Falling somewhere between the extreme portability of a USB flash drive and the capacious affordable storage of a traditional hard drive, portable SSDs provide speed, convenience, and durability, but typically top out at around 2TB of storage at the moment. That’s still a lot of storage, but SanDisk has created a prototype external SSD drive that can finally compete with traditional hard drives when it comes to capacity, thanks to a whopping 8TB of storage.
You can get solid-state drives as large as 60TB in size (for roughly $US40,000 ($57,675)) but they require more power than even a USB-C port can deliver, so they’re typically relegated for use in desktop workstations and servers. SanDisk’s new SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps portable SSD can be bus-powered, which means you can plug it into a modern laptop without requiring an external power source, or a second connection to an additional USB port for extra juice. To date, only Seagate’s Innov8 external hard drive offers 8TB of storage in an external drive that doesn’t need extra power—and it’s a bit of a beast.
SanDisk hasn’t shared any details on how it managed to boost the capacity of its portable SSD drives while maintaining the same size and form of its existing 2TB offerings, but it’s a fairly safe assumption that Western Digital, the company who currently owns SanDisk, is using similar tricks that companies like Intel have used to radically increase the capacities of SSDs. Last year Intel revealed an SSD drive that managed to squeeze 32 terabytes into a slim, foot-long module by stacking memory cells atop each other creating a 3D storage grid that maximised capacity while minimising the footprint of all drive.
What might be more impressive than 8TB of solid-state storage you can slip in your pocket is the fact that SanDisk has named this the SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps portable SSD, implying transfer speeds (at least read speeds) that could potentially hit 20,000 Mbps. That’s faster than USB 3.0 which tops out at 5 Gbps, which means you’d need to rely on a Thunderbolt 2 connection to take advantage of this drive’s top-end promised performance.
So when can you mortgage your house to buy one? Unfortunately, SanDisk’s SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps portable SSD is only a functional prototype at this point, and the company doesn’t have any immediate plans to unleash it on consumers. A company spokesperson told Gizmodo, “We closely monitor industry trends and demands, and introduce new products accordingly,” which is a vague indication that you’ll probably need to wait a few years for this one to arrive. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because a year ago Samsung released a 2 TB portable SSD drive that hit read speeds of 2.8 Gbps for $US1,400 ($2,019), so pricing for SanDisk’s creation would probably be astronomical were it rushed out the door for 2020.