Model: SanDisk Ultra +Cloud USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Provided By: SanDisk
SanDisk has been a leader in the storage industry for more than 20 years. Founded in 1988 by Dr. Eli Harari, the company has grown to become the world's largest supplier of flash memory data storage products. The company offers a wide range of products including memory cards, USB flash drives, SSDs, and its popular line of Sansa portable music and video players.
This past fall, SanDisk partnered with Bitcasa to develop a new line of cloud-enabled storage devices. The first product to come from this collaboration is the SanDisk Ultra +Cloud USB flash drive. This high performance USB 3.0 flash drive offers 128GB of total storage. In addition to the 64GB of storage on the drive itself, the Ultra +Cloud includes an additional 64GB of cloud storage that can be accessed from any computer or from your smartphone. The Ultra +Cloud also employs encryption software to ensure that your files stay private when stored on the drive as well as the cloud.
|SanDisk Ultra +Cloud USB 3.0 Flash Drive|
Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the Ultra +Cloud has to offer. To give you an idea of what to expect, we'll take a closer look at SanDisk's new USB 3.0 flash drive as well as their cloud storage solution. Is the Ultra +Cloud a good choice for those needing both the convenience of a USB flash drive and the accessibility of cloud storage? Keep reading as we find out.
Like many other USB flash drives, the SanDisk Ultra +Cloud comes packaged in a cardboard blister pack. The front of the card advertises key features like the capacities of the drive and the included cloud storage as well as its support for 256-bit encryption. The back of the card provides a bit more information regarding the Ultra +Cloud's features, capabilities and supported operating systems.
While not nearly as small as the Cruzer Blade or Fit, the SanDisk Ultra +Cloud is still fairly compact. With the USB connector retracted, the drive measures about 56 mm long, 21 mm wide and 10 mm thick. At this size, the SanDisk Ultra is barely noticeable when carried in a pocket or on a keychain.
The body of the Ultra +Cloud is constructed of a lightweight, white plastic. While the top has a glossy finish, the sides and bottom have a rougher, matte finish which makes it a little easier to hang onto. The Ultra +Cloud also has a hole on the end so that it can be attached to your key ring.
The Ultra +Cloud's USB connector is exposed using a sliding mechanism which can be manipulated with just your thumb. Underneath the sliding mechanism is an LED which pulses rapidly when data is being transferred and slows down when the drive is idle.
As with most USB flash drives, the SanDisk Ultra +Cloud was very easy to install. Those running Windows can simply plug the drive into any available USB 2.0 or 3.0 port on their computer. If the computer is already turned on, plug and play will automatically detect the drive.
If installed correctly, the Ultra +Cloud should show up in the Device Manager. Under Windows 8.1, the drive is identified as a "SanDisk Ultra Plus USB Device".
The Ultra +Cloud comes formatted with FAT32, giving the drive about 57.8GB of usable space. Of that, about 21.3MB is taken up by the software that comes bundled with the drive.
In addition to the 64GB of storage on the drive, the Ultra +Cloud comes with 64GB of cloud storage. To take advantage of this service, you will need to install the +Cloud software on your computer. The application is available for Windows and Mac and installers for both versions are included on the drive.
Installing the +Cloud software is pretty straightforward. To begin, connect the Ultra +Cloud to your computer and double-click the "SanDisk +Cloud Windows.exe" file. When the Setup window appears, accept the EULA and click Next a few times. Once the installation is complete, a window will appear, prompting you to sign up for a new +Cloud account.
With your account created, you can now sign in to your +Cloud drive. If the login is successful, your +Cloud drive will appear on your computer as an additional storage drive.
When the +Cloud drive is loaded, you will see an icon for +Cloud in the Windows System Tray. By right clicking the icon you can access several menu options.
File operations such as Copy, Delete, Move, and Create Folder work with +Cloud the same way this would work with the native Windows operating system. In addition to right-clicking on a file or folder and selecting "Copy this to +Cloud", you can drag and drop the desired item onto the +Cloud desktop shortcut, the disk drive icon or an Explorer window that’s open to your drive.
You can also use the +Cloud application to share specific files or folders with others. By using the "Send this to a friend" function you can create a link that allows others to access certain files and folders on your +Cloud drive.
While there is no Linux client for +Cloud, there is a web-based interface for accessing your content and managing your account. Using your favorite browser, you can upload and download files to and from your +Cloud drive and share them with friends.
SanDisk also offers +Cloud mobile apps for both iOS and Android. I installed the app on my Android phone and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and ease of use. It was very easy to upload and download files and share them with friends. The app even also gives you the ability to automatically back up your photos and videos, which the desktop client does not do.
If 64GB of storage isn't enough, SanDisk offers a number of other plans. Prices range from $3.99 a month for 250GB of storage to $9.99 a month for 1,000GB. This pricing is comparable to Dropbox Pro and Google Drive which also offer 1TB of storage for $9.99 a month
The SanDisk Ultra +Cloud also ships with v3.0 of the company's SecureAccess software. Available for both Windows and Mac, SecureAccess is a fast, simple way to store and protect critical and sensitive files on any SanDisk USB flash drive. The software automatically secures files using 128-bit AES encryption and then stores them in a password-protected folder or “vault" on the drive.
Before you can protect files using SecureAccess, you will need to create your own vault. To begin, connect the Ultra +Cloud to your computer and double-click the SanDiskSecureAccessV3_win.exe file. When the program launches, accept the EULA and enter a personal password for the vault. By default, the password must be at least 6 characters in length and use upper and lower case as well as numeric and alphabet characters.
Files and folders can be moved into your vault by dragging and dropping them onto the main screen. They can also be added manually by clicking on the "Add File" icon from the My Vault menu bar and then selecting the files you want to add.
The test system used in this review was an HP 8200 Elite. The computer is equipped with an Intel Core i5-2400 CPU, 4GB of DDR3 1333MHz memory, Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3250312AS 250GB SATA 6 Gb/s hard drive, NVIDIA Quadro FX580 512MB PCIe graphics card, Intel 82567LM-3 gigabit network card and Patriot SuperSpeed USB PCIe host card. For the operating system, I installed a fresh copy of Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
To test the performance of the SanDisk Ultra +Cloud, I ran a series of benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1, HD Tach RW 220.127.116.11 and ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46. To get a feel for the "real world" performance, I also copied and pasted 500MB of random files and directories in Windows Explorer.
First, I ran a few quick tests using CrystalDiskMark. This benchmark tool measures the performance of a storage device by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its random read and write speeds using blocks 512K and 4K in size.
SanDisk doesn't really say what kind of speeds the Ultra +Cloud is capable of. Using CrystalDiskMark we can see that the drive is able to read at 110.9 MB/s and write at 50.72 MB/s when connected to a USB 3.0 port.
HD Tach RW 18.104.22.168:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the Ultra +Cloud's read, write and burst speeds as well as its seek times and CPU usage.
The Ultra +Cloud's performance was hit and miss when tested with HD Tach. While the drive was able to read at 96.6 MB/s, its write speed averaged out at only 7.1 MB/s. If I had to fathom a guess, I'd say that the Ultra +Cloud uses TLC NAND and the drop in performance is due to some sort of caching.
ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46:
I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the Ultra +Cloud's sequential read and write speeds. The test was run using blocks ranging in size from 0.5KB to 8192KB and the total length set to 256MB.
When tested with ATTO, the Ultra +Cloud's read speeds topped out at about 128 MB/s and its write speeds at 63 MB/s.
"Real World" Benchmark:
To test the "real world" performance of SanDisk's new flash drive, I copied and pasted 500 MB worth of randomly generated files and directories. All of the files are between 10 bytes and 32MB in size and no more than four directories deep.
| SanDisk Ultra +Cloud
| SanDisk Ultra +Cloud
|Write:||16 seconds||35 seconds|
|Read:||10 seconds||26 seconds|
The Ultra +Cloud performed relatively well here, taking 16 seconds to write our test data and 10 seconds to read it back.
As an enthusiast and someone who works in IT, I use a number of different storage solutions throughout the day. If I'm sharing files with a co-worker, using a high-speed flash drive is often the easiest method. Otherwise, if I'm sharing photos with my friends or family, the cloud is the way to go. With SanDisk's new Ultra +Cloud USB flash drive, you now have the flexibility to do either. And, with 128GB of total storage, you've got plenty of room to do both.
The Ultra +Cloud is very similar to SanDisk's normal Ultra USB 3.0 flash drive. In addition to having 64GB of storage, it sports a stylish, compact design with a retractable USB connector. Performance-wise, the Ultra +Cloud isn't the fastest USB 3.0 flash drive on the market. Nevertheless, it performed relatively well in our tests, reading at speeds as high as 128 MB/s and writing at more than 50 MB/s. When combined with SanDisk's SecureAccess software, the Ultra +Cloud also has the ability to protect your files against unauthorized access by storing them in an encrypted, password-protected "vault".
What really sets the Ultra +Cloud apart from other flash drives is that it includes 64GB of cloud storage for three years. Instead of building their own in-house cloud storage solution, SanDisk partnered with Bitcasa to provide this service. And, while lacking some of the bells and whistles available with OneDrive and Google Drive, this service works surprisingly well. In addition to a web-based interface, your +Cloud drive can be accessed from pretty much anywhere using SanDisk's desktop and mobile apps. The service also employs 256-bit encryption so that your data stays private while stored in the cloud. The only real complaint I have is that there is no way to automatically sync or mirror the files on your local hard drive.
The SanDisk Ultra +Cloud is available now and can be purchased from retailers like Amazon.com for about $30.
- 128GB of flexible storage - 64GB on the flash drive plus 64GB in the cloud
- Good read and write speeds
- Stylish, compact design
- USB connector protected by sliding mechanism
- Cloud drive accessible from computers and smartphones
- Includes SanDisk SecureAccess software
- Three year warranty
- Reasonably priced
- Desktop +Cloud client does not support mirroring