MacBooks can make for great notebook PCs, but their speedy solid-state drives don't give you much storage bang for your buck. So why not do something with that SD card slot, and give yourself some extra (semi-permanent) storage? That's the thinking behind Transcend's JetDrive Lite. Read on, for Gizmag's quick look.

Transcend may be doing things a little differently here, but the JetDrive Lite isn't the first product to take advantage of MacBooks' SD slots: PNY's Storedge and the Nifty MiniDrive are very similar options. All three products slip discreetly into a MacBook's SD slot, without protruding out the way standard SDs do. The result? An extra 64 GB or 128 GB of storage that isn't quite internal or permanent, but comes pretty damn close.

If you took the best qualities of the Storedge and Nifty MiniDrive and wrapped them up into one product, then you'd have the JetDrive Lite. Like the Storedge, it's a self-contained memory card (no separate microSD required). But like the Nifty MiniDrive, it sits almost completely flush with the side of the MacBook – no matter which (recent) model of Apple's notebook you have.

I tested the JetDrive Lite that was designed for the 13-in Retina MacBook Pro. This 13-in Retina MBP has a shallower SD slot, which poses problems for one-size-fits all SD solutions. The JetDrive Lite, though, just barely protrudes from the Retina MacBook's side. Its lip sticks out just enough to remove it (on the rare occasion that you'd want to), but it's close enough to sitting flush that you'll usually forget that it's there.

As for removing the JetDrive, well, I initially thought it was going to be damn near impossible. The card's packaging doesn't include any instructions on removing it, and a pair of tweezers did nothing but scratch it up. But then I realized that a couple of fingernails prying the side of the card is all it takes. It came out fairly easily, no tools required – just two very short fingernails and about ten seconds of wiggling.

The JetDrive Lite isn't extremely fast, but it's about what you'd expect from an SD card. Transcend advertises maximum read speeds of 95 MB/s and write speeds of 60 MB/s. I ran a Mac benchmark app called Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, and it showed averages of around 65 MB/s for reading and 10 MB/s for writing.

Either way, the JetDrive Lite isn't something you'll want to watch high-definition videos or play games on. I tested it with an iPhoto library, and, though images didn't load as quickly as they would on the MacBook's internal SSD, it was fast enough. It could also be good for storing things like music libraries, documents or Time Machine backups (it's technically an external drive so Time Machine will let you use it as a backup drive).

On inserting the card, OS X showed the full advertised storage (in this case, 64 GB) as available. It came formatted in the ExFat format, but OS X's Disk Utility reformatted it in Mac OS Extended without any problems.

The JetDrive Lite is sold in two different storage tiers, depending on which MacBook you own. If you own a 13-in MacBook Air or 15-in Retina MacBook Pro, then you can choose between 64 GB and 128 GB options. If you own the 13-in Retina MacBook that I tested it with, then you're limited to a 64 GB option (presumably because the drive is smaller). There are no options for the non-Retina MBP or the 11-in MacBook Air (since it lacks an SD slot).

Of course there is one potential downside to using accessories like this: you no longer have an available slot for actual SD cards. But using an SD adapter in one of the MacBook's USB ports seems like a relatively small price to pay for having some extra (sort of) internal storage.

Of the three major SD expansion options for the Mac, I'd say the JetDrive Lite is your best bet right now. As I mentioned, the Storedge only comes in one physical size and therefore sticks out pretty far on some MacBooks. The Nifty MiniDrive sits perfectly flush against the side of each MacBook, but can be a pricey option if you don't already own a micro SD card (it only includes a measly 2 GB microSD). The JetDrive Lite is not only tailor-made for each MacBook, but it also doesn't require any separate purchases. In the world of faux MacBook storage, it's about as good as it gets right now.

The Transcend JetDrive Lite is available now, with suggested retail prices of US$60 for the 64 GB options and $120 for the 128 GB models. Amazon currently has them on sale, though, for $40 and $80, respectively. That isn't dirt cheap, but it's much cheaper than replacing a MacBook's internal drive. Just be sure to snag the right model that's custom-fit for your MacBook model.

Product page: Transcend

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