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SanDisk's Extreme Portable 1 TB SSD reviewed

External storage as extreme as you are

Howdy, gerbils. Nvidia and its legion of board partners may doing their best to distract you with some newfangled foolishness, but we all know the real reason you're here: solid-state storage. In particular, the kind you can put in your pocket.

Last year we reviewed external SSDs from Adata and Samsung and found them quite delightful. Manufacturers may go overboard with romanticized visions of surfers and mountain climbers pursuing their passions while drives dangle perilously from board shorts and carabiners, but the fact remains that these brands are very good at putting together potent portables in compact and attractive form factors. Anyone weary of the languid transfer speeds and shoddy construction of the average thumb drive would be well served to splurge on a portable SSD.

On today's menu is SanDisk's Extreme Portable 1 TB, the company's latest ruggedized external. Have a look.

The Extreme Portable is a smart-looking 2" x 3.8" x 0.4" (49.5 x 96.5 x 8.8 mm) slab with gently rounded corners and a red-on-black motif. Though at only 1.37 ounces the drive is feather-light in the hand, the grippiness of its textured plastic gives it a satisfying, premium feel. The fancy enclosure is good for an IP55 rating. IP55 translates to some resistance to dust and fairly robust protection from water sprays, although it doesn't protect against outright submersion. The Extreme Portable  supports USB 3.1 Gen 2 and its 10-Gbps transfer rates over the bundled Type-C cable. SanDisk thoughtfully includes a Type-C to Type-A adapter as well, for those of us still rocking machines from yesteryear.

After some head-scratching I managed to prise off the top and peer into the innards, only to be greeted by a PCB completely swathed in black tape. Some cautious poking and scratching led me to two realizations. First, that tape disguises a copper film layer, presumably for heat-dissipation purposes. Second, that there was no way I'd be able to cleanly remove all the layers of wrapping for worthwhile internal photos. You'll have to do without those this time around. But since SanDisk has kept mum about the Extreme Portable's composite parts, I peeled away just enough of a corner to discern what the important bits are.

The controller is Marvell's 88SS1074, which we've seen before in Crucial's MX300. The NAND is the SanDisk-Toshiba partnership's now-ubiquitous 64-layer BiCS TLC flash, which recently dazzled us in the WD Black NVMe. That combination means that the Extreme Portable is essentially a WD Blue M.2 strapped to a USB bridge controller and and packaged up nicely.

The intrepid Extreme Portable is available for $270 at Newegg for the 1-TB model we tested. SanDisk also offers the drive in capacities of 250 GB, 500 GB, and 2 TB for those who need more or less NAND. Apart from the drive itself, your money buys you a three year warranty and access to SanDisk's Secure Access, a barebones-but-functional utility that comes preloaded on the drive and is available online. As you might have guessed, Secure Access grants access to the drive's 128-bit AES encryption features.

Before settling in to testing, it would be remiss to not link SanDisk's marketing video. It's less over-the-top than some we've seen, depicting a relatively tame and plausible use case: transferring photos off of a camera while on a hike. Enjoy the soothing spa music.

Now, on to the testing.