USB drives are not particularly interesting. They're small, boring, fragile. If you can manage to hang on to one for more than a few weeks, if you don't accidentally drop it or crush it, you'll probably throw it out the window in anger after waiting for large file transfers to finish. As corny as it sounds, Sandisk's Extreme PRO USB 3.0 changes all of that.
USB flash drives may be boring, but they're convenient. For quickly moving files between PCs, or for keeping a temporary backup of important documents, they come in handy. Even with a solid wired or wireless network setup, and multiple modern PCs or a NAS serving up downloaded videos and other media to TVs around the house, sometimes there's nothing easier than transferring files to a USB flash drive and implementing Sneakernet.
There are a lot of problems that exist with the vast majority of flash drives as they exist today, though. For one, they're slow. A decent USB 2.0 flash drive would be lucky to break the 5MB/s barrier with a single large file transfer; add a bunch of small files and watch that figure tumble further. USB 3.0 adds huge potential to flash drives' speed, but the hardware itself -- namely the flash memory chips soldered inside each little plastic thumb stick -- has to be up to scratch too. This is where the Sandisk Extreme Pro comes into its own.
With super-fast NAND flash on board, the Extreme Pro is capable of write and read speeds of 240MB/s and 260MB/s respectively (according to Sandisk). This is SSD-grade power; it's an external flash drive that's far faster than any internal or external spinning-disk hard drive on the market -- even today's fastest drives like the WD Black only barely crack 170MB/s. It's only available as a 128GB stick, though, which means there's no lower-capacity option to save a few dollars.
Straight out of its retail package, the Extreme Pro feels impressively sturdy -- another one of our big problems with most flash drives. Encased in aluminium with a plastic strip running along its spine, the drive feels like it could be run over by a car and survive; we're not willing to give that a go, but it certainly stands up to the crushing force of 80kg of human channeled through the sole of a boot.
The drive's spine also houses the push-switch that extends and retracts its USB connector, making sure it won't be bent or damaged when it's not actively in use. On the opposite end you'll find a cut-out for attaching a lanyard, although it's large enough to easily fit directly onto a keyring.
Transfer speeds from the Sandisk Extreme Pro are absolutely, ridiculously fast. We recorded a consistent write result of 210MB/s when moving a 2.5GB video file from our test PC's Sandisk Extreme II SSD, and 240MB/s when copying it back from flash drive to SSD. These results are incredible; we never expected to see a flash drive easily and consistently achieve these numbers. The combination of USB 3.0 and fast flash storage makes the Extreme Pro a viable choice as a scratch disk for on-demand photo and video editing, or even just as an extremely convenient way to store and transfer your files.
Plug the Sandisk Extreme Pro into your computer, and there's no complicated and frivolous access or security software that has to be installed. Sandisk does include its Secure Access drive encryption software, though, as well as a licence key for RescuePRO Deluxe, a backup and data recovery utility that can securely erase and undelete anything you have saved on the Extreme Pro (or any other Sandisk drive, for that matter).
The Sandisk Extreme Pro comes with an accompaning extreme price tag of $300 -- this is the price you pay to play with a flash drive that properly addresses every problem we've had with a flash drive before now. Of course, it's all worthless if your PC doesn't support USB 3.0, and it requires a really fast hard drive, or ideally an SSD, to perform to its fullest potential. You can buy it already from Sandisk's international online store, but it should be hitting retailers any day now as well.