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SanDisk Extreme Portable Review: A Super-Fast Little SSD

The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD includes an USB-C cable and an USB-A adapter.
The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD includes a USB-C cable and a USB-A adapter. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is indeed quite extreme. First, it’s incredibly speedy and compact. Even faster more compact than the already super-fast and -small WD My Passport SSD, or the Samsung T5 for that matter.

And at an average cost of just $0.27 per gigabyte, it’s also more affordable. What’s more, the fact it’s pretty doesn’t hurt, either. So, to cut to the chase, my only complaint about the drive is its security software that’s a pain to use.

That said, If you’re looking for a fast, rugged little portable storage device that can carry lots of data on the go, this drive is an excellent buy. But if you also care about security, the WD My Passport SSD or the Samsung T5 is a better choice.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

8.8

Performance

10.0/10

Features

7.0/10

Design and Setup

9.0/10

Value

9.0/10

Pros

  • Super-fast performance, affordable pricing.
  • Pretty design, ultra-compact, water/dust resistance.
  • USB-C port with USB-C cable and USB-A adapter included
  • Compatible with Windows and Mac right out of the box

Cons

  • Security feature is a pain to use and doesn't work well.
  • Dust magnet, no larger capacity than 2TB.
  • The 3-year warranty is a bit short.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD: Compact and rugged design

It’s interesting that SanDisk, which is part of WD, released the Extreme Portable SSD just about the same time WD released its latest My Passport SSD. The two, in many ways, are direct competitors.

But first, let’s talk about what the SanDisk shares with the WD. Both are what portable drives are supposed to be: So compact; they are portable! You can easily slide the Extreme in your shorts’ pocket and forget about that. And if that means you’d put it through the washing machine, well, it can survive that, too. I forgot the WD drive exactly that away and now did that to the SanDisk drive on purpose, just for good measure.

It went through both our washer and dryer and still worked like new after. By the way, having a plastic case, SanDisk doesn’t retain fingerprints, but it does attract dirt quite a bit. And the wash made it all clean and shiny again.

Like the WD, the SanDisk drive is also rugged. Other than the water-resistant part, I tossed it around quite a bit and didn’t cause it any harm. In short, I can confirm that the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is one tough little drive. Still, don’t try what I did with it at home. You’re supposed to handle all storage devices with care.

The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is also extremely light. At a few ounces, it weighs so little that it comes with a hook for you to attach it to a key ring. Now it makes a nice little key-fob that can hold up to 2TB of storage space. Not bad at all!

READ MORE:  Here's Why You Probably Want a NAS Server, Too!

Terrible security feature

What is bad, however, is the security software SanDisk preloads on the drive.

The SanDisk Extreme SSD Portable doesn’t support hardware encryption. Instead, it uses the SanDisk SecureAccess software, which is a re-branded light version of EncryptStick, to create a secure folder named “SanDiskSecureAccess Vault.” Anything stored in that folder will require a password to view and hence kept safe. Well kind of.

The thing is the folder itself is accessible to anyone using Windows Explorer. Without using the software, you won’t be able to read your files — they appear gibberish — but you can delete them (!), effectively remove them from the vault. And you might feel inclined to do precisely that thinking they are temporary or trash data.

SanDisk SecureAccess software is a total pain to use.
SanDisk SecureAccess software is a total pain to use. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

What’s more, the software itself is a light (stripped down) version. You’ll be prompted to pay some $15 to upgrade if you want to use some of the features like synchronization.

The included features didn’t work very well in my trial, either. The backup, for example, once started will keep going until the end. There’s a Cancel button, but that didn’t do anything when I clicked on it. So if you have a large amount of data in the Vault, you’ll need to wait for the backup to finish. That can be annoying.

Even worse, during my trial, the software crashed quite regularly. So, if you choose to protect your data using SanDisk SecureAccess, you might have a hard time accessing your files in the first place. Having used the security feature of the WD My Passport SSD, I find the SanDisk SecureAccess a total joke.

And by the way, the SanDisk SecureAccess is not available for Mac users. In this case, that’s a good thing.

The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD next to the WD My Passport SSD.
The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD next to the WD My Passport SSD. Dong Ngo | Dong Knows Tech

Plug and play, easy to use

Out of the box, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is formatted in the exFAT file system. As a result, it will work with both Windows and Mac computers, interchangeably. The only time you’d need to reformat it is when you want to use it with Time Machine. Otherwise, exFAT is the way to go when it comes to portable drives.

The drive has one USB-C port and includes a short USB-C cable. There’s also a USB-A adapter piece that allows the drive to connect to any existing computer. Basically, out of the box, you can use the Extreme drive immediately no matter on what platform and how new or old your computer is.

Superior performance

What I like the most about the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD, also what sets it apart from the WD My Passport SSD is the performance. This little drive is speedy. Via a USB 3.1 Gen 2 connection, at more than 500 megabytes per second in reading, it took over the place of the WD drive to be the fastest single-volume SSD-based portable drive I’ve tested.

The drive also worked with USB 2.0 but, obviously at a much lower speed, topping at around 40MB/s, similar to the case of all fast, portable drives working in legacy mode.

Conclusion

Other than the lack of hardware encryption, the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is a stellar portable drive. It’s fast, rugged, compact and pretty. And did I mention it’s also quite affordable?

That said, this is an excellent portable drive for anyone, except those caring about guarding their data against loss or thief. In this case, I’d recommend the My Passport SSD or the Samsung T5, instead.

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About the Author: Dong Ngo

Before Dong Knows Tech, I spent some 18 years testing and reviewing gadgets at CNET.com. Technology is my passion and I do know it. | Follow me on Twitter, or Facebook!

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