SanDisk iXpand

SanDisk iXpandYes, I concede; the iPhones and iPads are indeed great devices. However, they have one glaring chink in their armor — the lack of expandable storage. SanDisk is looking to remedy that with the iXpand thumbdrive, a simple-looking dual flash drive with USB 2.0 and Lightning interfaces. We find out if getting SanDisk’s Apple memory solution is better than begging the fruit company to create devices with microSD slots.

The iXpand is basically a wide, flattened USB thumbdrive measuring 64.17 x 36.78 x 11.80mm, making it easy to carry around in your bag or pocket. Its body is forged out of aluminum and is finished in black and silver making it as premium as the devices it is designed to accompany. Etched on its front, back, and top cap is the SanDisk and iXpand marques. Unlike other dual flash drives, the iXpand doesn’t have its USB 2.0 and Lightning connectors on either end. Rather, the USB 2.0 jack sits at the top snugly protected by a cap, and the Lightning cable sits below it in a groove. Don’t rip it all the way through though as only ¾ of it lifts off the body. Yes, I’ve tried forcing it but it’s too well put together. Overall, it looks very nice and is a far cry from the plastic-y stride of most USB OTG drives.Because current-generation iPhones and iPads don’t support the USB 3.0 interface, the iXpand’s PC connector is the older 2.0 kind (the 2000s called, it wants its standard back!). On the other end, you have the Lightning connector which is not compatible with older devices strutting the 30-pin dock connector.The sheer width of the device can be blamed on the built-in battery, a necessary add-on because the Lightning port can’t provide enough juice to power the iXpand. You’ll need to plug it in to a USB port every now and then to keep the battery topped up and ready for use. The device has an LED light on its right side which glows red when the thumbdrive needs charging.The iXpand also comes in various storage sizes, from 16GB to 128GB, so you can get the variant that fits your needs and budget.Though Apple’s camera and Retina display pretty much guarantee itchy trigger fingers and binge watching of TV series and movies, the iDevices (still) do not ship with a microSD card slot. That’s where the iXpand comes in.Our review unit was the 32GB variant charged out of the box so it was just a plug and play affair. Upon first use, you’ll get a prompt telling you to download the accompanying iXpand Sync app, an easy-to-use file manager with a couple of features including media playback, automatic camera sync, contact backup, and file security.Syncing was straightforward, with the app asking if you want to delete files that are already backed up so your device isn’t bogged down. File transfer speeds between the iXpand and iPad mini were decent enough for relatively small files, while PC and iXpand comms reaped below average USB 2.0 speeds.For those with a habit of misplacing their stuff, the iXpand comes with SanDisk’s Secure Access software so you can safely encrypt your files. It’s simple enough to use, only requiring a password for a locked folder containing the sensitive data you’d prefer to remain private.Though the OTG functions were straightforward enough, the app needs quite a lot of polishing. I experienced niggling crashes, as well as slow touch response when viewing and loading larger-thanaverage multimedia files. My other gripe is that the drive only supports the FAT32 file system, meaning it won’t be able to store individual files larger than 4GB. Formatting the iXpand to another file system such as NTFS immediately demoted it to a regular thumbdrive, with the iPad mini not recognizing it as a storage device.Through its flaws, the SanDisk iXpand stands tall as one of the few plug and play storage devices for Apple’s mobile lineup. Syncing files was simple and took only a few taps, as was encrypting them. And the app crashes? Future updates will likely take care of any hiccups in that department. Overall, if you’re sick of having to run to a computer just to free up some space on your iPhone or iPad, the iXpand thumbdrive will save you from your memory woes.

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