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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Works with iOS + Android
Sturdy, clever design
Easy-to-use app interface
Hassle with iCloud media
Pricier than most flash drives
Most people will do just fine with cloud backups, but anyone who prefers hard storage or wants an extra stash of smartphone files will appreciate this handy USB stick.
SanDisk provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test. Read on for their full take.
Modern-day smartphones are incredibly capable handheld computers, and many of us rely on them to stay in touch, take photos, navigate the world, and even do our jobs. Luckily, Apple and Google alike offer cloud backups of files and settings to ensure you have a copy of your critical stuff, but as your stash of photos, videos, and other stuff piles up over the years, your monthly or annual fee will increase with your storage needs. And even if you have your stuff stored on a server somewhere, you might want the peace of mind of another hard-copy backup that you can access in a pinch.
The SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive is a handy option. It’s well-built and easy to use.
That’s where SanDisk’s iXpand Luxe Flash Drive can be useful. With both USB-C and Lightning ports on a single, tiny drive, you can back up files from Android and iOS alike and share them between both mobile platforms, not to mention Windows and macOS computers. It allows both manual and automatic backups and lets you manage the USB storage with an easy-to-use app. The iXpand Luxe is a niche peripheral, but it’s useful and it works well.
At less than 2 inches long and about one-third of an inch thick, the SanDisk iXpand Luxe is an incredibly small device. It doesn’t have a full-sized USB-A port onboard, so it’s even slimmer than some typical flash drives. Instead, it has both USB-C and Lightning ports on a rotating core that swivels to reveal each port individually.
The port that is not currently in use is partially shielded by the tough metal frame, while a plastic, snap-on cap is provided to cover the outward-facing port when you aren’t using the Luxe. A hoop at the back of the drive lets you connect it to a keychain or hang it on a hook as desired.
It has both USB-C and Lightning ports on a rotating core that swivels to reveal each port individually.
SanDisk’s previous iXpand Flash Drive had a Lightning port and a larger USB-A port, and the company has made other flash drives designed for either iPhone or Android. However, this new Luxe model is not only more protective of both ports due to the swiveling design, but it also makes it easy to use with both iPhones and Android phones. It is a little bit more expensive than previous models, as a result, but it’s also more versatile.
The iXpand Luxe comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacity options, with all three models sharing identical dimensions.
When I plugged the SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive into my Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, the phone prompted me to download the necessary iXpand Flash Drive app from the App Store. That’s helpful. The Android-based OnePlus 9 phone didn’t prompt me to download an app when I plugged in the iXpand Luxe, but the comparable SanDisk Memory Zone app is easy to find and download from Google’s Play Store.
When I plugged the SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive into my Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max, the phone prompted me to download the necessary iXpand Flash Drive app from the App Store.
On both iPhone and Android, using the iXpand Luxe drive is relatively straightforward. You’ll use the respective SanDisk app on each platform to perform all actions, including backing up photos, videos, contacts, or other files to the drive. You can also transfer files from the iXpand Luxe to your phone, in case you’re trying to move files between devices, as well as view media directly from the flash drive. You can also password-protect files if you please.
Both manual and automatic backup options are available, and you can even set a recurring backup schedule—although you’ll need to plug in the iXpand Luxe to perform the task. Whether or not you use Apple’s iCloud may complicate your choice of which route to go with. In my case, because of my years of iPhone photos saved to iCloud, the iXpand Luxe saw some 55,000+ photos ready to be backed up—even though they aren’t all locally stored on the device.
It began the monumental task of onboarding them all when I selected the automatic backup. I halted that process, deciding that I’d rather not wait hours to see that attempt play out. Even so, when choosing the manual backup option, it took at least five minutes for the SanDisk app to load the iPhone’s immense photo library.
Manually selecting which files to save is a bit more work, but is probably worth the hassle if you’re also plugged into iCloud. I did not have the same issue on the Android-powered OnePlus 9, however, even though I have access to my cloud-based stash of photos taken with Android devices from over the years.
SanDisk doesn’t advertise the transfer speed of this device, although it seems reasonably swift in my own testing. For example, a 1.07GB backup of files—photos, videos, and contacts—from the OnePlus 9 via the USB-C port took about 80 seconds to complete. The iXpand Luxe is no speed demon, but spending a minute or two every so often to back up your latest files is no big deal.
The 64GB version of the SanDisk iXpand Luxe sells for $45, but given that 64GB is typically considered a fairly small amount of internal storage for a phone, I’d suggest that it’s not enough storage for a backup device that you could use across multiple years and maybe multiple devices.
The 128GB version I reviewed sells for $60, while the largest 256GB edition isn’t cheap at $90. Even so, if you’re serious about having a hard backup of smartphone files and want something that is large and robust, it could be well worth the investment.
The aforementioned earlier SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive model has a Lightning port for iPhones and iPads, as well as a full-sized USB-A port for plugging it into most computers. That iXpand model is less expensive than the Luxe, with SanDisk’s website showing a range of prices between $25 (32GB) and $74 (256GB). However, it’s also potentially less handy if you’re looking for a device that can easily plug into Android devices, as well.
If you only use iOS devices and either a PC or Mac, then you might be fine with the older SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive. That said, some laptops these days don’t have standard USB-A ports (like Apple’s recent MacBook models), so the Luxe could be handier with its USB-C port.
A useful smartphone backup.
For the average smartphone owner, a recurring cloud backup will be enough protection. That said, cloud services can become costly as your backup footprint expands over the years, and even if cost isn’t a major concern, then you might want a secondary backup for meaningful and/or sensitive files. In that case, the SanDisk iXpand Luxe Flash Drive is a handy option. It’s well-built and easy to use, although an iCloud stash of photos and videos can slow or complicate the backup process.
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