It’s bold for a storage company to name its product after its own performance claims, but that’s exactly what Seagate has done with its Fast SSD. The Fast SSD is an external USB 3.0 solid-state drive (SSD) that comes in capacities ranging from 250GB to 1TB. (It starts at $99; the 500GB version tested here is $169.) In the external-SSD market, Seagate is a distant rival of storage giant Western Digital and its subsidiary SanDisk, as well as Samsung. The Fast SSD aims to turn things around with a compelling price (versus the Editors’ Choice-winning Samsung T5 Portable SSD and SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD) for a drive that delivers roughly the same performance. Seagate succeeds on both fronts, earning our latest Editors’ Choice award for a mainstream external SSD.
The shell of the Seagate Fast SSD is an aluminum square with rounded edges, rimmed in black plastic. A simple “SEAGATE” inscription adorns its face. On one edge is a USB Type-C port into which you can plug either a USB-C-to-C cable or a USB-C-to-A cable. Both cables ship in the box, and both adhere to the USB 3.0 specification.
The Seagate Fast SSD measures 0.35 by 3.11 by 3.7 inches (HWD). Although it is thinner than the 0.4-by-2.3-by-3-inch, 1.8-ounce Samsung Portable SSD T5, the Seagate Fast SSD is also heavier, at 2.9 ounces. Still, the Fast SSD is small and light enough to tuck into most pockets with ease.
You can buy the Seagate Fast SSD in one of three storage capacities, from 250GB ($99) to 1TB ($349). The 500GB model I reviewed is the $169 middle child. To compare, the Samsung Portable SSD T5 comes in the same three capacities but is pricier at each, at $129.99 (250GB), $199.99 (500GB), and $399.99 (1TB). The SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD, a much-ruggedized drive, is pricier still.
By dividing the cost of each drive by the number of gigabytes it contains, I calculated that, at the 500GB level, the Seagate Fast SSD costs around 34 cents per gigabyte, while the 500GB Samsung Portable SSD T5 is 40 cents and the SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD is a whopping 62 cents. That makes the Seagate Fast SSD more affordable than both of these Editors’ Choice picks at the 500GB capacity. It held a similar advantage at the other two capacities, as well.
The Seagate Fast SSD comes with a variety of on-drive utilities: DiscWizard, SeaTools for Windows, Seagate Toolkit for Windows, and Seagate ToolKit for macOS. DiscWizard lets you manage partitions on the drive, as well as back up and restore data, while SeaTools reports on drive health. The Seagate Toolkit apps both let you back up and sync files without the partition-management features that come with DiscWizard (and without the reminder to upgrade to the premium version for an added cost). All of this software is useful, functional, and easy enough to use if you’d rather avoid heading into Control Panel or Disk Utility to manage your drives.
Unlike the ADATA SE730H, another external SSD I recently reviewed, the Seagate Fast SSD is not waterproof, nor is it backed by an IP68 rating. It is, however, backed by a generous three-year warranty.
Snappy for the Money
Seagate claims its Fast SSD can reach peak read speeds of 540MBps and write speeds of 400MBps. In our first benchmark test, a Mac-based one, it actually performed a little better than that.
In the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, the Seagate Fast SSD garnered read and write speeds of 520.4MBps and 481.9MBps, respectively…
Designed for benchmarking disk performance in video-editing tasks, the Blackmagic test is a Mac-exclusive application (I ran it on a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar) that tests the read and write speeds of hard drives and SSDs. I ran Blackmagic’s write and read tests five times each before taking the median results. The USB 3.0-equipped Samsung Portable T5 earned around the same scores, at 505.6MBps/477.2MBps, while the SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD was a clear step behind.
You’ll note one of the drives in the charts here blowing out the scale. This notable outlier, the Samsung Portable SSD X5, transfers data over a zippier Thunderbolt 3 connection and uses a high-speed NVMe drive inside, explaining how it pulled off read and write speeds well into four digits rather than just three. The WD My Passport SSD and the ADATA SE730H both use the slightly stepped-up USB 3.1 Gen 2; you can see the difference that Thunderbolt 3 makes. At $399.99 in its 500GB iteration, though, the Portable SSD X5 costs a whole bunch more than the Seagate Fast SSD of the same capacity. All that speed will cost you 80 cents per gigabyte.
Furthermore, the Samsung Portable SSD X5 necessitates a computer with a compatible Thunderbolt 3 port (common in recent Macs, much less so in Windows machines). Though the port is physically the same as a regular USB-C (3.1 Gen 1 or Gen 2) port, in the case of the X5, slower-speed USB transfers actually aren’t supported. The Seagate Fast SSD has the advantage of much wider compatibility.
Next was the PCMag Folder Transfer Test, in which I moved a 1.3GB folder from our 2016 MacBook Pro to the Seagate Fast SSD while recording the time…
The Seagate Fast SSD took just 3 seconds to transfer the folder, the same result as the Samsung Portable SSD T5. In the same test, the SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD took 5 seconds to transfer the folder.
The Fast SSD is formatted for exFAT out of the box, meaning it can transfer data back and forth on both Macs and PCs without the need to reformat. When I moved the drive over from the MacBook Pro to PCMag’s Windows 10-based storage testbed, I reformatted the Seagate Fast SSD for NTFS before running the last test, the PCMark 7 Secondary Storage Test. This trial puts the drive through a series of workloads that isolate drive performance in everyday tasks…
The Seagate Fast SSD managed a score of 5,268, compared with the 5,449 of the Samsung Portable SSD T5. In the same test, the SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD scored slightly lower, at 4,980. Within roughly 10 percent of each other, all of these scores are comparable for everyday use cases. But the Fast SSD certainly held its own.
In sum, the testing here makes clear that the Seagate Fast SSD is capable of driving similar performance to that of the Samsung Portable SSD T5 and the SanDisk Extreme 900 Portable SSD, but for a lower price.
A Value Winner Among External SSDs
Though the Seagate Fast SSD isn’t notably faster than its closest rivals, it’s a worthy addition to the external SSD market. Performing on par with two of our Editors’ Choice picks in the category, this elegant-looking USB 3.0 drive is a good, budget-minded choice if you’re looking to add more drop-proof, stable external storage to your PC or gaming console.
Its $99 starting price will entice anyone seeking reasonable read/write speeds from a thin and lightweight portable drive. And if you need to up the capacity, you can opt for the reasonably priced 500GB or 1TB flavor. Seagate has struck a fine balance between performance and value that ought to inspire other major-label SSD makers to lower their MSRPs, too.