that comes integrated in your machine. To get a better understanding of what their functions are, let’s dive into more details about hard drives.

Similar to your machine’s built-in hard drive, external hard drives are designed to store all of your digital content. The type of content is virtually limitless -- music, documents, apps & programs. But as a creative, the most common use of an external hard drive is to store your pictures and videos.

Since external hard drives connect to your device, they’re also “portable hard drives” by default. Meaning content creators can stuff them in their travel bags and take them anywhere & everywhere they go (as long as the portable hard drive you’ve chosen to include in your arsenal is rugged enough -- more on that later, though). Besides portability, the biggest difference between the two is the connectivity -- with external hard drives compatible with various connectors like USB, Thunderbolt, or Lightning Cables.

External hard drives are (usually) simple to use yet serve mighty purposes, allowing you to backup data that exists on your computer or phone, granting you life-saving data redundancy. An external hard drive may be considered safer & more reliable than cloud storage for that reason, plus the fact that they enable you to access your data on or off-line while giving you total control of that data.

You get the idea -- a reliable external hard drive can be pretty darn useful for anyone willing to invest in their home & studio equipment, creative or not.

But will any external hard drive do? Let’s answer that.

What Is the Best External Hard Drive?

If you’re already an external hard drive pro, congratulations, we invite you to skip down to our Official list of the best external hard drives. If you’re a newbie or in need of a refresher, we’ve got you covered. Here are things to consider when buying the best external hard drive.

Ample Storage Space

Obvious but vital. Storage capacity is one of the primary things to look for when buying a shiny new external drive. The average smartphone user has a mixture of hundreds of photos and videos stored on their mobile device (maybe closer to one thousand as social media user bases continue to soar and smartphone camera specs continue to impress & inspire). As shutterbugs, we naturally blow past minuscule numbers like these. So, although you can save a buck or two by going for lower-storage hard drives, we say cut back on the eloquent gastronomic experiences (for just a little while) and invest in an external SSD with a minimum storage of 250 to 500GB (if you’re able to shell out a little more, an external SSD with more storage is worth every penny -- 1TB+). You’ll save yourself heartache (and money) in the long run.

Great Transfer Speeds

Data transfer speeds / read & write speeds are another feature to note when purchasing your next hard drive. Thankfully, this is easy to find in external SSDs. You can literally check its product description. If you’re more on the techie side, you can run your own benchmark to test your hard drive speed. Faster speeds are better -- in our shop, we offer ridiculously portable drive options with up to 550MB/s read speeds (see which we’re referring to in our list of The Best Hard Drives below). Most external SSDs are compatible with the ubiquitous USB cable -- such as USB type C or USB A cables, supporting high capacity speeds.

Rugged Protection

One of the great advantages of SSDs is that external hard drives (based on portability) allow adventure-type creators to create, transfer & save without the need to bring cumbersome equipment along for the ride. The best external hard drives in the market offer ample capacity for accidents -- with some even being dust, dirt, or waterproof!

Now that we’ve learned more about external hard drives, why they’re important, and features to consider when making a purchase, here’s our (promised) Official list of the best external hard drives in the market -- from trusted partners of creators the world over.

Top Quality External Hard Drives

Our Official List of The Best External Hard Drives of 2021 is here for perusing. For the complete list and detailed breakdown, click the link. Every drive on the page is chosen based on its top-notch quality, reliability, and more.

Here is a couple from the list that we’re totally enamored with.

For heavy-duty content creators without an off switch, we recommend the GNARBOX 2.0 SSD. This storage solution is pricey but enables you to leave heavy luggage (like your laptop) at home. The GNARBOX is built with a gasket-sealed aluminum-rubber enclosure, making it water-resistant and adventure-proof, while powerful enough to backup AND manage your biggest files without the laptop. It’s powered by Intel Quad Core, 2.40GHZ CPU, and a 4 Core Intel HD Graphics GPU to match. It supports a variety of image formats, works with macOS and Windows, UDF File System support, and up to six hours of continuous use.

Best part? The device weighs under a pound!

For an even greater breakdown, peep Moment’s GNARBOX 2.0 SSD Review on YouTube.

Another great drive on our list is the SanDisk Portable SSD Extreme USB 3.1, a lot more budget-friendly, yet powerful in its own right. The storage solution delivers high-speed transfers with up to 550MB/s read speeds, plus it’s rugged, shock-resistant, AND water-resistant.

Read our list of The Best External Hard Drives to see the rest of the storage solutions that made the cut.

Have more questions about external hard drives? See the FAQ below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are external hard drives cheaper?

External hard drives are cheaper than the “internal” hard drives integrated with your computer (carrying the weight of your OS, etc.). Typically external hard drives range in prices from being highly affordable to the price of a cheap tablet or laptop. Here at Moment, we have a spectrum of external hard drives, ranging in pricing -- from budget-friendly to market-leading -- that are all worthy of use by professionals and enthusiasts of all levels

Are external hard drives worth it?

SSD Hard drives are worth it since they outperform traditional spinning hard drives while being portable, rugged, and compatible with a range of devices and operating systems (as long as you have the correct cables). If you’re a serious photographer, investing in an external hard drive should be at the top of your list of gear priorities.

What is a good cheap external hard drive?

Though open to interpretation, Moment’s shop carries good, different cheap external hard drive options from trusted brands. A couple of great examples are the LaCie Rugged USB-C or SanDisk Portable SSD Extreme USB 3.1. Both storage solutions are fast, reliable, capable of storing a ton of data and run well under $100.

Wrap Up

Regardless of what device you use to capture photos and videos, investing in a good external hard drive is of the utmost importance. Only SSD storage devices offer creatives huge amounts of freedom with their speeds, versatility, and level of protection -- both physical and regarding your sensitive data. Get one if you can. If you need help deciding on the perfect, great performance external SSD, reach out to a Gear Guide today.