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Lexar SL500 review: Super-slim mobile storage with serious speed

Our Rating :
£101.99 from
Price when reviewed : £110
inc VAT (1TB), £176 inc VAT (2TB)

A fantastic slimline SSD that delivers style without sacrificing performance


  • Slim, stylish and robust
  • Great sequential read/write speeds
  • Excellent value


  • No shock- or weather-proofing

Lexar’s SL500 could well be the thinnest portable SSD we’ve ever seen, measuring 7.8mm at its thickest point and slimming down to just 4.8mm at its elegantly tapered edges. That might sound like a gimmick, but Lexar pitches the SL500 as a multi-device, ultra-portable SSD – the kind of thing you’re as likely to use with your iPhone or iPad as your laptop or desktop PC. With claimed read speeds of up to 2,000MB/sec and write speeds of up to 1,800MB/sec, it definitely has the performance to cover a lot of requirements; I’ve run it through our battery of storage benchmarks to discover whether there’s more to this drive than its slimline profile.

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Lexar SL500 review: What do you get for the money?

The SL500 is roughly the size of a credit card, measuring 85 x 54mm, and at 43g it’s practically featherweight. It’s a real feat of design and engineering, and while the aluminium unibody construction doesn’t have the same degree of shock- or weather-proofing as the Crucial X10 Pro or the Samsung T9, you can put this drive in a bag or pocket and expect it to survive some rough and tumble on the road. It’s not as easy to grip as, say, the Samsung T9 with its rubberised casing and ridges, but the matte black powder-coated surface isn’t too slippery in the hand.

As Lexar is keen to point out, the drive can be used not only with desktop and laptop PCs, but also with Macs, Android devices, games consoles and even USB-equipped iPhones and iPads. Of course, the same can be said for most USB SSDs, but the slim frame and light weight of the SL500 make it particularly well suited to a mobile role. Lexar even sells a bundle in the US with a magnetic ring and lanyard for attaching the drive to your iPhone, though this isn’t on sale over here at the time of writing.

The drive comes in 512GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB capacities, preformatted with the APFS file system used by macOS; formatting it to NTFS for Windows is easy enough with Windows’ built-in disk manager tool. A USB Type-C to Type-C cable is included in the box.


Lexar SL500 review: How does it perform?

It may be slender, but the SL500 is mighty fast. CrystalDiskMark measured sequential read speeds in excess of 2,080MB/sec over a 20Gbits/sec USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 connection, along with write speeds of 1,902MB/sec. That puts it very close in performance to the WD_Black P40 and a smidgeon ahead of the Crucial X10 Pro; you’ll certainly have no problem hooking it up to an iPhone or iPad and shooting 4K 60fps video files directly to the drive. Backups and file transfers will also be extremely fast.

Lexar SL500 Crystal DiskMark, sequential read_write chartLexar SL500 AS SSD sequential read_write chartLexar SL500 Large file transfer read_write chart

In the random read/write speed tests, the SL500 fell behind the WD_Black P40 and Samsung T9, but it wasn’t far off the tiny Kingston XS2000 and the Crucial X10 Pro. In other words, it’s not the absolute best choice if you’re wanting to run games or applications directly from an external drive, but it’s fast enough that you’d be hard-pressed to really notice a difference in performance.

Lexar SL500 CrystalDiskMark, random 4K file read_write chartLexar SL500 AS SSD, 4K file read_write chart

Lexar SL500 review: Are there any useful extras?

If you’re worried about what could happen to your files if your portable drive falls into the wrong hands, Lexar has you covered. The SL500 comes with Lexar’s DataShield app, which lets you create a secure, private “safe” on your drive. This is handled in software rather than hardware, but it uses 256-bit AES encryption, which should be strong enough for any purpose. The same app also includes basic backup and restore features.

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Lexar SL500 review: Should you buy it?

The Lexar SL500 packs plenty of top-speed storage into an impressively thin and light package. That makes it ideal for creative pros on the move, and the fact that it looks so good, by SSD standards, certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s competitively priced, too, costing about the same as the excellent Crucial X10 Pro in most capacities. The Crucial drive does have a slight edge when it comes to durability, but you may well value the styling of the SL500 more; either way, it’s a great portable SSD that won’t weigh you down or hit your wallet where it hurts.

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