transcend-jetdrive-lite

MacBook Airs and Retina MacBook Pros offer practically zero upgradability, but one area that there is some flexibility with is storage. Many third party memory manufactures are taking advantage of the SD card slot present in MacBook Airs and Retina Pros to add semi-permant storage to these Macs. We first saw these products begin popping up last year, but the release of Transcend’s JetDrive Lite line this morning made us think it was worth taking a look at three of the options currently available.

These expansion drives are nearly as convenient as on-board storage but can be used for Time Machine backups and transferring large files between devices.

The problem with shoving any SD card into your MacBook is that is protrudes out from the laptop casing, which leaves the card and your Mac vulnerable to damage or getting knocked out. It’s also an eyesore to constantly have a card peaking out from your Mac’s otherwise seamless and uniform design. The memory expansion modules we’re going to take a look at are customized to fit nearly flush.

The most well-known version is the PNY StorEDGE. It comes in two different capacities (64GB/128GB), is colored black, and protrudes just enough to make it easy to remove. The 64GB/128GB models retail for $100/$200, but these are available for $38.95 and $75.04.

The SanDisk minidrive is only available in 64GB, and it includes a pull tab to make it even easier to remove. Some people may dislike the fact that the pull tab has ‘SanDisk’ branded on it, but that doesn’t seem like a deal-breaker to me. It retails for $59.99, but is currently on sale for $49.99.

Just this morning Transcend announced its JetDrive Lite expansion cards in 64GB and 128GB capacities. Transcend says that users can expect read and write speeds of up to 95MB/s and 60MB/s respectively, which is the fastest of the bunch. Obviously, there isn’t any real world data to backup these claims yet and overall performance will also vary by Mac, it is still nice to see Transcend attempting to push the product category forward. The JetDrive Lites are priced aggressively with current rates starting at just $39.99 for 64GB and going up to $79.99 for 128GB.

nifty-minidrive-silver

If you already own a micro SD card you could opt to increase your MacBook storage by popping it into a custom adapter which mimics the modules mentioned above. The Nifty Minidrive is capped with hand-polished mini-drivealuminum so it will match your Apple hardware. It’s available in silver and red at a retail price of $39.99 (on sale at Amazon for $34.99). There is also the less-elegent, but more budget-conscious solution called “The MiniDrive“, which looks to be a Nifty clone but at only $20.

Also, if you are really determined to expand your Mac’s memory, you can upgrade its internal SSD with one of Transcend’s new JetDrive kits.

Before making your final purchase, be sure that the model you choose is compatible with your specific Mac model as some manufactures have slightly different SKUs for different Macs. SD slot depth also varies between models so some of the aforementioned solutions may protrude more or less depending on your Mac.

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24 Responses to “Three hacks for adding permanent storage to your MacBook Air or Retina Pro through the SD card slot”

  1. Dennis Popp says:

    Why is there no 128GB for the 13″ MacBook Pro? :(

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    • madformac says:

      There is at theMiniDrive.com they make a flush 128GB integrated drive for every mac make and model also air and pro (non retina have same sd port depth so you can use the jet drive air with your MacBookPro.

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    • madformac says:

      Yes there is theminidrive.com also tardisk.com is a new runner in integrated storage worth checking out offering 256GB flush solid aluminum card

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  2. Please Mention that not all MacBook slots are the same depth. I have a new Late 2013 rMBP and the PNY card sticks out 1/4 of an inch further than it did on an older rMBP. It is painful to catch your hand on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan DeSilva says:

      Good point. That’s what I was getting at near the end of the article, but I’ll be more clear.

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    • I ran into this issue with the NiftyMini after I picked one up in a store. (Their site is specific to models, the packaging was not.) Had to return it because it wouldn’t stay in. They currently don’t have anything that is optimized for the Late 2013 rMBP, that I’ve found.

      Liked by 1 person

    • djbressler says:

      I was a customer of Nifty during their kickstarter campaign. The product is great, and the people have really great integrity. I highly recommend it.

      One thing though about all these solutions… With the drives in, does the system go to sleep properly? If it does, do the drives automatically connect when the system awakens? I’m not sure.

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  3. Can i get the 128gb and have Windows 8 boot off of it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have tested that with linux… I don’t see why that wouldn’t work.

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    • madformac says:

      TarDisk.com is offering a free linux/ ubuntu boot for kickstarter backers, its a hack to option boot different os on a mac, however I do remember reading on apple’s website somewhere that apple supported external drive option boots not via USB but Thunderport/Firewire as well as sdxc port. I have heard roomers tardisk offering more OS “option boots” . I was able to hack a thumb drive to option boot windows 8 on any macbook no bootcamp drivers installed.

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  4. The new macbook pros are built so they wont be opened up easily but you can change the ssd on it. I saw a video on how to do it on youtube it takes about 10 minutes . You need to purchase the new ssd but its a bit expensive although it’s twice the memory on it and a bit faster, then you disconnect the ssd which is very small and swap them out. I believe it was around $400 plus for more than 400 gigs of memory.
    You need a new ssd: between 3-5 hundred dollars depending on the size
    The pentalove screwdrivers
    then remove the back casing carefully and disconnect the ssd then swap it for the new one .
    close back up!

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  5. Anybody have experience running a VM from any of these products? I am thinking about trying it out, they are a drain on hard disk storage for me.

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  6. craigslistlu says:

    Probably very late to the party but in what world paying good $1000-2600 for a notebook you should be reduced to sticking a memory card to have somewhat sufficient storage space? and how is it you have to pay extra $200 for the jump from 128 to 256gb, since a stand alone samsung ssd 250gb cost $140.

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    • Also late to the party, but I just got a PNY Elite 256GB SDXC card, 90mb/s write/read, for $90 with free shipping on Amazon, soooo…. yeah. 256GB internal pci-e SSD + 256GB SDXC card, not that bad on a 15″ Retina MBP. Also, keep in mind these laptops are thin, so there isn’t room for massive heatsinks and fans and raid0 dual full 2.5″ sata drives. These have pci-e flash internal storage, that crap is not cheap either. They are for a different market than your average casual laptop user or gamer, so $2,600 is a bargain for what you’re getting, if Macbooks are your thing, which they don’t appear to be. Going from 256GB to 480GB pci-e SSD is a $285 upgrade, but it’s well worth it considering those drives are insanely fast, well over 550mb/s write/read speeds on those. Or you can do a 1TB upgrade for $540. A bargain for a pci-e SSD that reads/writes over 555mb/s. Includes a nifty little usb3 case for the old internal drive, so perfect for a backup or extra storage :) Personally I’m cool with 512GB though, I can’t see needing terabytes and terabytes of storage on a laptop, but on a desktop, sure. I have a 2TB 2.5″ usb3 drive handy most of the time for backups and movies though.

      http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/OWC/Air-Retina/Apple-MacBook-Pro-Retina-2012-Drive-Internal-Flash

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      • madformac says:

        Internal ssd upgrade is always the faster option but its expensive also people don’t like dropping there mac off for a couple days or risk messing up their mac DIY-ing it. For this plug and play onboard storage is super useful. I have a late 2013 retina 13 and there are not yet any ssd drives available for this model, (or really any of the late 2013-2015 macs) apple keeps the drive proprietary for a couple years, also I was told that my particular model could not support a drive bigger than 256GB!? (which is likely BS) This is a reason I backed tardisk but I was curious why there 256GB was so much, I guess they had to build a very small new flash chip that held 256gb on a really tiny chip like smaller than your MacBooks “tab” key because the SDXC ports on the retina 13 macs are only 16mm so new nano controllers or connectors had to implemented and building new fast custom flash is not cheap, especially for a little company. The unibody aluminum body is being machined in Massachusetts (in the USA!) I live in mass and I’m a big fan of supporting local business and underdogs/ hacks that let you do more with your apple products.

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      • I hear ya, it’s a shame when they ask for so much for really, such little space comparatively. Also, the 13″ mbp retina easily supports 256GB sdxc cards :) I’m sure OWC will get the new interface soon for the late 13 through 14 MBPr models. I have a mid-2012 so I got “lucky”, haha.

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      • madformac says:

        Ya its crazy that the entry level MacBook Ret13/Air13 come with only 128GB apple does a good job selling an experience and screwing you with iCloud bills (or selling you a new 2k computer) and the new ret air 12″ has as many ports as an iPad/iphone .

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  7. stevenjklein says:

    Okay, so the StorEDGE “protrudes just enough to make it easy to remove” and the SanDisk “includes a pull tab to make it even easier to remove.” And though your article doesn’t mention it, I know the Nifty Minidrive includes a removal tool.

    But how does one remove the JetDrive Lite? Your article doesn’t say, and neither does the manufacturer’s website.

    Like

    • madformac says:

      Removing the jet drive, (you just Magic it out with the power of your mind like in the video), it’s actually quite difficult to remove, (I heard they are making these just to keep these machines running they are cheap as they are selling them near cost?) They are not flush and it still catches on things only if it does the card doesn’t break it yanks your macbook out of your hands and breaks that instead. But with magic you should be able to stop if from hitting the ground.

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  8. TheMiniDrive.com 128gb series was skipped, but should probably be included?

    http://theminidrive.com/products/theminidrive-air-128

    Specs match the PNY/JetDrive, but this one is actually flush unlike the others that stick out.

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  9. madformac says:

    Any one try TarDisk (yes like doctor who’s Tardis) http://www.tardisk.com I just saw a side by side teardown of a Nifty and a TarDisk on ifixit, looks like it should be included in your list as yet another option.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. madformac says:

    new 256GB flush solid aluminum flash adapter on Kickstarter custom fit to each mac TarDisk256 looks incredible funded in 4.5 days 28 days left http://kck.st/1yGSAk2

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