When the pandemic hit last year, it threw me into a world where I was doing vastly more video editing than I did previously. Anyone who has spent time splicing and dicing video files knows those files can fill up storage devices really quickly and they are a pain to transfer between computers. Enter the new class of tiny, pocketable, external SSDs like the RavPower Mini External SSD Pro.
Traditional USB thumb drives and external hard drives are slow when faced with many gigabytes of files, which has opened up the need for something new: external SSDs that look like a hybrid between those two more traditional portable storage options. RavPower sent us a 512 GB Mini External SSD Pro to put their svelte entry to the test. It is larger than any recent USB thumb drive, but quite a bit smaller than even a compact USB hard disk. It almost reminds me of my old first generation iPod nano in size and shape, which means it is plenty small enough to tote anywhere.
Or lose anywhere. I put it in my laptop case’s pocket and couldn’t find it when I went back for it, because it slipped behind some other stuff — it really is compact.
While the unit is sealed up like a thumb drive (or my trusty iPad nano of yore), it is basically a sleeker version of an SSD placed within an external case. The memory inside of it reports as being manufactured by Micron (a.k.a. Crucial Technologies), one of my favorite internal SSD vendors.
I like RAVPower’s chargers and cords, but had never tested storage from them, so in my ever suspicious nature about protecting my data, I did a virus scan using ClamXAV to make sure there were no “free bonuses” of viruses or malware on the drive as it came from the factory. It came back clean. I ignored the included software utility that RAVPower put on the drive — I just don’t need it.
Like a thumb drive, it is bus powered, drawing its power from your computer and not an external AC adapter. It comes with short, well made USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cords so that it can work with probably any computer currently available for sale. I used the former for the highest speed possible; if you use the USB-C to USB-A cable, you’ll find yourself with speeds much more akin to the aforementioned thumb drive, in my experience.
With the USB-C (3.2) connection speeds, it’s able to reach over 350 MB/s in Blackmagicdesign’s disk speed tool, which is often fast enough. When I am transferring video straight from an SD card, it can receive data about 4 times faster than a good SD card can provide. I transferred about 20 GB of files off my (much slower) SD card to the drive in less than a minute.
When transferring from a recent computer, it isn’t quite as impressive, admittedly. My MacBook Pro, for example, can reach a peak read speed of closer to 3 GB/s — but I didn’t even notice that differential at first, because it was so much faster than the thumb drives I have been using. All that to say, the drive is fast enough that in most cases and often will not be your primary limiting factor.
To be sure, if you want the fastest speeds, buying an external NVMe drive enclosure and putting in your own SSD will yield better results (I can get close to 1 GB/s on a Pluggable NVMe enclosure). But, given just an internal 1 TB SSD, sans the external enclosure necessary to hook it up without installing it inside your computer, often sells for about the same as RavPower’s is already complete 1 TB external drive, if you view it as a nice step up from a thumb drive, you’ll be pleased.
As an aside, if you are like me and still making heavy use of an older MacBook Pro that lacks USB-C ports, this drive works beautifully hooked to the Thunderbolt/USB-C port of a Thunderbolt dock like the Caldigit TS3. I have taken to favoring “future safe” USB-C accessories and then using them via the USB-C ports of a modern dock. Since even an aging MacBook Pro’s Thunderbolt 2 offers plenty of capacity to max out USB-C’s capabilities, you can get really fast speeds without hunting down scarce, expensive Thunderbolt 2 accessories that have long since been left in the dust of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3/4.
Clearly, we are moving towards a world where everything is stored in the cloud. Someday, maybe no one will mess with external drives at all. However, for big files like videos, where the still-too-slow speeds of cloud uploads become apparent, or for backups, I like having external storage around and this little drive is reasonably priced for that (RavPower Mini SSD Pro, 1TB for $116).