SanDisk PRO-BLADE Review

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SanDisk PRO-BLADE
Company: Western Digital
Type: Storage
MSRP: $180
CGM Editors Choice

Western Digital, known for their hard drive and storage solutions, have unveiled the new SanDisk Professional PRO-BLADE drives. Made for the professional market, the SanDisk PRO-BLADE SSD system is reminiscent of Zip or Jazz drives from back in the day, although, unlike those, the PRO-BLADE’s are actually fast. Thanks to the superfast USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20Gbps) connection, the PRO-BLADE is an option that looks very interesting. While needing some time in the market, the PRO-BLADE from SanDisk is a system that could be well worth the investment, especially if you are a creative professional.  

As mentioned before, the SanDisk PRO-BLADE is made to be a storage solution for professionals that need quick access to a lot of different types of data. At the core of the drives is a NVMe SSD, with the Mag acting as a simple and efficient way to carry the drives while keeping your data safe. The easy plug and play design makes the PRO-BLADE design tailor-made for people working in the field or even film shoots, where you need to quickly move big files for review or edit.  

With that professional concept comes a SanDisk professional price tag, with the PRO-BLADE TRANSPORT enclosure, the single USB-C connector for the MAG, costing $85 USD without any drive included. The MAGs will set you back an additional $180 (1 TB), $300 (2 TB), or $600 (4 TB) making this an investment depending on how many MAG’s you decide to buy. I will say, the SanDisk PRO-BLADE makes no sense without buying at least two different MAG drives, it would simply be more economical to buy a standard USB-C external drive in that case.  

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The SanDisk PRO-BLADE TRANSPORT enclosure is an unassuming drive that includes all you need to get started in the box. The USB-C cable is a tad short for my liking, but the clean, dark and light grey colour scheme of the TRANSPORT looks great and invokes that professional feel you want from something of this range. The drive feels rugged and built to last and from all our tests it has withstood my clumsiness testing, and emerged unscathed.  

The SanDisk Professional PRO-BLADE TRANSPORT enclosure connects to a computer via USB-C, and to get the full speed you will need to ensure you have a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20Gbps) connection. There are many Macs in the wild that have Thunderbolt, but since the PRO-BLADE TRANSPORT enclosure does not support this standard, you will not see the full 20Gbps speed. Also, it should be noted that, while the cable does feel incredibly sturdy, you are able to use another compatible USB-C cable without limiting the speeds of the drive.  

“The best part of the full PRO-BLADE System is the speeds, and this is where Western Digital was not fooling around.”

Western Digital are known for some of the best SSD’s in the market, so it is no wonder the drives at the core of the PRO-BLADE are made to just work the way you need them. The mechanism to load and unload the MAG’s into the TRANSPORT is simple and straightforward, you simply load them in until you feel it click into place. Once you are done with it, you can pull it out and swap it for another drive. It is that easy. 

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The MAG is shaped in a way that makes it very difficult to insert it into the PRO-BLADE TRANSPORT enclosure wrong, making it great for quickly jumping between drives without any hassle of it going in the wrong way. The full solution makes it feel like second nature to have the PRO-BLADE as part of the daily routine. For testing, we loaded up a lot of the videos we did at TIFF 2022 onto the drives. I then moved between them and the computer and found it a very easy way to manage everything. I will note that the PRO-BLADE SSD mags are preformatted in APFS, so this is made for Mac users first and foremost, but like any drives, this can be changed with an easy reformat (as we did for our testing). 

Each of the PRO-BLADE SSD Mags are made to be used as Western Digital details, they are strong enough to handle drops from 3 meters (10 feet) and can withstand up to 4,000 lbs (1.8 tons) of crush resistance. That is more than most people will find on their day-to-day uses of the PRO-BLADE, but it is great to see that they are built to last. The only issue I had with the construction was the lack of any cap for the Mags end pins, while we never had any issues while testing. It would give a bit of peace of mind, especially if you are moving critical data.  

“…the SanDisk PRO-BLADE is an exciting offering for the professional market…”

The best part of the full PRO-BLADE System is the speeds, and this is where Western Digital was not fooling around. In our testing, the PRO-BLADE Mags were among the fastest external storage devices I have ever used. We managed to see read speeds of around 1200MB/s, with write speeds sitting with an average of 848MB/s. I honestly was not expecting such an impressive result from a system like this, but I was happy to see it.  

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Even jumping between drives was painless, with the new drive popping up for use a matter of seconds after inserting it into the TRANSPORT. The only issue I saw at all while testing was the TRANSPORT did get rather warm after moving files back and forth from the MAG, it was not alarming, but enough that I would not want to manage a large amount of files and throw it into my pocket. 

I am interested to see where SanDisk Professional takes the Pro-Blade ecosystem. This feels like a system made to be used in cameras and professional gear. They are robust, easy to use and transport, and the simple design makes them ideal to use in a professional setting. Sadly, as of right now, we don’t have any news about such additions, and at least what we do have works well, giving easy access to terabytes of storage in a format that is as easy as using a card reader. It is also great to see the Pro-Blade ecosystem working so well for real-time 4K/8K/12K editing, something that is very welcome. 

While still early to say, Western Digital have delivered in all the ways I could have hoped with the new SanDisk PRO-BLADE system. They are fast, rugged, and easy to use and integrate into a workflow. I will be even more excited once the larger desktop Pro-BLADE Station arrives, making it easier to keep the MAGs at the ready for when they are needed. As it is now, the SanDisk PRO-BLADE is an exciting offering for the professional market, and if they keep iterating on the concept, it could be something we see more a part of the creative professionals daily routine. I do hope, as Western Digital iterates on the design, we see Thunderbolt as an option, just to further increase the compatibility and usability of the concept.  

Final Thoughts

REVIEW SCORE

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