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Top five speedy portable drives: On-site movie editing doesn't have to be slow

CNET editor Dong Ngo picks his top five portable storage devices that are fast enough for even the taxing task that is high-def movie editing.

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Movie editing, especially when it's high-def content, is one of the most intensive tasks where the performance of the storage unit plays an important role. For example, fast storage can help you cut the transcoding time of a long footage from hours to just a matter of minutes.

At the office, this might be an easy problem to solve since there are many fast desktop storage solutions. When you're traveling or need to work on the field, however, this is a different question. And I have the answers here on this post.

Following are the top five portable (or semi-portable) storage devices that offer from super-fast to ultra-fast performance, some are even faster than high-end desktop solutions. They are listed in the review order with the latest review on top.

Note that you still need a fast computer for the job, preferably one that uses an solid-state drive (SSD) as its main storage. The computer also needs to support Thunderbolt 2, Thunderbolt, or at least USB 3.0.


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Dong Ngo/CNET

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt All-Terrain

This new rugged portable drive is the upgrade to the previous model, the Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt , which came out almost two years go. The new drive now comes with a much better design that includes a built-in Thunderbolt cable and a lid that seals the USB 3.0 port from dust or moisture. The drive is slated to withstand drops from up to 6.6 foot (2 metter) height and the crush force of about a ton. And it's also great where it matters the most: performance, with the SSD-based version averaging about 300MBps for writing and 330MBps for reading, current the fastest portable bus-powered drive on the market. For this reason it's totally worth the current US pricing of $300 for 250GB or $500 for 500GB. (Pricing for other markets are not available at this time.) There's also a hard drive-based version that costs significantly less and offers up to 2TB of storage space. Read the full review of the LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt All-Terrain portable drive .


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Dong Ngo/CNET

LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2

This new external drive from LaCie is extreme in both cost and performance. At about $1,300 for just 1TB (€1,250 in Europe; pricing for the UK and Australia is not yet available), it's the most expensive you can find, but it's also the fastest by far, offering more than 1,000MBps of data speed. You do need a computer with Thunderbolt 2 to get the best performance out of the drive, but it also works with the original Thunderbolt, since the two standards share the same cable and port size.

The LaCie is very compact and rugged, making it very easy to carry. Unfortunately it's not bus-powered and requires a separate power adapter, but even then it's still quite portable. Read the full review of the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2.


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Dong Ngo/CNET

WD My Passport Pro

The My Passport Pro ia currently the highest-capacity portable bus-powered Thunderbolt drive. It comes with two capacities of 2TB and 4TB and doesn't require a separate power adapter to work. In fact you don't need a Thunderbolt cable, either, since it has a built-in one hidden around its side. This smart design makes it even more portable since you don't have to carry anything extra, just the drive itself. The drive offers great performance of close to 200MBps with any Thunderbolt computer, fast enough for most editing tasks. Read the full review of the WD My Passport Pro.


Seagate Backup Plus Fast
Dong Ngo/CNET

Seagate Backup Plus Fast

The Backup Plus Fast, as the name suggests, is very fast. At more than 230MBps, this is the only USB 3.0 portable drive on the market that offers performance comparable to that of a Thunderbolt drive. Despite having two internal hard drives on the inside combined in a RAID 0, the Plus Fast is still bus-powered, meaning you only need one USB cable for both data and power connections. For those on a budget, this is a great drive for your movie project. Just make sure you back up the content it stores regularly. Read the full review of the Seagate Backup Plus Fast .


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Dong Ngo/CNET

Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+

The Thunderbolt Drive+, available in 256GB and 512GB, is the second portable drive from Elgato, succeeding the original Thunderbolt Drive and it's a welcome upgrade. With a fast solid-state drive on the inside, the portable drive offers stellar performance of some 300Mbps when used with Thunderbolt and some 250MBps with USB 3.0. It's also one of a few portable drives on the market that supports both USB and Thunderbolt connections. Read the full review of the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ .


Finally, make sure you back up your content after each round of editing. Most of the drives mentioned here are of good quality, but that doesn't mean they won't fail. For important work, backing up is always crucial. Any of these drives will make a great backup drive (so just get two) or you can find a list of great portable drive for backing up here.