The Top 5 Best External Hard Drives For Video Editing

by | June 13, 2022

I’m often on the go and as such I’m usually editing videos off of my Macbook Pro. Which, similar to many other laptops, doesn’t have a lot of internal storage. When you’re shooting in 4K, a couple of gigs can lead to a few terabytes of video clips, so it’s only a matter of time before you start shopping for an external hard drive.

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1. Best All Around External Hard Drive: SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD

If you’re doing research a little research, chances are you’ll see the SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD recommended quite a few times, it looks like this:

The SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD is considered one of the best external drives by video pros

Indeed, a simple Google search and you’ll find the SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD highly regarded, with glowing 5-star reviews. It’s portable, lightweight, with storage space of 250 GB up to 4 TB (depending on the model you get).

I bought it. It worked great… for 3-months. Then it went kaput. And I learned a hard lesson in that you can’t recover data on an SSD like you could on a traditional hard drive. Fortunately, I had some redundancy in place (more on that later) and most of my precious files were backed up.

I’ve heard that SSDs are better (and for the most part that’s true), and I just thought I had nothing to worry about. I’ve had traditional hard drives fail, but even when that happens and you don’t have a backup, I’ve had luck in recovering files. I wasn’t able to recover anything off of the SSD. It wouldn’t even power-up — and I spent hours dredging across forums on the internet looking to find ways I can recover some data.

With all that being said, my experience is most certainly happenstance. The SanDisk Extreme Pro is still one of the best reviewed external hard drives on the internet, I regularly use SanDisk memory cards and seldom have issues so I certainly won’t dissuade you from that option. I just wanted to highlight my experience and provide more information than your average review on the internet.

2. Best External Hard Drives for Laptops: 5TB LaCie Rugged

Since the pandemic, remote work has increased exponentially and whether it’s back and forth from the office, or just a coffee shop or co-working space, a lot of people (myself included) are working from their laptops. Which does bring some important considerations. Ideally, you want something:

  • Portable
  • Durable
  • That doesn’t require power from an AC outlet (space saving tip: velcro your hard drive to your laptop).

As such, I ended up purchasing the 5TB LaCie Rugged external hard drive.

The LaCie Rugged SSD is one of the best external drives because of its durability and portability

It’s not an SSD, so its write speed isn’t as fast as the SanDisk ExtremePro, but certainly fast enough for my applications with write speeds up to 130MB/s (for reference DCI 4Kp24 ProRes HQ files requires at least 94 MB/s write speed).

Another notable advantage is the price per TB. As video editors, you need as much storage as you can get, and 5 TB is currently just $170 on LaCie, versus $629 on a 4TB ExtremePro SSD.

On one last note, editing 4K footage can be a strenuous activity for your laptop, with a pretty high-end MacBook Pro, I’m still proxy editing any 4K project longer than a minute.

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3. External Hard Drive With the Fastest Transfer Speeds: SanDisk G-Drive PRO SSD

Yearning for a faster transfer speed? Well, you’re limited to your interface speed:

A bar chart ranking USB transfer speeds

Source: Thunderbolt Technology

Thunderbolt 3 supports 40 Gbps, for context, this means you can transfer a 4K movie in under 30 seconds. Way faster than your run-of-the-mill Apple lightning cable. If you want the benefit of lighting fast transfer speeds, you’ll pay more for these interfaces. If you are willing to pay a higher price point, then look no further than the SanDisk G-Drive PRO SSD.

Clocking in at $430 for 1 TB of storage, the SanDisk G-Drive PRO SSD offers Thunderbolt 3 and 2800MB/s read and 2400MB/s write speeds.

We at MASV, of all people, understand that time is money in the video business. The faster you can work, the better your turnaround time, and productivity.

If you need more insight on transfer speeds of various external hard drives, filmmaker Vadim Yuryev has a great round-up, which can be found below. In the video, the G-Drive PRO stands out as the fastest drive for data transfer, with the Samsung X5 coming in at a close second.

4. Best “Value” External Hard Drive: Toshiba Canvio and Samsung T7

The Best “Value” is subjective. What’s the value of your wedding photos? For a lot of people, it’s pretty close to priceless. Although, most of us understand value to mean value in the terms of TB per dollar.

HDD – Toshiba Canvio

If price is the deciding factor here, we have to talk about hard-disk drives (HDD) as they are significantly cheaper than solid-state drives (SSD). HDDs aren’t as fast as SSD and they are more susceptible to damage because of the internal rotating disk. The LaCie Rugged falls into this category because you can get 5 TB of storage for under $200! But, for the sake of variety, an HDD like the Toshiba Canvio is considered an old reliable by video pros, especially if it’s used as a cold storage solution, rather than an everyday use, hot storage one. Depending on where you purchase the Canvio, you can grab 1 TB for as little as $50.

SDD – Samsung T7

The Samsung T7 is a light, portable, and speedy little machine that can knock you back about $150 for 1 TB of storage. It’s a big leap from the Toshiba Canvio’s modest double-digit price. Regardless, the extra spend means faster performance and reliability, which is a must among video pros.

Something interesting to note from my colleague; the Samsung T7 always seems to be on sale at Best Buy or The Source, even when purchased months in-between. If you’re not a brand purist, setup an alert on your favorite deals website (I use Slickdeals) for an external hard drive. I’m not really nostalgic about hard drive brands, you’ll find positive and negative reviews for all the popular brands. If you’re patient, you can find deals for under $15 per TB for a well reviewed hard drive.

5. RAID or NAS External Hard Drive Setup: Synology NAS

Hard drive failures happen, it’s not very common, I’ve experienced it maybe 2-3 times over the past 20 years…but it does happen. If it hasn’t happened to you (yet), consider yourself very lucky.

Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) exists to prevent hard drive failure from ruining your data. It’s essentially multiple hard drives acting as one. There are multiple configurations, of which, a lot of video editors like to use RAID 5 because this allows the failure of one drive without losing any data. The drawback? It can be quite expensive (over $1K) and it requires 4 hard drives to set up. For maximum performance and efficiency, the drives should be the same speed and have the same storage capacity.

Another option if you don’t want to connect directly to your computer is Network Attached Storage (NAS). A lot of NAS storage devices come with RAID support, but you could just opt to use the disks however you wish instead.

A RAID + NAS setup is best when you want to provide shared access to files, yet you want the protection of a RAID setup in case of a hard drive failure.

Final Thoughts

Note that many data experts may disagree with me, and that’s fine. Many experts think that a RAID or a backup to a single external hard drive isn’t enough, and everyone should follow the 3-2-1 backup rule. It is highly recommended that any of the external hard drives mentioned above are used in conjunction with another sort of storage. Either another drive or cloud backup.

Related: Introducing MASV Unlimited Storage for Instant File Backup

As a summary, here are five of the best external hard drives for video pros based on deciding factors:

  • All around best pick: SanDisk ExtremePro SSD
  • Portability: LaCie Rugged SSD
  • Transfer speed: SanDisk G-Drive PRO SSD
  • Price by TB of storage: Samsung T7 (SSD), LaCie Rugged or Toshiba Canvio (HDD)
  • Reliability: Synology NAS (with RAID Storage)

External drives are an absolute must for any video pro working with large, high-resolution media files on a daily basis. Another must? Fast file transfer to send and receive files from clients, collaborators, and third-party vendors.

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