Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 1TB Expansion Card 2022 REVIEW
The JetDrive Lite 330 is an amazing storage option for Mac users. It's easy to use and is very low maintenance. The price is comparable to other storage cards of similar capacity and speeds. The design of the product suffers a bit because the technology could stand to have an upgrade so that the transfer speeds are faster.
- EASE OF USE
JetDrive Lite keeps you from playing the hard drive shuffle game when you need more storage space.
One of the greatest concerns everyone always has is the amount of storage space they have on their computer. I know that it stresses me out. I’ve run into too many ‘out of space’ warnings in my life and of course, it’s usually right when you are in the middle of a big project. There have been countless times that I’ve had to play the hard drive shuffle to figure out what I can delete to free up some space.
Since it usually happens at the worst time, I rush through the process and I’m sure I’ve deleted things I wish I hadn’t. This is the reason I love the JetDrive from Transcend. This tiny piece of flash storage makes a big difference when it comes to total storage capacity on a laptop. I’ve had the opportunity to use one in the past and when Transcend announced the release of the 1TB JetDrive Lite 330, I jumped at the opportunity to add it to my system.
Let me back up for a second to paint the bigger picture. Last summer, I purchased a 2020 M1 MacBook Air. At the time, I didn’t have a laptop because I had traded in my 2018 MacBook Pro when I ordered an M1 MacMini. Shortly after I bought the MacBook Air, Apple announced the launch of the M1 MacBook Pros.
I upgraded to a 2021 MacBook Pro with M1 Max. I upgraded the storage to 4TB when I ordered it because I didn’t want to run the chance of running out of room since I work with large uncompressed video and photo files. With the purchase of this laptop, I welcomed the return of the SD card slot on my portable computer.
While this makes portable workflows for a photographer much easier, it also made it possible for me to add the Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 into my system – which gave me an additional 1TB of storage. It might be overkill, but I definitely have peace of mind because of it.
Transcend was founded in 1988 and its headquarters are in Taipei, Taiwan. The company’s main focus is to create digital storage and there are now 13 offices worldwide. Transcend designs, developers, manufacturers, and markets all of their products. Providing professional service is one of the company’s main tenets and they strive to adapt quickly to the market’s changing needs.
Transcend has over 2,000 products including memory models, flash memory cards, and USB flash drives. The goal with the wide variety of products is to satisfy any potential need a customer might have for storage. Transcend is dedicated to quality and implements the Total Quality Control concept throughout the company. It was the first memory module manufacturer in Taiwan — and the second in the world—to receive ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and QC080000 approval. According to the information found on Transcend’s website:
Every Transcend part produced is individually tested using their sophisticated testing equipment and customized testing software. Production staff undergoes intensive training to ensure that all products meet the company’s rigorous quality standards.
One of the things I really appreciate about Transcend is its dedication to creating upgrade solutions specifically for Apple products. There is an entire page on their site highlighting the items they offer for Mac users. The JetDrive Lite product line is part of that page.
About JetDrive Lite
The JetDrive Lite was originally released in 2014 and was specifically designed to work with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models at the time. At the time, two capacities were offered — 64GB and 128GB. In April of this year, Transcend announced the JetDrive Lite 330 — the newest product to join the lineup.
Currently, there are four different JetDrive Lite cards:
- JetDrive Lite 130 – Support MacBook Air 13″ Late 2010~2017
- JetDrive Lite 330 – Support MacBook Pro 14″ & 16″ 2021 and MacBook Pro (Retina)13″ Late 2012~Early 2015
- JetDrive Lite 350 – Support MacBook Pro (Retina)15″ Mid 2012~Early 2013
- JetDrive Lite 360 – Support MacBook Pro (Retina)15″ Late 2013~Mid 2015
- Designed specifically for Mac laptops
- Tailor-made to sit flush against the side of a MacBook Pro
- Up to 1TB of storage
- Ability to store RAW images, 4K videos, music, and more
- Features read speeds up to 95 Mbps and write speeds up to 75 Mbps
- Works with Transcend’s RecoverRx software (free) to recover lost data
- Manufactured with COB (chip-on-board) technology
- Five-year limited warranty
JetDrive Lite vs. SD Card
The JetDrive Lite looks a lot like an SD card, but it’s actually considered to be an expansion card. According to Transcend, there are differences between the two pieces of media but aside from their physical forms, it’s not clear what the technological differences are. Transcend has a web page that is meant to set the JetDrive Lite apart from SD cards, but it only says this:
- JetDrive Lite (JDL) is NOT an SD card.
- JDL can sit flush and seamless in the compatible MacBook models
- JDL uses MLC flash chips instead
The last bullet is the best clue, but SD cards will utilize MLC flash chips as well. Since Transcend did not provide enough information on their website to define exactly what type of card the JetDrive Lite is, I did a little additional investigating.
The first clue about the JetDrive Lite’s identity was its speed rating. An SD card is assigned a Speed Class that dictates what type of media it is best suited for. This class is broken into three types of speed indications on the SD card’s label:
- C – Speed Class
- U – UHS Speed Class
- V – Video Speed Class
The letter of each class is shown with a number that indicates the minimum write speed. For example, a card with a V90 on it has a minimum write speed of 90 Mbps. The UHS speed class has a bus interface that indicates a theoretical maximum read and write speed. Therefore the bus speed refers to the theoretical maximum transfer speed of the card.
Since the JetDrive Lite has read speeds up to 95 Mbps and write speeds up to 75 Mbps, that leads me to believe that its UHS rating is a I, which has a maximum transfer speed up to 104 Mbps. The second clue about the JetDrive Lite’s card type was revealed when I looked at the physical number of pins on the back of the card.
It has a single row of connector pins which clearly defines it as a UHS-I class card. UHS-II cards have a second row of connector pins included. The configuration of the pins also points to the JetDrive Lite being an SD card. It has a standard SD card pin layout as shown in the included illustration.
Finally, I used a utility app that sdcard.org provides to show what type of card the system reads it as. The JetDrive Lite showed up as an SDXC (Secure Digital eXtended Capacity) format. I ran AJA System Test Lite on the JetDrive Lite, too, and it was showing a minimum write speed of around 70-72 Mbps. This was only based off of where the test started its read of the drive. Based on that, I am estimating that the JetDrive Lite could have a video speed class of V60 and is more than likely a Class 10 card.
So, even though Transcend states that the JetDrive Lite is not an SD card (and I’m not disputing that), it is recognized by the system as an SDXC card and is most closely related to an SDXC U1 | C10 | V60 card.
According to sdcard.org, “digital data storage needs tend to be larger and require faster performance in a number of applications, such as smartphones, digital cameras, video recording, surveillance systems, etc.” The resource also refers to SDXC III cards to be the most ideal for moving large files between a card and its host device.
So I’m surprised that Transcend hasn’t adapted these cards to that technology so that it is better suited for large data transfer since the purpose of the JetDrive Lite is to act primarily as file storage.
User Experience & Testing
The JetDrive Lite 330 comes in a small box. I appreciate this because I feel like small media like this sometimes has extravagant packaging that is just too much for what it’s holding. This seems to be just right. It’s good for retail shelves and shipping alike. Plus, the packaging is not hard to open.
Setting up the JetDrive Lite is super easy. There is no special software or driver that has to be installed. You simply unpackage the card, slide it into its slot, and wait for it to mount to your desktop. It should appear just like an SD card does. After it mounts, you just use the card like any type of attached storage.
Transcend suggests using it as a TimeMachine backup option, but I prefer to use it for standard backups. I have a NAS device for archive purposes, so the JetDrive Lite is really just acting as a literal expansion of my laptop’s hard drive in case I need it.
The JetDrive Lite is rated with a 95 Mbps Write and 75 Mbps Read speed. I found this a little confusing since I have an SD card features read/write speeds up to 300 Mbps/260 Mbps respectively. So, I wonder why since the media types are so close to the same product.
To test the read/write speeds, I used Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. I set the load to 5MB and let the test run. I wanted to compare JetDrive’s results to a similar SD card, but I didn’t have any SDXC UHC-I cards available. So, I used a Micro SD card that is an SDXC UHS-I. I also wanted to show the difference between the UHS-I and UHS-II card speeds. So, I also ran a SanDisk Extreme PRO card through the same tests. The results are listed below.
|JetDrive Lite 330|
Write 74.1 Mbps | Read 89.2 Mbps
|XLR8 Gaming Class 10 U3 V30 microSD Flash Memory Card (512GB)|
Write 80 Mbps | Read 88.9 Mbps
U3 | C10 | V30 = minimum sequential write speed 30 Mbps
|SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-II Card (128GB)|
Write 206.8 Mbps | Read 241 Mbps
U3 | C10 | V90 = minimum sequential write speed 90 Mbps
As you can see by the results, the JetDrive Lite got very close to its published speed specs. I’ve been very happy with the JetDrive Lite’s performance thus far and it’s proven to be a solid storage option in the past. I love the idea of using robust, lifeproof media like expansion/SD cards to maximize your storage options – especially when they are virtually invisible.
The card is easy to install, easy to use, and easy to store if you don’t keep it on your computer 100% of the time. I do hope to see the technology in the cards upgraded in the future so that they are at least meeting the same specs as a UHS-II SD card. The 1TB JetDrive Lite is currently being sold for $189.99. That seems pricy, but it is priced competitively with SDXC UHS-I cards of the same capacity.
The JetDrive Lite is a good investment and option for easily expanded storage on a Mac Laptop.