SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive review: Your iPad's best friend

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The Good The SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive instantly adds up to 128GB of storage space and it can work as a USB thumbdrive. Its iXpand Sync mobile app works very well both for media playback and content backup.

The Bad The drive can't hold files larger than 4GB and only supports USB 2.0.

The Bottom Line The SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive is a must-have accessory for those with a newer iPhone or iPad.

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7.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Support 6

The idea behind the SanDisk iXpand Flash drive is simple. Essentially a USB thumb drive that's equipped with a Lightning connector, it's all you need for an excellent storage expansion for your iPad (or iPhone).

In my testing, the iXpand proved extremely easy to use and worked flawlessly as intended. I could plug it into my computer using the standard USB connector, transfer data to it, attach it to my iPad Mini , and transfer the data again.

It does have a few shortcomings. Storage is limited (up to 64GB), it lacks support for USB 3.0 and the FAT32 file system has limited file size support. But the iXpand is still an easy recommendation because it's so cheap. In the US it costs just $60, $80 or $120, $192 for 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB respectively, while in the UK the same sizes will set you back £40, £60, £80, or £134. Australia only gets the 32GB and 64GB versions for AU$129 and AU$179, respectively. It's not only fun and convenient to use, but also makes a great gift these coming holidays.

For more storage expansion options for your mobile device, check out this list of best mobile drives on the market.

The iXpand Flash Drive is basically a regular thumbdrive with a Lightning connector. Dong Ngo/CNET

Simple yet affective design

In the world of storage expansion for the iPad, the iXpand is the first I've seen that uses the Lightning connector (the rest use Wi-Fi to transfer files). The Lightning connector brings a few advantages: it's much faster than going wireless, it's easier to use and much more reliable. There are a few trade-offs, however. Also, since you're using the Lighting port, you can't charge your iDevice at the same time.

Though the iXpand is conveniently small, keeping it that size means the amount of available storage won't be gargantuan. In this case, though, simplicity trumps capacity. It's preformatted in FAT32 so it will work right away with either a Windows or a Mac computer (just like any thumbdrive). On your iPad, you will need to download the iXpand Sync mobile app first. After that the app instantly recognizes the drive when you plug it in. Also in my testing, there was no connectivity lag at all and I could quickly find anything stored on the drive.

Al of those points give the iXpand a huge boost over Wi-Fi-based storage expanders that require you to connect the iPad to the specific Wi-Fi network and run the mobile app before it can retrieve information on the wireless drive.

The Lightning connector is flexible enough to connect to the iPad/iPhone from different angles. Dong Ngo/CNET

The iXpand Sync app is a cinch to use, despite the fact it doesn't automatically organize content into groups; it just displays the folder structure that you use on the drive. But since it's so responsive, finding things isn't a hassle at all. There's also a helpful search function in case you need to quickly jump to a file. The app also lets you select multiple files or folders. You then can perform a few tasks such as backing up, deleting or locking files with a password.

Excellent content support and stellar playback capability

With the iXpand Sync mobile app, the iXpand Flash Drive has the best content playback I've seen. For example, an entire high-def video file loaded immediately once I tapped on it. What's more, there was no lag or buffer time during the playback. You can thank the bandwidth of the Lightning connector for that.

Most importantly, the iXpand Sync app also supports virtually all video formats that I know of, including the rarely supported Matroska media container (MKV). The app even supports subtitles, including subtitles embedded within the media file. Playback support for other file types, including photos, music and documents is also excellent. I could view and play virtually all types of content with ease.

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