Hardware Review: Transcend JetDrive Lite

The problem: 

  • Running out of storage space on MacBook Air (or MacBook Pro)

The scenario: 

I love my MacBook Air, but the problem with the drives in these thinner, sleeker computers is that the storage space is WAAAYYY less than their larger predecessors.  Even though I maxed out the specs when I bought the computer (256GB storage), within a year I was at capacity.  With an iTunes library of 50GB and a Photos library of 60GB, the simple solution was to move those items to an external drive, but that would mean either a) I would have to lug around another piece of hardware whenever I traveled with my laptop, or b) I would go music-less and photo-less whenever I took my laptop out of the house.  Fortunately, I found a third option: the Transcend JetDrive Lite Storage Expansion Card.

The solution:

I bought the Transcend JetDrive Lite 130 128GB Storage Expansion Card for MacBook Air 13″ from Amazon.com and in 30 seconds, I increased my computer’s storage by 50%.  My short review is — I wholeheartedly recommend it, although now I would buy the twice-as-large 256GB version (which wasn’t available back when I bought mine, and now I’m bummed because I’ve almost used up all the storage space on the first one).  Also, make sure to buy the correct version for your computer — Different year models of the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro have slightly different SD slots, so you’ll want to pick the one that’s right for your computer.  (If you don’t know the model or “year” of your computer, go to the Apple menu > About this Mac and in the “Overview” section, you’ll see something like “MacBook Air (13 inch, mid-2011)”)

The JetDrive is basically just an SD card (like pretty much all digital cameras use these days) but unlike a typical SD card, the JetDrive is physically shorter so that when inserted into a MacBook Air (or MacBook Pro, depending on the model you buy) it sits “flush” against the side of your device.  That way you never have to remove it from your computer for fear of it snapping off when putting it in a case or just moving it around.

SD Compare
JetDrive Lite (right) will fit into your laptop without sticking out like a larger, typical SD card (left).

If you bought an Apple laptop in the past 5 years, chances are that your computer is comparable with the JetDrive, all you need to look for is an SD slot on the side of the computer somewhere (NOTE: Apple’s new 2015 MacBook does not have this slot).

If your laptop has a hole like this, then JetDrive will likely work for you!
If your laptop has a hole like this, then JetDrive will likely work for you!

OK, so now that you know what a Transcend JetDrive is and if your computer can use it, here’s my review and how to set it up:

The great thing about the JetDrive is that its installation is as simple as plugging it in.  See my post about a couple things I recommend you do when you first set it up, but for the most part you just stick it in and you’re all set!

The problem you’ll run into with any SD storage solution is going to be speed.  It takes a lot longer to copy something to my JetDrive than it does to copy it to my internal hard drive.  I get an 8Mb write/ 32Mb read speed from my nearly full JetDrive (for comparison, my internal hard drive gets 240Mb write / 240Mb read speeds).  Because of this, I wouldn’t recommend storing video on the JetDrive as you may have some playback issues.  I use my drive to store my iTunes library and Photo libraries, and although there is a bit of a delay when launching the apps, using them works fine once they’re open.  I can’t really blame JetDrive for this limitation since a super-fast SD cards are insanely expensive, and nobody would probably buy their product.  For my money, they seem to have settled on a good price/speed compromise.

Before I ordered mine, I read every review I could on the product and I either misunderstood or got bad information on the product’s “flush” status against the side of my computer.  In my mind, “flush” for something like this means I can run my finger along the side of my computer, and the card won’t stick out at all.  Sadly that is not the case.  There is about a 1mm lip sticking out (although, there is no gap between the lip and the computer, which is perhaps why other reviews call this “flush”).  Although I was disappointed to discover this, it makes sense that it’s there (it would be very difficult to remove the card without it), and it hasn’t encumbered me or been snagged on anything yet (and I use a very tight laptop sleeve).

Still sticking out a tiny bit...
Still sticking out a tiny bit…

There are a couple other products out there that offer a similar solution.  Although I have not used them myself, I’ll explain here why I decided on the JetDrive instead of them after my online research.  If anyone has a positive or negative experience with these (or any other) alternatives, please leave a comment below!

Nifty MiniDrive –  This is basically a micro-SD holder that fits flush (actually flush though, as it seems) in your Mac laptop.  In addition to the Nifty MiniDrive, you will need to buy a microSD card to put in it in order to actually use the thing (it comes with a free 4GB card, but that amount of storage is a joke).  I didn’t go with this one because all-in (MiniDrive + miniSD card) the price was coming out to be more expensive than the JetDrive.  Plus, I feel like the fewer moving moving pieces, the less likely something will go wrong.

PNY StorEDGE – This functions almost exactly like the Transcend JetDrive and is comparable in price, but their product page offers almost no information about the exact Apple laptop models it will fit.  I was much more confident in Transcend JetDrive’s different products for specific computers.  Additionally, the PNY StorEdge has much more of an apparent lip to the card, and would likely be less flush than the JetDrive.

One additional note on these alternatives… it appears (at the time of this posting) that JetDrive is the only of these solutions that offers storage of 256GB, which is incredibly valuable if you’re looking to max out your laptop’s storage.  For that reason alone, I would choose it over the others.

Summary of my Review of the Transcend JetDrive Lite

The Good:

  • Inexpensive semi-permanent storage solution
  • Requires no tools or technical skill to install

The Bad:

  • Slow data speeds (although to be expected in any SD solution)
  • Not entirely “flush” against the computer

Consensus:

  • It’s a great product and I recommend it over the alternatives.  Buy the largest capacity available for your computer, it’s worth the additional cost (you’ll thank me in 2 years when it’s nearly full!)

Once you’ve bought one for yourself, learn how to customize the name and icon here where you can find the custom icon I made for my JetDrive that looks like the real thing:

JetDrive icon Makeover

 

-ITLM

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