Should iOS Users Invest in a Removable Solid State Drive?

If all of your data is in the cloud, and you can easily download it to your iOS device, off-line storage probably isn’t an issue. But that is not how most people roll, especially when on the road. Which is why you probably need a PC or Mac and some local storage to complement your cloud services and to load content onto your iPad or iPhone.

The Business Case

Imagine you responsible for presenting at multiple sessions for a trade show. All of your presentations include HD video. You want to do everything from the iPad but it just doesn’t have enough memory. You MacBook Air only came with 128 GB of storage, which is already pretty full. Sure, you can get a memory stick, but they are pretty slow. You end up with all the video on the 12 GB SD card, and it’s all integrated with iTunes. Open the iPad in iTunes and copy over video quickly.

The Consumer Case

On the consumer side, many people backup their DVDs, creating local video content that never makes it to the cloud. And even those with cloud services like iTunes Match, may end up wanting to download the majority of their music to a local device. One of the advantages of iTunes Match is to have music available in higher quality than originally ripped. When I picked up my 128 GB MacBook Air, I didn’t copy music over, but rather downloaded it. I downloaded it initially to a 4 GB SanDisk flash drive, and then migrated to the VisionTek SSD. Most of my music and many videos fit on the VisionTek SSD in the iTunes library where they can easily be migrated to the iPad.

The Comparison

I compared a USB 3.0 SanDisk Ultra Fit Flash Drive CZ43, 64 GB ($33.99) to a Visiontek USB Pocket SSD 120GB ($109.99).

The first thing I noticed was that iTunes booted much faster and it stopped hanging. Although I could get iTunes to run with the library and all of the content on the 64 GB Flash Drive, it wasn’t consistent, and it often took two or three “force quits” for it to work. Since switching to the Pocket SSD I've had no issues.

One of the reasons I purchased the SanDisk CZ43 64 GB Flash drive was its low profile. I could mount it on the MacBook Air and just leave it. That isn’t true of the VisionTek Pocket SSD. It’s a big stick, which means carrying it, and then remembering to mount it before opening iTunes.

I ran benchmarks on both drives using Xbench on a MacBook Air, and ended up with the following results.


SanDisk CZ43 64GB Flash Drive

            Disk Test        15.69 

                        Sequential      14.34 

                                    Uncached Write        14.56  8.94 MB/sec [4K blocks]

                                    Uncached Write        9.14    5.17 MB/sec [256K blocks]

                                    Uncached Read         13.22  3.87 MB/sec [4K blocks]

                                    Uncached Read         39.71  19.96 MB/sec [256K blocks]

                        Random          17.33 

                                    Uncached Write        7.12    0.75 MB/sec [4K blocks]

                                    Uncached Write        12.91  4.13 MB/sec [256K blocks]

                                    Uncached Read         346.33  2.45 MB/sec [4K blocks]

                                    Uncached Read         99.84  18.53 MB/sec [256K blocks]


Visiontek USB Pocket SSD 120GB


            Disk Test        269.32           

                        Sequential      163.15           

                                    Uncached Write        198.65            121.97 MB/sec [4K blocks]

                                    Uncached Write        245.00            138.62 MB/sec [256K blocks]

                                    Uncached Read         77.51                 22.68 MB/sec [4K blocks]

                                    Uncached Read         399.99            201.03 MB/sec [256K blocks]

                        Random          771.20           

                                    Uncached Write        601.00            63.62 MB/sec [4K blocks]

                                    Uncached Write        522.01            167.11 MB/sec [256K blocks]

                                    Uncached Read         1628.10         11.54 MB/sec [4K blocks]

                                    Uncached Read         1007.10         186.87 MB/sec [256K blocks]


The biggest reason to consider a Pocket SSD regardless of using it for work or as a consumer, is speed. When you end up with a big file and slow device, you notice. Drive performance varies greatly. While the VisionTek Pocket SSD costs roughly twice as much as a 128 GB flash drive, it preforms at 10 times the speed of a fast flash drive.

The bottom line: your time is valuable. If you need to move content from a Mac or PC with limited local storage, to an iPad or iPhone, consider an external SSD as the best balance between portability and performance.


A Note on the VisionTek Pocket SSD

The VisionTek Pocket SSD is ruggedized, comes with a rubber cover over the USB (not my favorite feature with my history of loosing small devices or parts of small devices) and a keychain loop so that the drive itself can stay attached to something bigger. It gets a little warm, but it has a lot more circuitry inside so the drive can deliver on its promised performance. With the large capacity and speed (VisionTek also sells a 240 GB version) the Pocket SSD is also a great device for hosting Windows or Linux so a Mac can easily switch personas when needed.

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Author Details

Daniel Rasmus's picture

Author Details

Daniel Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus is the Founder and Principal Analyst at Serious Insights. He is the author of Listening to the Future, Management by Design and Sketches of Spain and Other Poems. Rasmus teaches at Bellevue College where he teaches Social Media and Personal Branding.