Rating the Best External Storage Options

From flash drives to hard drives, when it comes to external storage, there are plenty of choices. Canstar Blue rates your top storage options.

Is your desktop, laptop or smartphone chock-full of files? Has freeing up space become an increasingly pressing and persistent chore? Well, it could be time to harness external storage to help divvy the data load.

There are a range of options to choose from. However, it’s important to settle on storage that will complement your devices and how you use them.

USB flash drives and external hard drives are among the most commonly available forms of external storage. And they are designed for use with different types of host devices, be it a PC or mobile device. So, as an initial step, you need to consider which devices the storage will be paired with.

Meanwhile, in addition to storage capacity, it’s worthwhile weighing up a range of factors that will influence usability. These include

  • Interface type (how the storage connects to a host device)
  • Data transfer speeds
  • Design and portability
  • Operating system compatibility

External storage: key features to consider

Storage capacity is, of course, the headline feature when shopping around for a USB flash drive or external hard drive. However, beyond this, it’s important to consider how you’ll use the storage when assessing the range of additional features on offer.

Your requirements from your memory device will change in line with the data being stored and how you access it. This could be:

  • Pairing fixed storage with your desktop
  • Transferring files from your tablet to your laptop
  • Integrating additional storage with your home entertainment system

Read on for some of the key features to keep in mind:

Storage

Storage capacity is commonly measured in GB (gigabytes) and TB (terabytes). External storage options range from small devices capable of holding a few GB to larger devices sporting TB capacities.

To put this into context, most file types (from smartphone photos and videos, to full-length HD movies) will range anywhere in size from a few MB (megabytes) up to a few GB:

  • 1 GB = 1000MB
  • 1 TB = 1000 GB, or 1,000,000 MB

A device with a few GB of storage will likely come in handy for storing and transferring files of limited size, such as word documents, pdfs and photos. Devices in the TB range are more of a long-term option, providing ample space for the bulk storage of larger files, such as movies and years of snaps from your phone.

Interface

How the external storage connects to your host device, the interface, is an important consideration, both in terms of compatibility and data transfer speeds.

USB is the most widely used interface. USB-A and the newer USB-C types are the most common forms of USB. While USB-A has long been used across a range of devices, USB-C has become an increasingly common feature of new-release devices.

Across both USB-A and USB-C devices, standard designations (such as USB 2.0 and USB 3.0) refer to data transfer rate capabilities (often measured as MB/s). USB standards are backwards compatible, and will operate at the speed of the slower standard being used.

Notably, the USB-C type (which features a smaller, slimmer design) has the potential to deliver far higher data transfer rates than USB-A.

Compatibility

From PCs to mobile devices, it is, of course, important to choose external storage that is compatible with your operating software. It’s certainly worthwhile confirming compatibility before making a purchase.

External storage devices are generally compatible with a range of operating systems. However, in some cases, compatibility could be an issue if you’re using an older operating system with a newer storage device, or vice versa.

Manufacturers will generally provide a list of the range of operating systems their devices are designed to work with.

Design

External storage devices come in all shapes and sizes. But beyond design idiosyncrasies, it’s important to keep in mind how big they are, and how they’ll fit with your desktop work areas.

For instance, if you’re shopping around for a fixed desktop hard drive, the size of the model probably won’t be too much of an issue. So you may well be more open to considering an AC-powered hard drive (as opposed to a USB-powered plug-and-play hard drive).

However, if you’re constantly on the go and need your data at the ready – or need to regularly transfer files between computers – portability, durability and plug-and-play flexibility are more likely to be priority considerations.

Other factors

Of course, always shop around and weigh up the respective specs and price tags on offer from different types of  storage devices. Additional things to keep an eye out for include a good warranty length and any security or data back-up software that’s included.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the interface, keep in mind that adaptors and cables can provide for connections to different host devices. So you might need to buy some extra cables or adaptors.

USB flash drives

USB flash drives (also commonly referred to as memory sticks and thumb drives) have become a ubiquitous PC accessory over the years. They provide quick and easy storage in a pocket-sized package.

Available in all sorts of shapes and sizes, USB flash drives can pack a lot of storage capacity into a compact form. They’re a good choice if you’re looking for a portable, accessible back-up for your files.

USB flash drives are also one of the cheaper options. Prices for lower-storage models start under $10.

Kingston DataTraveler Duo 32GB

The Kingston DataTraveler Duo 32GB sports dual USB-A and USB-C connectors, and can be used in conjunction with PCs and mobile devices.

  • Storage – 32GB
  • Interface – USB-A, USB-C; USB 3.2 Gen 1
  • Compatibility – Windows 8, 8.1, 10; Mac OS 10.10.x+; Linux 2.6.x+; Chrome OS
  • Design – the DataTraveler Duo 32GB features a dual-slider casing design; it measures in at 64.05 x 21.2 x 10.4mm, and weighs 10g

Price – the DataTraveler Duo 32GB can be found online for around $11.50*

HP x785w 128GB

The HP x785w 128GB sports a USB-A connector, and is designed to deliver portability. A key ring design allows for on-the-go use.

  • Storage – 128GB
  • Interface – USB-A; USB 3.1 (read up to 75 MB/s; write up to 30 MB/s)
  • Compatibility – Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10; Mac OS 10.3 and above
  • Design – the metallic, capless x785w 128GB can be attached to keys and backpacks; it measures in at 4.6 x 12.3 x 48mm, and weighs 8.1g

Price – the x785w 128GB can be found online for around $69.94*

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Luxe 256GB

The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Luxe 256GB is designed for use with USB-A and USB-C devices, allowing for the transfer of files between mobile devices and PCs.

  • Storage – 256GB
  • Interface – USB-A, USB-C; USB 3.1 Gen 1 (150 MB/s read speeds)
  • Compatibility – Windows 7, 8, 10; Mac OS X 10.9+; compatible with most Android devices, SanDisk Memory Zone app for Android
  • Design – the two-in-one Ultra Dual Drive Luxe 256GB features an all-metal design and a key ring hole, with a swivel setup protecting its USB-A and USB-C connectors; it measures in at 8.6 x 12.1 x 44.41mm

Price – the Ultra Dual Drive Luxe 256GB can be found online for around $159.99*

External hard drives

External hard drives should be a go-to device when storage capacity is a priority consideration. They are a good option if you’re looking to permanently store different types of media (such as photos, music and videos). Smaller USB-powered models also provide handy portability benefits.

Solid-state drives (SSDs) have emerged as a growing component of the wider external hard drive market, delivering speed and durability benefits over traditional hard drives, and could be a good choice if you’re more efficiency than storage-focused.

As a rule, traditional hard drives will provide greater value per dollar in terms of the storage capacity on offer, while SSDs deliver a step up when it comes to performance.

LaCie Rugged USB-C 2TB

As the name suggests, the USB-powered LaCie Rugged USB-C 2TB sports a durable design. It’s decked out to deliver drop, crush and rain resistance.

  • Storage – 2TB
  • Interface – USB-C; USB 3.0 (speeds up to 125 MB/s); comes with a USB-C (USB 3.1 5GB/s) cable and USB-C to USB-A cable
  • Compatibility – Windows 7 or later; Mac OS X 10.9 or later
  • Design – the Rugged USB-C 2TB sports a distinctive orange enclosure; it measures in at 18.7 x 86 x 135.1mm, and weighs 100g

Price – the Rugged USB-C 2TB can be found online for around $199*

Seagate Expansion SSD 1TB

Seagate describes its USB-powered Expansion SSD 1TB as “small, fast, ultra-light and on-the-go ready”, with it built to provide faster and easier file storage.

  • Storage – 1TB
  • Interface – USB 3.0 (speeds up to 400 MB/s); comes with a 20 cm USB-A (USB 3.0) cable
  • Compatibility – Windows 7 or higher; Mac OS X 10.12 or higher
  • Design – the Expansion SSD 1TB sports a black textured plastic design; it measures in at 75 x 55.5 x 10mm, and weighs 65g

Price – the Expansion SSD 1TB can be found online for around $249*

WD My Book 6TB

The AC-powered WD My Book 6 TB is designed for use in conjunction with desktops, providing ample storage space for photos, videos, music and documents.

  • Storage – 6TB
  • Interface – USB 3.0, USB 2.0; comes with a USB 3.0 cable and AC adaptor
  • Compatibility – Windows 8.1, 10; macOS 10.13+
  • Design – the My Book 6TB sports a compact design and sits vertically; it measures in at 139.3 x 49 x 170.6mm, and weighs 1.05kg

Price – the My Book 6TB can be found online for around $349.99*

*Further information on pricing can be found at individual retailer websites. This should be used as a starter guide and not considered an actual quote.


Compare broadband providers with Canstar

Just as external, portable storage is always handy, so too is cloud storage, and being able to access your files across multiple devices. And for that you need the best broadband connection. If you think you could be getting a better broadband deal, comparing providers isn’t that difficult.

Canstar Blue rates all the providers in NZ annually. We survey thousands of broadband customers and ask them to score their providers across categories including Value for Money, Network Performance and Customer Service.

Canstar Blue’s 2020 review of NZ internet providers compares NOW, 2degrees, Bigpipe, Contact, MyRepublic, Orcon, Skinny, Slingshot, Spark, Stuff Fibre, Trustpower, Vodafone and Voyager, and awards the best our 5 Star rating:

See Our Ratings Methodology

The table above is an abridged version of our full research, so to find out more about NZ’s best broadband providers, just click on the big button below:

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