I want to get Thunderbolt speeds for my M1 Mac Mini for a low price, but it's confusing. If I buy a fast external drive, I may get slow speed because of low power. If I buy a powered thunderbolt 3 hub, I can get faster speed, but all the powered hubs sold on Amazon have people complaining that their ports were fried by those hubs. Is there a safe hub? Is there a powered drive that doesn't cost the moon? What's the solution?
There is no necessity for a Thunderbolt drive to require a hub between it and the computer.
There'a also some possible confusion between "Thunderbolt drives" and "USB-C drives", as both use the same port/connector. Most portable drives that do not require a separate power supply are likely to be USB-C, rather than TB.
True Thunderbolt drives are likely to be larger units, such as RAID systems, that have their own power supply.
There have been reports of cheap USB-C hub that have a power supply coming in causing problems with M1 Macs. But this relates to charging Macs with batteries, and so does not affect a Mini.
There have also been problems reported with the connection speed of external drives on M1 Macs. https://eclecticlight.co/2022/04/18/m1-thunderbolt-ports-dont-fully-support-usb-3-1-gen-2/
This may not be enough information to remove all confusion. I would also ask what you plan to use the drive for, and whether high speeds are essential.