SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive Review: Smaller, Faster Storage for iPad or iPhone

by Reads (15,479)
  • Pros

    • Very portable
    • Videos and music can be played from the drive
    • Pictures and video can be recorded straight to the drive
    • Images and video can be easily moved off the tablet/phone to save space
  • Cons

    • No landscape/horizontal support
    • Only images and videos can be transferred to the drive

Quick Take

The second-generation SanDisk iXpand is well built and very portable. Its associated software is generally functional, but it's better suited to phones than tablets.

Last year, SanDisk introduced the original iXpand Flash Drive as additional storage for Apple tablets and phones. The company has now released a new version with a slimmer design, new software, and faster transfer speeds.

The second generation iXpand is available now in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB capacities, with prices starting at $49.99.

Build and Design

This accessory is shaped like a regular USB drive with a loop attached. One end is a full-size USB Type-A jack that can be plugged into laptops and desktops, and the other curves around to a lightning jack for iPad and iPhone. This end is slightly flexible to work around any added thickness from phone and tablet cases.

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive Review

Second-Gen SanDisk iXpand

The shape gives the more delicate lightning jack some protection, but leaves the USB jack exposed.

The look is very functional, with the new iXpand made of aluminum and dark-grey plastic. At 1.4 x 0.5 x 0.4 inches, it fits easily in pocket, purse or gear bag. It feels rugged enough to be able to take on daily use.

The second-generation model is considerably smaller than SanDisk’s first-gen version.


When plugged into a Windows or OS X computer, the iXpand functions like a standard flash drive, so the contents can be accessed with any file manager.

The latest version supports USB 3.0, giving it significantly faster transfer speeds than USB 2.0 drives like the original iXpand. We tested SanDisk’s newest with USB Flash Benchmark and found that it had an average read speed of 87.2 MB/s when transferring a 16GB file, and an ave. write speed of 45.8MB/s.

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive Review

For comparison, the Lexar JumpDrive C20i, a similar iOS accessory, had an average read speed of 87.3 MB/s and a write speed of 30.3MB/s on the same test.

Everything works quite differently when this flash drive is connected to an iPad or iPhone, as a free application called SanDisk iXpand Drive is required to act as a file manager.

There’s no iOS benchmarking software for removable drives, but when we tested this drive with an iPad Pro and a 100MB file we got a rear speed of roughly 16MB/s and a write speed of about 8MB/s.

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive Review

iXpand Drive App Homescreen

The homescreen of the iXpand Drive app is consumer friendly, with a black, red, and white theme. Near the top is large graphical representation of how much free space is left on the iPad/iPhone, as well as how much storage is available on the flash drive. Below this is a button to copy files to and from SanDisk’s accessory, another to view files stored on the external drive, and a third button to store on the drive backups of images and other data from the iOS device.

When copying files to the iXpand, users are shown a selectable grid of all the images and pictures on the tablet or phone, then asked where on the external drive they want these moved to. Once they have been copied, the user is asked if they want to delete these files off the iDevice to save space. Copying files from the iPad/iPhone to the iXpand works in a very similar way.

Viewing or playing files stored on SanDisk’s removable drive is an equally important function, because it allows the user to carry a large collections of videos, MP3s, images, and other files without taking up space on the iPad or iPhone. The image viewer supports slideshows, the music player offers shuffle mode, and the video player includes landscape and portrait modes.

There’s also a traditional file viewer for looking at the contents of Office documents, PDFs, etc., which can also be used to copy, move, rename, or delete files off the drive. These files can be opened in other iOS applications, so a .DOCX can be transferred to Microsoft Word. However, the reverse is not true; only images and videos can be transferred to the flash drive.

The iXpand Drive software can automatically make backups of all pictures and address book contacts stored on the iOS device, and then easily restore them if something happens to the tablet or phone. In addition, the application can make a copy of all the images the user has uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, and other social networking services.

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive Review

iXpand Drive File Manager

Users can lock files with 128-bit AES encryption. This feature is somewhat limited because all encrypted files have to be stored in a single “SanDiskSecureAccessVault” folder, the entire contents of which have the same password. The iXpand comes with Windows and OS X applications that can access these files pre-installed, as long as the user has the password.

One of the best ways SanDisk’s accessory can save room on an iPad or iPhone is its ability to take pictures and record video straight to the flash drive. The app doesn’t have all the features of Apple’s default camera app, but it does have access to the front- and rear-facing shooters, there’s a timer, and the software can access the flash if the iDevice has one.

On the downside, it’s clear that iXpand Drive was written for phones and not tablets. Most notably, it supports only portrait orientation, which is quite inconvenient when using an iPad with a keyboard. In addition, many on-screen elements are either unusually large or unusually small on a 9.7- or 12.9-inch display.

This application is still very new and isn’t bug free. Plugging the flash drive in will automatically open this app, which then almost always locks up. This doesn’t happen when it’s opened manually.

SanDisk’s first-generation iXpand uses a different application that has most of these features, and it does support landscape mode.


SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive Review

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive

The second-generation SanDisk iXpand is well built and it’s very portable. Its associated software is generally functional, allowing the user to easily save space on their iPad or iPhone by moving images and video to the external drive, and it also makes a good way to store and play a collection of movies and music.

However, a lack of support for landscape mode will limit the usefulness of this accessory for some tablet users.


The 16GB version of the new iXpand has a suggested price of $49.99, the 32GB version is $69.99, the 64GB one is $89.99, and the 128GB model is $129.99. These prices are significantly higher than regular USB drives, but those can’t be used with an iOS tablet or phone.

For a more direct comparison, Lexar charges $41.99 for the 16GB version of the aforementioned JumpDrive C20i, $61.99 for the 32GB one, $95.99 for the 64GB version, and $136 for the 128GB one. This indicates that SanDisk’s latest offering is reasonably priced.



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