I was recently asked to test drive a rugged SSD, the SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD. As a video editor, my first thought was that while I know how I’d evaluate this type of product, it didn’t make sense for me to test it. When I use storage, I look for something big enough to store all of my working files, and I usually don’t need portability.
On the day I was about to respond with a polite “No,” a courier dropped off a drive for my next project. The drive contained about a terabyte of footage from a shoot—footage I’d have to ingest. Nothing unusual about that, but the drive was old. It was obviously from the production company’s stock of old drives, reused across many projects.
And by old, I mean that it had Firewire 800 and USB 2.0. connections. I have received more modern drives from this company in the past, but this one must have been on the bottom shelf. Did I say it was old?
What does this have to do with testing a portable SSD? If I ingested 1 TB over USB 2.0, it would take hours (about 4.5 hours). If I could get on an older computer with Firewire 800, I could get it down to a little over 3 hours. So, almost half a day before I’d be able to start editing.
That got me thinking not only about my time but also about time on the set for the DIT or data wrangler. Is recycling old drives really efficient? What if newer, faster and more reliable storage is used? Now, putting a portable SSD through its paces became more interesting. So instead of saying “No,” I said “Yes.”
So that was a long way to get to the drive—a SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD. It comes in 500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB sizes. I tested out the 1 TB.
Physically, the drive is small—a little over 4 inches long, 2 inches wide and a .5inches thick—not the smallest, but a size that’s easy for me to handle. The frame is aluminum, which doubles as structural support and, as with most SSDs, helps dissipate heat. Layered on the frame is a rubber coating that’s easy to grip.
I don’t purchase a lot of portable drives because production companies usually deliver footage to me on their own drives. It’s surprising how they arrive. Some are in their original packaging, some in half the original packaging (not much protection) and others are in canvas or paper bags. So, durability is something I look at.
The drive looks and feels solid and rugged. I’ll admit that I couldn’t resist the temptation to drop it on the floor a couple of times and even gave it a few tosses outside. It’s rated IP55 for weather protection, which essentially means that while you can’t submerge or drop it in water, it should handle rain.
The SSD comes with both USB C and USB A cables so it can be used with either interface, but it really flies when connected to a USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. And speed is what brought me to this whole discussion. My read speed was 945 MB/s. The write speed was 917 MB/s. The published specification is 1050 MB/s.
Above, I said the “recycled” drive would take hours to transfer the footage before I could start editing. With the Extreme Pro’s speed, that same transfer would take under 20 minutes.
Obviously, trying to compare this drive to an “ancient” drive is extreme. That’s not something I purposely set out to do. The courier’s timing just made it happen. But the comparison quickly demonstrated that sometimes the choices you make on where to spend money can end up affecting your project.