There are prices that sound “too good to be true,” and then there are prices that sound so good they must be fake. A portable, external 16TB SSD for less than $120 is definitely the latter.
Before you get all optimistic about storage deals, ReviewGeek bought one of these drives and published a teardown. In this teardown, they found the alleged “16TB USB 3.1 M.2 SSD” was actually a 64GB USB 2.0 micro SD card installed on a circuit board acting as a USB-adapter. In other words, fake. (It didn’t seem to have any malware, though, so that’s... something.) We've seen good 64GB cards going for as low as $11 on Amazon (opens in new tab).
If you’re hoping Amazon is on top of this, they’re not. Type ‘16TB SSD’ into Amazon right now, and at least 15 listings for portable, external 16TB SSDs will pop up, priced between $63 and $120. To put this wildly implausible pricing into context, a $120 16TB SSD translates to about three-fourths of a cent ($0.0075) per GB. A month ago, cloud storage provider BackBlaze predicted that the price of HDD storage will drop to one cent ($0.01) per GB by 2025. Yes, hard drive storage — so a 16TB HDD in 2025 will still cost about $40 more than these supposed 16TB SSDs in 2023.
Here’s the thing: minus the insane pricing, the listings for these 16TB SSDs don’t necessarily look fake, at a glance. Sure, they all feature the same pictures of ultra-generic aluminum casing, and they’re all sold by companies with names that look like they were taken from random CAPTCHAs.
But they don’t necessarily look like scams, and some even look legitimate if you’re not paying attention. For one thing, they’re mostly listed as “shipping from” Amazon. This label is supposed to inspire buyer security, because it means the product ships directly from Amazon’s warehouse. In other words, you can rest assured that Amazon has the product. Unfortunately, that’s all it means — Amazon may be technically in possession of this product, but it clearly takes no responsibility for what it is (or, rather, isn’t).
Another thing that makes these listings look more legitimate is their ratings — most have decent star ratings with reviews in the double digits. If something has a poor star rating but hundreds of reviews, it looks less like a total scam and more like a cheap, crappy product (which a lot of people are willing to accept).
But if you actually look at the reviews, it gets suspicious. Many of them are clearly not about the listing — in the reviews I looked at for these SSDs, I saw people talking about everything from blankets to bracelets to webcams and home decor.
This is the result of unscrupulous sellers abusing Amazon’s review merging feature: Amazon lets sellers update listings with new products while keeping the existing listing’s reviews. This is supposed to be so that sellers can add variations to a product page — new colors, sizes, or maybe even a small upgrade, so long as it’s essentially the same product. The reviews are allowed to stay up because it makes sense that a review of, for example, a red shirt, would still be useful for someone looking at the same shirt in a different color.
You’re not supposed to update a product page with a totally different product, but you can. Sellers build up review cred on a product listing page and capitalize on that page’s star rating and review count by constantly swapping in random products. Even though the inconsistency usually becomes obvious with enough reviews, it’s not that obvious — remember, Amazon buyers can give items a star rating without writing a review, and they also aren’t necessarily the most in-depth reviewers. A lot of reviews are very short and/or generic (e.g. “great color” or “loved it”) — on some of these scammy SSDs, I had to dig through a page or two before I found reviews that were obviously talking about a different product.
This type of scammy “review merging” is, of course, against Amazon’s policy, but these sellers don’t care and Amazon can’t seem to shut them down fast enough. These 16TB SSDs have been around for a while: Colif on our own Tom’s Hardware forums pointed out several of these scammy listings in Aug. 2022, and TechRadar noticed the trend in Nov. 2022 during Black Friday. Amazon has since taken down those listings, as well as the listing for the product ReviewGeek purchased.
Amazon also responded to ReviewGeek’s recent teardown with a statement detailing their policy on review merging:
“We do not allow product listings to be taken over or incorrect information to be listed, and we have zero tolerance for fake reviews. We have clear policies that prohibit reviews abuse, and we suspend, ban, and take legal action against those who violate these policies and remove inauthentic reviews. The items in question did violate our policies and they have been removed.”
Except I just searched for 16TB SSDs on Amazon again and eight of the first 10 results are scams.
Since Amazon can’t figure out how to fix this, make sure you dig a little deeper before impulse-buying storage (if the price makes you want to impulse-buy, that might be a sign). Read the reviews and don’t trust Amazon, because they’ll ship anything from their warehouses.
If you read all of this and you really do want a portable, external 16TB SSD, you can find one on our list of best external SSDs and hard drives. The 16TB Sabrent Rocket XTRM-Q has RAID capability and sequential read speeds of up to 1.4GBps (2.8GBps over Thunderbolt 3). It normally retails for just under $3,000, but is currently on sale for $2,400 at Amazon (opens in new tab).