Mac Thunderbolt portable drive roundup: The best fast drives for your Mac laptop

What are the best fast drives for your Mac laptop?

Finding the best fast drive for your laptop can be challenging. There are plenty of different options to choose from, and it's hard to nail down a favorite.

For this roundup, we're looking specifically at portable external hard drives equipped with Thunderbolt interfaces. They have to be bus-powered, small enough to comfortably fit in a bag or backpack and made by a company that has more than a passing familiarity with the Mac in order to make the cut!

Best overall

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

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The current king of the mountain of portable Thunderbolt drive performance is Elgato's Thunderbolt Drive+.

It's equipped with Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces, but inside it uses a Solid State Drive (SSD) mechanism made by Plextor — no hard drive here, pure flash storage for maximum speed.

Plextor's flash drive chips are rated for use in server environments, and Elgato rates the drive at able to transfer at up to 420 megabytes per second. You will pay more because Elgato's using industrial-strength SSD, but you'll be hard-pressed to find anything faster.

Why the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is the best

Versatile, fast, silent, and portable – what else can you ask for?

The Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is the best for a number of reasons, but overall, it's a reliable, well-made product.

Because of the Elgato's lack of moving parts, the drive is far less likely to break or get damaged like other devices in the same category.

File transfer is so much faster, about 10 minutes for 100 gigabytes. (Amazon user H. Rose)

The Elgato is also incredibly silent, making it a perfect companion for you on the go, at the office, if you're working in public, or even in the peace and quiet of your own home.

Fastest SSD external drive I have used. Very high build quality. Bought 5 over 2 years and no issues yet! (Amazon user Robert H.)

Overall, the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is a reliable piece of equipment that does its job efficiently. What else can you ask for with a drive like this?

Best Capacity Variety

WD My Passport Pro

WD My Passport Pro

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Western Digital's My Passport Pro is a portable, bus-powered RAID drive with a Thunderbolt connection. Inside are two 2.5-inch hard disk drives, and they come from the factory formatted in a RAID Level 0 (striping) configuration for maximum speed.

You can reformat them using Apple's Disk Utility into a RAID Level 1 config, if you'd like the security of data mirroring instead. There's no USB 3.0 here — Thunderbolt or bust — but the cable is actually integrated, so it's one less thing to lose when you're on the road.

Available in 2 TB and 4 TB capacities, but be warned: the 4 TB model is a lot thicker and heavier.

Best Value & Most Durable

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt & USB 3.0 Hard Drive

LaCie rugged Thunderbolt & USB 3.0 hard drive

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LaCie's Rugged line has a look that people either love or hate — I liken the thick orange edge of the case to a life raft — but it's built for abuse.

The casing is shock, dust and water-resistant, which makes it a good choice if your work takes you places where you can't afford to be gentle with your gear. Inside the hard drive is shock-mounted, and LaCie says it should be able to withstand a 6 foot drop (though I wouldn't get into the habit of tossing it).

The Thunderbolt cable is integrated, so you won't lose it or leave it behind. LaCie offers up 1 TB, 2 TB and SSD versions, so you can pick and choose depending on how much storage you need and what you're willing to pay. I've priced out the 1 TB version.

Most Versatile & Stylish

G-Tech G-Drive Mobile with Thunderbolt and USB 3.0

G-Tech G-Drive Mobile with Thunderbolt and USB 3.0

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G-Technology has differentiated itself as a leader in RAID storage systems, but they make really good single-drive portable units, too.

Their G-Drive Mobile with Thunderbolt is a 1 TB hard drive that runs at 7200 RPM, making it a faster little bugger than some of the competition.

The aluminum case is an attractive accompaniment for your Mac.

Conclusion

Admittedly, you will pay more for a Thunderbolt-equipped portable Mac drive. If you want to save yourself some scratch, you can pick up cheaper USB 3.0 drives; I recently posted a roundup of Mac USB 3.0 drives for you to take a look at too.

One important note for Thunderbolt mavens: All of these drives have a single Thunderbolt port on them, so they'll need to be at the end of their daisy-chain.

Hopefully this will help you narrow your choices a bit when it comes time to go shopping for a portable Thunderbolt drive. If you have any questions, fire away!

Best overall

Elgato's Thunderbolt Drive+

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

See at Amazon

The current king of the mountain of portable Thunderbolt drive performance is Elgato's Thunderbolt Drive+.

It's equipped with Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces, but inside it uses a Solid State Drive (SSD) mechanism made by Plextor — no hard drive here, pure flash storage for maximum speed.

Plextor's flash drive chips are rated for use in server environments, and Elgato rates the drive at able to transfer at up to 420 megabytes per second. You will pay more because Elgato's using industrial-strength SSD, but you'll be hard-pressed to find anything faster.

Bottom line: The Elgato is reliable, fast, and fierce!