SanDisk iXpand Base Review: Easy iPhone and iPad Image Backups

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  • Pros

    • Attractive, professional appearance
    • Easy setup
    • Secure
    • Uses no wireless bandwidth
  • Cons

    • Doesn’t include a Lightning cable
    • Only backs up images, videos, and contacts
    • Can’t automatically delete images after backup

Quick Take

This desktop accessory makes backups of all images, videos, and contacts on an iPhone or iPad, all the while using no bandwidth and never transmitting anything over the Internet.

You need to charge your iPhone and/or iPad every night, and now you can simultaneously back up your photos onto the SanDisk iXpand Base. This desktop accessory, which starts at $49.99, automatically copies all images stored on an iOS device whenever it’s plugged in and charging. A backup of the address book is made at the same time.

SanDisk iXpand Base Build and Design

SanDisk iXpand Base

iXpand Base with Lightning Cable

The iXpand Base is 4.0 by 4.2 by 1.0 inches, so it doesn’t take up much room on your desk. The top is rubberized and slightly angled so it can hold the phone while recharging. It weighs 0.4 pounds, but that’s irrelevant because it isn’t meant to be carried anywhere.

SanDisk’s accessories are generally very professional looking, and this one runs true to form. The rubberized top has a pleasing hexagonal pattern on it, and the metallic ring around the outside edge makes a nice contrast. It would look right sitting on any  executive’s desk.
The texture of the iXpand Base keeps the iPhone from sliding off, especially as the device is held at a fairly shallow angle. It’s quite large enough for any Apple phone, and even an iPad mini. However, larger iPads will probably need to sit next to this accessory when being backed up and charged.

Ports

SanDisk iXpand Base

iXpand Base micro-USB and SD Reader

On the back of the iXpand Base is a full-size SD card reader.  SanDisk sells versions of this peripheral from 32GB to 256GB, and the only difference between them is the capacity of the SD card that comes bundled with this product.

Next to the card reader is a micro-USB port to power the Base. SanDisk bundles the necessary power supply for this, including a 6-foot cable.

A full-size USB Type-A port is underneath this accessory, placed so that the user doesn’t have to see it. This port is where the user’s own Lightning cable is plugged in, because the iXpand Base doesn’t have one built in, unfortunately.

The user plugs their iPhone/iPad charging cable into this port, then wraps it around this accessory, with the cable fitting into a deep groove that goes around all four sides. The result of this somewhat complex arrangement is that most of the Lightning cable is hidden, with just a few inches projecting out of a slot on the front of the Base, where it can be plugged into the iOS device.

SanDisk iXpand Base

iXpand Base’s Hidden USB Port

SanDisk iXpand Base

iXpand Base with Lightning cable

SanDisk iXpand Base Performance

Plugging an iPhone or iPad into this accessory will automatically cause it to copy all images, videos, and contacts from the iOS device onto the SD card. This requires a free application from SanDisk, but the user will be prompted to install this the first time the tablet or phone is connected to the accessory.

SanDisk iXpand Base

iXpand Base Homescreen

As the iXpand Base really only does one thing, setting it up is a snap. It doesn’t ask if you want to backup your photos and contacts, because if you don’t then you shouldn’t buy this accessory in the first place. The application–logically called iXpand Base–does have to ask for permission to access these items on the iOS device, though.

It’s possible to use the iXpand Base to backup the contents of both an iPhone and an iPad, or any combination of phones or tablets. The images and data are stored in separate folders on the SD card.

SanDisk’s application can be used to view the images and videos once they are stored on the SD card, or they can be emailed or texted from there. They can also be accessed by removing the SD card from the Base and inserting it into another computer, though the files come with long, unwieldy names. However, images and videos can’t be viewed from another iOS device with access to the Base.
Restoring all images etc. to the iPhone or tablet can be done with the press of a button or two.

Apple iCloud vs. iXpand Base

The most critical thing to remember about the iXpand Base is that it only backs up images, videos, and contacts. Making a full backup of everything else requires either Apple iCloud or iTunes. A complete backup is very important if the iOS device is lost or stolen.  That said, this accessory removes the need to backup images and video to iCloud, which uses up a lot of bandwidth.

SanDisk iXpand Base

iXpand Base Settings

An advantage of SanDisk’s product is that it can be used to offload images, saving space on the phone and/or tablet. Once an image or video has been copied onto the SD card, it can be safely deleted from the iOS device. In contrast, deleting an image from the device also deletes it from iCloud.

The iXpand Base software includes the option to bulk delete photos and videos once they have been backed up. However, this feature — labeled “Free Up Space” — is somewhat buried in menus, and can’t be set to happen automatically at the end of every backup, which would be more convenient.

SanDisk iXpand Base Final Thoughts

Apple puts great cameras in iPhone and iPad, and that can lead us to fill our devices with pictures. There are cloud backup services to upload these to, but these can take a chunk out of our precious monthly bandwidth allotment. Online services also aren’t always secure.

The iXpand Base, on the other hand, uses no bandwidth and doesn’t transmit your images or videos over the internet. All the while ensuring they don’t get lost.

SanDisk asks $49.99 for the 32 GB version of this accessory, $99.99 for the 64 GB variant, $129.99 for the 128 GB one, and $199.99 for the 256 GB model.

SanDisk iXpand Base

iXpand Base Side View

Another add-on that can make backups of images, videos, and contacts is the Lexar JumpDrive M20i, a flash drive with a Lightning connector. This isn’t as convenient though, and it tops out at 64 GB ($79.99). Some of the versions of the SanDisk iXpand Drive are less expensive than the iXpand Base; the 128 GB model is $94.99, for example.

Pros:

  • Attractive, professional appearance
  • Easy setup
  • Secure
  • Uses no wireless bandwidth

Cons:

  • Doesn’t include a Lightning cable
  • Only backs up images, videos, and contacts
  • Can’t automatically delete images after backup



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