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I found the ultimate external SSD - and it can even self-destruct

Now James Bond doesn't have to choose between a speed, security, and robustness when picking an external SSD for his top-secret files.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Apricorn Aegis NVX external SSD

Apricorn Aegis NVX external SSD

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I've finally found the perfect external hard drive. This drive combines a robust, rugged design, fortress-like security, and high performance. It's the Goldilocks of portable storage. 

Also: I tested the 'fastest Gen5 SSD on the planet' and was blown away

The one drive to rule them all.

Meet the Apricorn Aegis NVX external SSD

View at Apricorn

Apricorn Aegis tech specs

  • Encryption: 100% hardware-based 256-bit AES XTS encrypted, and onboard wear-resistant keypad PIN authenticated with brute force protection
  • Transfer rates: USB 10Gbps / 1000 MBs read/write
  • Power supply: USB Port; 100% bus powered
  • Interface: Super Speed USB 10Gbs type-C with built-in USB-C cable
  • Capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Dimensions: 67mm x 120mm x 15mm | 200 g
  • Certifications: IP68, FCC, CE, VCCI
  • Shock resistance: 1500G/0.5ms, virtually shock and vibration resistant
  • Warranty: 3-year limited 

Regular readers will know that I'm a huge fan of Apricorn secure external SSDs and flash drives. These devices are built from the ground up to be a fortress for your data.

Also: This flash drive will self-destruct (if you want it to)

Externally, the Aegis NVX looks like an external drive, but the addition of a keyboard suggests that there are hidden depths to this device.

And there are.

The attached USB-B cable is tough and is protected by the deep groove in the drive's case

The attached USB-B cable is tough and is protected by the deep groove in the drive's case

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

That keypad is what allows you access to your data, data that's protected using hardware-based 256-bit AES XTS encryption.

Lose your passcode, and your data is history. 

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That's what the specs for a high security storage drive demand, and that's what you get with the Aegis NVX.

In use, the simplicity of the Aegis NVX really shines. Once you've set up a passcode, you can unlock and lock the drive in a matter of seconds with a few taps on the keypad.

You can unlock it easily. But the bad guys can't.

Also: How to easily back up your Mac onto a USB drive (and feel like James Bond doing it)

The drive features built-in brute-force decrypt defense to wipe the drive if someone tries to guess the passcode, and it has a built-in unattended auto-lock feature that secures the drive in the event you walk away from it or become distracted.

Built tough and secure

Built tough and secure

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

For an added level of security, there's also the ability to set a self-destruct PIN to quickly wipe the drive of its contents yet make it seem like it is fully working.

When I started using Aegis encrypted drives with the built-in keypad I expected the polymer-coated buttons to be the weak link, but they are exceedingly wear-resistant and seem to withstand the tests of time. I have similar drives that have been in regular usage for several years and the keypads still look like new.

Also: The best external hard drives you can buy

It's not just the keypad that's tough. The drive is encased in aluminum (which also acts as a heatsink to keep the drive cool when in use), held together with tamper-resistant fasteners, and it is constructed in such a way as to be IP68 rated against water and dust damage, making it a really rugged storage drive that's just as much at home in the wilderness as it is in an air-conditioned office.

The Aegis NVX doesn't mind a dip!

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The attached USB-C cable is also thick and tough, and is protected in storage by the aluminum enclosure.

Oh, and then there's speed.

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One of the downsides of a lot of encrypted drives is performance. If you're working with documents like spreadsheets, that's not a problem. But if that data includes photos of video, then things get cumbersome if performance is a bottleneck.

No problem with the Aegis NVX, with rated read/write speeds of 1,000MB/s, I found that I could get pretty close to this in tests using Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test or AmorphousDiskMark

Apricorn Aegis NVX performance test using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test

Apricorn Aegis NVX performance test using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET
Apricorn Aegis NVX performance test using AmorphousDiskMark

Apricorn Aegis NVX performance test using AmorphousDiskMark

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The speed is such that the Aegis NVX could be used as external storage for video cameras that accept USB storage -- cameras such as the Panasonic S5 IIX. That's what's great about a drive that's hardware encrypted -- once you unlock it using the passcode, any device that has a USB port that can access external storage can work with the drive, whether that be a camera, computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet, 3D printer, a machine at a factory... it just works!

A final nice touch is that the drive comes with a hard shell case to protect it from knocks and bumps. This is a first for Apricorn drives.

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I'm completely blown away by Apricorn's new Aegis NVX. 

It's a drive that truly offers it all -- blistering performance, the best security money can buy, and a ruggedized, hardened case. In a world of hyperbole and exaggerated claims, it's great to see a product that lives up to the marketing. This is exactly what I've come to expect from Apricorn, and this is exactly what the Aegis NVX delivers.

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