SanDisk iXpand 16GB USB 3.0/Lightning Flash Drive Review

SanDisk iXpand!

SanDisk is no stranger to mobile storage. The company started with SD cards for much older mobile handsets and for digital cameras, then trickled down to MicroSD cards. The main issue with Apple iPhones is the annoying inability of not having an expandable storage like most of the Android-enabled devices. Apple also uses lightning connectors and hence the problem not having the ability to use existing micro USB or the new Type-C USB 3.0 connector.

SanDisk iXpand has two storage interface on the iXpand to bridge between a PC and iOS device- USB 3.0 on one end and lightning port on the other. This way it not only makes an easy-to-swap storage but also a good way to transfer a certain amount of information between your PC and your iOS devices. Since its USB 3.0 interface, its a much quicker variant compared to the previous iXPand USB 2.0 storage drive. There are two main upgrades that the 2016 variant has over the 2014 variant- USB 2.0 and a much better design, though. It’s a design that works the way it should.

Packaging and Specification

The packaging is good enough for such compact flash drives. The product is pretty much explanatory at this point.

Dimensions 13 X 17 X 59mm
Weight 5.4g
Operating temperature 0-35 °C functional
Supported Video Formats wmv, avi, mkv, mp4, and mov. DRM-protected content cannot be streamed. Check with the content provider for playback restrictions.
Compatibility Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Chrome OS, Mac OS X v10.8 and higher
Warranty 2-years limited warranty
Microsoft ExFAT Support US 128GB; Japan 64GB and 128GB

The iXpand is designed in a way it clips on the iOS devices such as the iPhones and the iPads externally, yet it tries to blend in as much as possible and judging by the images of its predecessor it does a better job at it. It’s a more compact design. The second generation iXpand works with any OS except with Android and has storage variants of 16GB, 32 GB, 64 and 128GB. The curved area is flexible rubber with a full metal USB 3.0 Type-A and lightning on the other end. Once you plug the lightning connect on your iOS device, the rest of the flash drive is wrapped behind the device. The 128GB variant carries the same design, hence connecting to the iOS devices or on the system carries a slim design. You should note that some USB drive’s casing has a larger width compared to the USB port.

In the APAC region, this drive supports two-years warranty.

File Format Compatibility

Keep in mind about the storage format compatibility. Typically most of the users would expect and assume that all flash drives irrespective of the device will support FAT32, exFAT and NTFS. You can format the drive to the following formats, but SanDisk cannot assure its compatibility with exFAT except the 128GB variant. Note that FAT32 does not allow you to transfer file data greater than 4GB. It’s a hard limit 32bit type format and not software restricted. exFAT is a 64bit storage format. If you plan on switching between any of them, you will need to format and hence lose all the data. Apple started exFAT support since Mac OSX 10.6.5 back in 2010.

SanDisk mentions that its iXpand 128GB USB 3.0 is factory formatted as exFAT while the variants between 16-64GB support FAT32. SanDisk did not say the storage variants between 16GB/ 32GB/ 64GB cannot be re-formatted to exFAT. They just can’t assure its compatibility after reformatting.  Take SanDisk’s word for it. They’ve made all these improved that in a way it’s a worthy add-on, except being unsure about format compatibility.

That said, we can check if I run into issues at least on the Windows 10 system. I ran Anvil benchmark using the drive to host the software on my Windows 10 system. This way I can know if using the non-supported format would create an issue. There were no issues when using it on the PC. At this point, I’ll have to give a disclaimer that I do not have an iPad or iPhone to thoroughly test out the exFAT compatibility. If you are planning on having this as a means to transfer >4GB video clip to your or other devices, you should take a look at the 128GB variant. But it would discourage people to get a lower cost and storage variant. This is probably the only time I had to write so much about a storage format. The previous generation has the same restriction. Many would agree that SanDisk could have made an extra effort to ensure exFAT support across all the storage variants.

If you are planning on having this as a means to transfer >4GB video clip to your or other devices, you should take a look at the 128GB variant. But it would discourage people to get a lower cost and storage variant. This is probably the only time I had to write so much about a storage format for any type of storage drive. The previous generation has the same restriction. Many would agree that SanDisk could have made an extra effort to ensure exFAT support across all the storage variants. Going the extra mile would have appreciated by a set of people who will transfer single files exceeding 4GB.

This would affect you mostly with large high definition video files, one of the purposes of getting such type of storage drive for a device that does not provide any microSD card expansion. But for practically almost all images and audio/music file size it shouldn’t be an issue. The recommended format is not mentioned in the package so that’s something SanDisk should add.

Once you connect the iXpand to the iOS device, it prompts you to install its newly re-designed interface. The main feature is the media backup and TouchID encryption.

Benchmark Results

How fast is this drive? I ran some benchmarks after stress testing the drive with exFAT format. The SanDisk iXpand 16GB is also compared with other Type-A USB 3.0 drives.

[restabs alignment=”osc-tabs-center” responsive=”false”]
[restab title=”Read Test” active=”active”]SanDisk iXpand 16GB ATTO Write
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[restab title=”Write Test”]SanDisk iXpand 16GB ATTO Write[/restab][/restabs]

As per ATTO Benchmark, the read and write transfer speed between 1MB to 64MB is very consistent, with maximum read speed as 75.829 MB/s and maximum write speed as 53.47 MB/s.

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[restab title=”Read Test” active=”active”]SanDisk iXpand 16GB CDM Read[/restab]
[restab title=”Write Test”]SanDisk iXpand 16GB CDM Write[/restab][/restabs]

The sequential transfer speed on the CrystalDisk mark confirms similar observations with ATTO Benchmark.

The Data transfer between a single 11.3GB ISO file, 1.34GB assorted images folder and a 1.28GB zip file are quick enough. While this isn’t a ground-breaking transfer speed that USB 3.0 can provide compared to high-performance eight-channel type memory restricted to Type-A (for now), the performance is better than low-cost Type-A only USB 3.0 drives.

Compared to the Kingston DT Mini 128GB, the iXpand is much quicker with write and copy transfers for uncompressed file transfers. Compressed files like the ISO and ZIP is the slowest compared to the drives tested here. However, seeing that it’s made for iOS devices, with the exception of certain compressed file transfer the uncompressed file transfer is pretty quick. This translates to good enough assorted media transfers. Fair enough.

Conclusion

For its use, the SanDisk iXpand USB 3.0 is a couple of steps better than its predator- from design and transfer speed. The design is well-thought and it comes with a two-year warranty. As said before, SanDisk’s assurance of exFAT working on 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variants would have been nice.

Then comes with another issue of pricing. While the design its compact, the pricing isn’t exactly appealing. You get OTG Type-A USB cables with a swapable USB Type-C+ Lightning  adapter on the other end. This enables people to use it with any USB flash drives. Most people who prefer to McGyver out of this will simply use a generic file explorer.

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