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Portable SSDs for Travel Storage and Especially Backup

As a photographer, I travel 4-5 months of the year in my Sprinter van for photography. My travel machine is the 2019 iMac 5K*, safely stowed in the Gator Cases Creative Pro 27" iMac Carry Tote when driving, and powered by a 10kW battery lithium iron phosphate battery pack off a 2000W DC/AC inverter. The 2019 iMac 5K is astonishingly power efficient given its included display and I can run for 3-4 days on the power packs without recharging.

Anyway, a key thing I do after every day’s shoot is to download my images and make several backups. Ditto after working in the van some days, after I have organized and published stuff.

* Laptops are a very poor and hopelessly inefficient solution for the work I need to do—very small screens, terrible ergonomics to ruin your posture and nag your neck, godawful keyboard and a mouse is essential too.

Best SSDs for travel and backup

Over the past few years I’ve worked with 4 or 5 different SSDs while traveling. There are multiple considerations:

  • SSD speed is important, though only to a point. Still, if it’s a big shoot and it was an all day hike and I want to get to sleep, backup speed can be an irritant if not fast enough.
  • I like to take one SSD with me on hikes as a precaution against break-in/theft. A larger/heavier SSD is a nuisance and poorly suited for my hikes.
  • Durability—over time things can fail.
  • Compatibility: it is very helpful to be able to plug a drive into my laptop (older one), which requires USB-C. A Thunderbolt SSD is incompatible with my older Thunderbolt-2 laptop.

Samsung T5 I have used for several years (not a fan of the "dog" Samsung T7) . One of my four T5’s a bad connector now, but still works. I like them for their compact size and light weight, but they are half the speed of the slowest of the OWC offerings. OTOH, they offer hardware encryption, which has its uses if theft while traveling is a concern.

OWC Envoy Pro Elektron (240GB to 2TB capacities) is my all-around favorite for travel: extremely solid built, twice the speed of the Samsung T5, and still very compact. Up to 2TB capacities make it hard to beat.

OWC Envoy Pro SX and OWC Envoy Pro FX are both superb—the very best performance. These are the drives to get for speed. But being solidly-built enough for a truck to run over them, they feel like solid hunks of metal and they do not fit into a pants pocket, unlike the OWC Envoy Pro Elektron.

Four portable SSDs, USB-C and Thunderbolt.
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