Review: SanDisk iXpand™ Flash Drive

Review: SanDisk iXpand™ Flash Drive

Review: SanDisk iXpand™ Flash Drive

I evaluated the SanDisk iXpand™ Flash Drive several years ago. I found the original SanDisk iXpand a useful device, especially for travel. SanDisk recently sent me an eval unit of the new version. The smaller device doesn’t require a charge before use, but it still holds plenty of off-line video and audio for long plane rides. It does, however, require the SanDisk iXpand™ Drive app for access.

While iXpand offers backup, those paying Apple for iCloud space probably don’t need one for that purpose. If you take a lot of pictures in a remote area where backup may be some hours away, however, you may want to backup your images and video to an iXpand™ to protect them from loss until you get to a hotspot. The SandDisk iXpand also supports social media backup from Twitter and Facebook.

Unlike the previous version, the new iXpand doesn’t require a charge before use, but it will drain some life from the host iOS device battery. In actual use, I find the power use light.

What I like

The second-generation iXpand represents solid engineering improvements over its predecessor,  in several areas, most notably size, speed and the elimination of the need for charging before use.

Smaller. The first generation device ran 1.4 x 0.5 x 2.5 inches. The new device runs 2.3 x 0.66 x 0.5 inches. The new device weighs only .19 ounces compared to 3.52 ounces for the previous version.

Faster. The new drive supports USB 3.0 speeds.

No power required. Just plug the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive into the Apple Lightning port and access your files.

Direct memory. Allows for photos and videos to be saved directly on the iXpand drive.

Security. Supports password-protected directory with SanDiskSecureAccess Vault.

Compatible with Windows and Mac as file sources. Plays back a range of video formats including WMV, AVI, MKV, MP4, MOV, FLV, MPG, RMVB, M4V, TS.  Supports MP3, AIF, WAV, AIFF, M4A, WMA, AAC, OGG, FLAC audio files.  Version 4.3 of the software on iOS introduced the ability to stream via Chromecast or Amazon Fire. Facebook backup can target images you are tagged in. Also supports calendar backup and restore.

Investment. SanDisk/WD has made continuous investments in the app to support this device. Software fully supports iOS 12 and is much more stable than earlier versions. We have removed our concern about the build quality of the software from an earlier version of this review.

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive comparison
Comparison of first and second-generation SanDisk iXpand™ Flash Drives. The newer USB 3.0 version on top.

What I Don’t Like

Design. The tolerances prove tight, and that’s an issue. While I like the device when it isn’t attached to my iOS devices, when it is, it looks and acts awkward, especially when using a thicker case. It appears SanDisk designed for a naked iOS device, which is pretty rare in practice, especially for those who travel. The “springy” Lightning connector does offer some give, but the thicker the case, the more the device sticks out like a, well, sore thumb drive. Not a big issue in landscape mode, but intrusive in portrait mode.

exFat 32 format. While the standard format increases compatibility, it limits file size on the drive. I should have the option of giving up cross-platform compatibility for larger file size.

Not integrated well with iOS file system. Would like to see SanDisk work with Apple to make the iXpand true extra storage space. iXpand shows as an option in Files, but it only supports pushing the user to the iXpand Drive app when selected. Would be nice, for instance, to be able to move iCloud files to the drive when working offline.

File types not supported: AC3, DTS(Dolby). If you haven’t encoded your audio with one of the formats from the “What I like” section list, then you may experience video without sound.


The iXpand looks elegant in the box but doesn’t live up to that promise in real-world use. Buggy software and an awkward physical connection mare the elegance during use, but in the end, it still works well enough as auxiliary iOS storage.

I keep the new drive, and the previous version, in my little leather pouch designated for iPhone/iPad connectivity.

Like all flash-based drives, various cloud services, including Apple’s iCloud, are putting pressure on their relevance. Cloud storage makes everything accessible everywhere with near-instant sharing. Flash drives start moving to edge use cases and away from the mainstream. I use to make sure every file I needed for a trip on a flash drive. Now my physical storage devices only carry bigger media files. Every other file I need for the trip synchronizes automatically with one of my many cloud service providers. Bigger main storage on devices like my iPad means I can afford to designate it for offline storage of work files.

Prices for the second generation SanDisk iXpand range from $35.99 for the 32GB version to $149.99 for the 256GB version.

For an alternative see the Serious Insights review of the PhotoFast Lightning Card Reader.

Read the updated SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive Go here.

SanDisk/WD provided the drive for review.

Images courtesy of SanDisk/WD.

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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