External vs internal SSD: analysis of which is the best option

We have made a comparison between the external vs internal SSD because we have seen that much progress has been made in this product. The price is not the most attractive in the world, but it is super viable and puts 1TB HDDs at risk of extinction.

We saw a long time ago when external SSDs became a strong option compared to external hard drives. The price has improved a lot, although it must do more to extinguish the HDD, but we go further, external or internal SSD? Some of you will have it clear, but others not so much, so we solve the question.

Index of contents

  • External vs internal SSD: analysis of which is the best option
    • Transfer speed
    • Capacity / price
    • Portable vs installation
    • USB vs SATA or PCI-Express
    • Useful life
  • Final decision: external vs internal SSD

External vs internal SSD: analysis of which is the best option

Each one proposes different solutions for different needs, but we do not have an infinite budget so many will be forced to choose one. We made this entry to try to dispel your doubts and choose a candidate.

Transfer speed

When we talk about SSDs, we have to refer to their transfer speed because it is the protagonist that we choose this type of drive. It is known that the maximum read speed of a conventional SSD does not usually exceed 550 MB / s read and 530 MB / s write .

The first battle between external vs internal SSD has to do with which type of SSD gives more speed. This has an answer: the internal SSD. It is true that there are external drives from SanDisk or Samsung that use the NVMe protocol, but they still lag behind the highest speeds on internal drives.

Why? Due to the use of the interface, since PCIe SSDs with NVMe protocol are another level in this regard. Later, we will delve more on the subject.

Capacity / price

Price is a deciding factor in this internal vs external SSD comparison because portable SSDs are more expensive than internal drives. Currently, there are 3 the most common capacities in internal SSDs:

  • 250 GB.
  • 500 GB.
  • 1 TB.

That being said, who is going to buy a 250GB external SSD? Absolutely nobody because it does not pay, but one with 500 GB or 1 TB. Speaking of external hard drives, I consider it logical to opt for 1 TB, and here we see the price differences:

While an internal SSD costs no more than € 100, external options start at € 132, which makes us think things over a lot. All this without considering the transfer speed that some internal M.2 SSDs have, which are much faster than external SSDs.

Therefore, the price / capacity ratio in external SSDs is quite a lot but in internal ones, but the truth is that they are 2 different markets: there is not much demand for external SSDs, so their price will not be very competitive either.


Portable vs installation

We must not forget that we connect an external SSD by USB and we forget everything, while an internal SSD we have to install in the PC or laptop. Whoever is not fond of computers will not know how to install it on a PC, even less on a laptop that has to be completely unscrewed.

On the other hand, we must value the portability of the external SSD: we can take it wherever we want and use it without problems. Instead, we will install the internal SSD in a PC or laptop and we will have to use said equipment to enjoy it.

They are 2 different units for different purposes.

USB vs SATA or PCI-Express

We have mentioned it before, but in this section we will deal with it more specifically. When we talk about an external and an internal SSD, we have to be clear that different interfaces are used:

  • External -> USB or Thunderbolt.
  • Internal -> SATA or PCI-Express.

While SATA and PCI-Express are going to give us more than enough transfer speeds, we have to pay attention to the USB port that we use to connect our external SSD, why? Because to minimally take advantage of the transfer speed of the external drive, we must have a USB 3.0 or higher.

Consider that a USB 2.0 offers a theoretical maximum of 480 MB / s of transfer, causing a significant bottleneck. Through this dead, an external SSD cannot compete with an internal one, but things change with Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.1.

In conclusion, to obtain a speed similar to that of SATA, it may be enough to connect it to USB 2.0, but to compete with PCI-Express (more than 1,000 MB / s) we have to make use of a USB 3.1 connection or higher. I say the latter thinking that you opt for an external SSD with NVMe protocol, an aspect that will allow you to reach more than 1,000 MB / s of reading.

Useful life

Tom’s Hardware

There do not have to be differences between an internal vs external SSD in terms of lifespan, but there may be. If you ask yourself this, tell you that it is important to know what type of NAND memory we are: MLC or TLC chip.

Sometimes, it is difficult to know what type of NAND memory the external SSD carries, but the internal options do usually specify it or, at least, there is more information about it. I have a rule for this: if the manufacturer does not announce the type of NAND memory, it is not the best.

And the truth is that, if it had an MLC memory, the manufacturer would announce it “with great fanfare”, which most do not do. Therefore, I am inclined to think that internal SSDs can offer longer life than external ones. In addition, we are not taking into account the transfer of the external SSDs, which could fall or hit strongly.

Some come with IP55 or similar certifications, as well as a reinforced casing to protect the interior of these units from the falls it may suffer.

Final decision: external vs internal SSD

Each type of SSD meets specific needs and would start from the following premises:

  • If portability is non-negotiable -> External SSD.
  • Looking for the highest transfer speed? -> internal SSD.
  • Tight budget -> Internal SSD or an external SSD with 500 GB.
  • You need more than 2 TB -> internal SSD because the price of the external one is nonsense.

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