SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD (2020) Review: A Worthy Upgrade

SanDisk Extreme
The 2020 SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD has twice the speed of the previous model.

The 2020 SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is a clear improvement over the previous 2018 model. While sharing the same name and design, on the inside, it’s a new drive entirely with more features and much faster performance.

Considering the drive’s support for USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps), which is getting more and more popular, the new Extreme is an excellent fit for almost anyone. In fact, at the suggested retail price of some $120 or $179 for 500GB or 1TB, respectively, it’s a better deal than the 2019 Extreme PRO version that’s slightly larger and more expensive.

(There’s a 2TB version that’s slated to be available later this year.)

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

$169.99
8.9

Performance

8.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Design and Setup

9.5/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Fast NVMe-based performance
  • Compact, yet rugged and beautiful design
  • Excellent security feature with built-in hardware encryption
  • Android support

Cons

  • No support for USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
  • Runs a bit hot

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD of 2020: A tad bigger and much better

You can’t look at the new SanDisk Extreme (version 2020) without thinking of the previous model that came out in 2018. The two looks almost the same, when placed far a part, that is.

SanDisk Extreme 2018 vs 2020
The SanDisk Extreme 2020 is slightly larger than the 2018 version.

Putting them next to each other, you’ll note that the new one is a tag larger physically, making it slightly less compact.

But the extra bulk is totally worth it. The drive is still super-compact anyway, and light, too, weighing in at a mere 3 ounces.

Hardware specification: SanDisk Extreme 2020 vs. 2018

Same design and ruggedness, now with improvements

As you can see in the table above, the 2020 SanDisk Extreme comes with similar ruggedness as the previous model. WD says it can handle shocks of up to 1500G and is IP55-rated water-resistant.

I tossed it around quite a bit and put in in the bathtub for a couple of hours and it survived intact.

While physically very similar to its older cousin, the new SanDisk Extreme does have some changes. It nows comes with smoother edges. But the skin is the same, which retains dirt and smudges quite easily. You’ll overlook that fast, though, considering the following improvements.

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NVMe storage, now with hardware encryption

First of all, the 2020 SanDisk Extreme uses an NVMe SSD on the inside, as opposed to a SATA drive of the 2018 version. As a result, it can deliver much faster performance.

Equally significant is that the new drive now features built-in 256-bit AES hardware encryption, similar to that of the WD My Passport SSD.

SanDisk Security Extreme 2020
The SanDisk Security works with the SanDisk Extreme 2020’s hardware encryption to protect the content it stores.

Excellent SanDisk Security utility

Out of the box, the 2020 Extreme Portable SSD comes with the exFAT file system. It’ll work right away with Mac or Windows machine.

On the drive, you’ll note the installer of the SanDisk Security software for both platforms. Once installed, you’ll have the option to password protect the content of the drive.

A couple of things to note here:

  • The SanDisk Security is actually a rebranded WD Security used for the WD My Passport SSD. It works exactly the same. You need it to create or remove a password for the Extreme.
  • Once you’ve turned on the password, make sure you don’t forget it. Else, you’ll lose access to the data permanently.
  • If you plug a password-protected Extreme into a computer without the WD Security installed, the drive now appears as a read-only volume with a little application called “SanDisk Unlocker”. Run this app and you’ll be able to enter the password to unlock it.

Overall, like the case of the My Passport SSD, the SanDisk Security worked well in my testing. Among other things, it’ll give users a sense of security, without too much extra nuisance.

SanDisk Extreme 2020 Android
The SanDisk Extreme 2020 works well with Android devices, though you might need to format it into FAT32.

Android support

What’s really cool is the support for Android. Indeed, you can use the 2020 SanDisk extreme with (most of) Android phone and tablet.

I tried it with my Pixel 3 XL and it worked. I did have to reformat the drive into FAT32, however. After that, I was able to copy and data back and forth from my phone. That’s quite handy in case you need to quickly backup a large number of videos or photos.

2020 SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD’s detail photos

SanDisk Extreme 2020 2
The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD’s retail box.

SanDisk Extreme 2020 1
Formatted in exFAT and with the include USB-C cable and USB-A adapter, the SanDisk Extreme is ready to work right out of the box.

SanDisk Extreme 2020 4
The 2020 SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is tiny and super-thin.

SanDisk Extreme 2020 5
The drive has one USB-C port for both data and power connections.

SanDisk Extreme 2020 6
The 2020 SanDisk Extreme feels solid in the hand but it can attract dirt and retain smudges easily.

2020 SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD: New-found speed

The new SanDisk Extreme kicked it out of the park in performance compared with the previous model. That’s mostly thanks to its internal NVMe SSD.

SanDisk Extreme 2020 Speed

In tests via USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps), the drive delivered the sustained copy speeds of some 810MB/s and 565MB/s for reading and writing. It did well via USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps), too, averaging over 650MB/s and almost 525 MB/s, respectively.

In all, the new drive had some 35 percent performance improvement compared with the previous model. The drive works with USB 2.0, too, by the way, and in my trial, it averaged about 40MB/s.

By the way, similar to the case of the My Passport SSD, the new SanDisk Extreme ran a bit hot in my testing, though not hot enough to raise any alarm. It seems that’s now the common case of NVMe-based portable SSDs.

Conclusion

The new 2020 SanDisk Extreme virtually maxes out the sustained speed of the USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps). While you’ll find faster portable SSD on the market, especially those support USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20Gbps), all things considered, this new portable SSD is a totally an excellent upgrade to the previous model.

Get one and you won’t regret it!

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