WD & SanDisk have launched a professional series of products aimed at content creators and others in need of reliable and high performance “out of the box” storage products.
The product line centers around their “PRO-Blade” system which incorporates NVME SSD drives encased in rugged metal “blades” that plug into various docking devices they are rolling out over the next few months.
SanDisk sent me their new Transport dock along with a few PRO-Blades free of charge for me to review. While I was pleased with the overall performance of the Transport dock, I thought it could have done a little better given the performance potential of the NVME blade system. This is because the Transport relies on USB 3.2 2×2 for its faster 20 gigabit mode.
As I noted on a few other recent reviews, Sandisk and WD have been shipping portable SSDs that rely on the USB 3.2 2×2 standard for the best performance. This can provide about double the data rate of a standard 10 gigabit per second USB 3.2 Gen 2 connection. The problem is that very few PC manufacturers actually support the USB 2×2 standard. 2×2 is not required as part of the USB specification and most PC manufacturers don’t implement it.
PCs that do have higher speed options usually rely on Thunderbolt or the new Thunderbolt derived USB 4 20 gigabit option (which is different than 2×2 20 gigabit).
You can learn more about USB confusion in this video I made on the topic a little while back.
I thought the decision to have this professional-grade device also require 2×2 for the best performance vs. Thunderbolt was short sighted as most higher end PCs have Thunderbolt ports available these days. Even stranger is that the PRO-blades are formatted for the Mac which are all Thunderbolt equipped yet lack 2×2 support.
As you’ll see in the review the Transport with a PRO-blade inserted will perform better than most external SSDs but only marginally so. Had they opted for a faster interface these blades would vastly outperform most portable SSDs on the market.
The good news is that Sandisk does have a compact Thunderbolt-based docking station on the way that can accommodate four of these blades simultaneously. That’s where I think the value of this new platform will really start to shine.