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Hands-on review: SanDisk Extreme Pro portable SSD

12 Jan 2021

With the data CD’s day well behind us and replaced by the trusty flash drive, what do you do if you have a lot of data you want to keep on you, data you want to access quickly?

Portable hard drives have come a long way from the, really not-very-portable 3.5” drive encased in plastic, trailing a power supply unit. They are still handy for cheap external storage, but you wouldn’t want to lug it around with you. Pretty slow access as well, even via a USB 3.2 connection.

Then there are the more convenient 2.5” portable drives. Small and lighter, but still a regular laptop-sized traditional hard disk slapped inside a case. At least they don’t need a PSU. Just as slow as the 3.5” external drives, though.

Moving on, you have your regular portable solid-state drives. These drives are light and they are also pretty fast, but constrained by that USB connection.

But, if you want REALLY fast portable storage, you want to be looking at something like a Sandisk Extreme Pro.

The unassuming rubber-covered aluminium shell, just bigger than your palm, conceals the latest in SSD technology. That shell also affords the device some protection from knocks and drops. It’s also IP55 compliant, meaning that it’s dust and water-resistant. It’s not waterproof, though- but it can handle a few minutes of being wet as long as it is dried before being used. The unit feels solid, so it has some weight, but not much- just enough to make it feel like you are not going to be able to crush it in your hand.

Inside is a state-of-the-art NVMe SSD capable of up to 20 Gb/s data transfers. Whilst the box proudly states the potential 2000MB/s read and write speeds, right now, most will not see that at all.

The pack comes with two cables, a USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable and a more traditional USB Type-A to USB Type-C cable. The SSD has a USB Type-C port but can be used with USB 3.0 Type-A or USB 3.2 Type-C devices.

Plugging the Extreme Pro into my PC via the USB 3.2 Type-A port on the front of my PC I got a rather pedestrian 43MB/s read/write score. This is a far cry from the boasts on the box. And there’s a very good reason for that, which I will come to. 

Using the PC’s USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 port things started to pick up. The Extreme Pro gave me a read speed of 1059.95 MB/s and a write speed of 1032.92 MB/s. This is blisteringly fast, but still half the speed on the box.

Unfortunately, right now, around 1000MB/s is likely to be the best speed most people will get out of these devices. That is until the USB technology that all these ultra-fast NVMe rely on becomes common-place over the next year or so. 

Sandisk’s Extreme Pro uses USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 technology for optimal data transfer speeds. At this time, it is only a handful of top-end PC motherboards that support USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. I expect it to become the norm across laptops and PCs, though, and likely backwards compatible with the 40 Gb/s USB 4 whenever that comes along. 

Tech vendor, Gigabyte does, however, market a PCIe USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 expansion card that allows these fast storage devices to really fly. 

Plugging the Extreme Pro into a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 port netted me the reward that I wanted to see. The device managed an insane 2078.11 MB/s read and a 2087.99 MB/s write speed.: exactly what it says on the box. Of course, it’s no match for an internal NVMe drive which should see around 3000MB/s, but that’s a spectacular result for a portable, especially if you need to transfer a lot of data from a desktop quickly as you are going out the door.

I really can’t fault a company for producing a device faster than peoples’ equipment. But it is worth noting that the 2TB review sample that we tested is not likely to give you much change out of NZ$700. At that price, you really ought to be getting the best out of the device that you can. For most of us, right now, access is going to be via a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, at best, giving us 1000MB/s.

SanDisk Extreme Pro portable SSD is a robust and very fast storage solution that few will reap the full benefit of. As the USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (and, indeed, the USB 4) technology becomes more commonplace, the price of these devices will likely reduce. 

This premium portable storage product is probably a bit too extravagant for most people. But if time is money and you need the fastest, most robust portable storage solution the SanDisk Extreme Pro portable SSD absolutely delivers.