SanDisk Professional Pro-Blade Transport review: Smart modular storage for the Mac

Table of Contents

Macworld

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Handsome dock and NVMe (up to 4TB) modules1GBps transfersAffordable when discounted

Cons

Limited to 10Gbps on Macs

Our Verdict

If you like the concept of storing projects and backups on discrete media, it doesn’t get any better-looking or convenient than the Sandisk Pro-Blade Transport dock and NVMe storage modules. That said, it’s only 10Gbps on your Mac.

Best Prices Today: Sandisk Pro-Blade Transport

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Western Digital
$49.99
$149.99
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Although tape and optical media seem quaint by today’s standards, they had some huge advantages: cartridges and discs were removable, easily transportable, could be stored off-site, and rather than everything dumped into a single repository, allowed separate data sets to be physically isolated.

Those same advantages are leveraged by Sandisk’s Pro-Blade Transport: a svelte, handsome USB dock that accepts even svelter NVMe SSD modules.

The caveat for Mac users is that while the Pro-Blade Transport supports 20Gbps USB 3.2, current Macs only support 10Gbps USB 3.1. Even those with USB4 aren’t compatible. This limits the Transport system to 10Gbps on Macs. (What’s with that, Apple?)

SanDisk Professional Pro-Blade Transport: Features

With the major cats out of the bag, I’ll get into the specifics of both the dock and the modules. The handsome, Type-C connected dock, a.k.a. Transport is approximately 5.1-inches long, by 2.8-inches wide, by a little over 0.6-inches high, and weighs in at a tad under 6 ounces.

A 2TB Pro-Blade mag sitting in front of its dock. Note the the colors are far more similar than this photo makes it appear. My poor lighting skills.

There’s a single slim bay/port that accepts the “Mags” or NVMe modules, which measure 4.3 inches long, by 1.1 inches wide, by 0.3 inches thick. There’s a tiny, albeit still satisfying, mechanical “thunk” as they are seated or removed.

The Pro-Blade Mags SanDisk sent were formatted to APFS, which is a giant hint as to who the company is marketing this to. That makes it a bit of a stumper as to why they didn’t opt for USB4. Especially as there’s a “Pro” in the name. Likely it wasn’t available–we’ve only seen one USB4 SSD to date, OWC’s excellent 1M2.

To be honest, given that Mac users are the target audience, I’d guess a USB4 version might next. Just sayin’.

SanDisk Professional Pro-Blade Transport: Performance

The short summation for this section is, like a 10Gbps external SSD or roughly 1GB per second sequentially. But glib ballpark quotes are not why I get the big bucks so read on.

I tested the Pro-Blade Transport with 2TB mags on an M1 Max Mac Studio via a Thunderbolt 4/USB port with both AmorphousDiskMark and Blackmagic Design’s Disk Speed Test and the results were as follows.

While these are hardly shoddy numbers for external storage, if the Pro-Blade Transport’s and Mac’s USB protocols meshed properly, you’d get twice this performance. See the second image below for proof of that.

Disk Speed Test returned slightly lower numbers that AmorphousDiskMark, but they are right on target for this test with 10Gbps USB SSDs.

These numbers are on par for a 10Gbs USB SSD tested on Disk Speed.

Just in case you wanted proof of what I’ve been on about concerning 10Gbps versus 20Gbps, I’ve also included one of the PCWorld test results to show what the Pro-Blade Transport is actually capable of.

Yup. On an honest to goodness USB 3.2 20Gbps port, you could get twice the performance out of the Pro-Blade Transport as you do on even the latest Macs.

If you want more information about the Pro-Blade Transport’s performance under Windows, as well as some issues I experienced, read my PCWorld review.

SanDisk Professional Pro-Blade Transport: Price

As I initially started writing this, WD was offering the dock and modules up for some rather enticing prices: $50 for the dock and $120/$180/$300 for the 1TB/2TB/4TB modules. Far more appealing than the MSRP’s of $70, and $180/$300/$600 that they were at two weeks into this review. By the time I turned this in, they were back on discount. Go figure.

Some might be thinking, “But Jon, you could simply use separate USB enclosures and cheap NVMe SSDs to accomplish the same thing for a whole lot less than those MSRPs.”

No argument from me. The Pro-Blade Transport’s appeal is largely cosmetic and tactile, with a touch of convenience thrown in. If that’s what you want, pay for it. Otherwise, roll your own or wait until they go back on sale, then stock up.

Note that there were deals far closer to WD’s sale prices on Amazon during the entire review process.

Should you buy the SanDisk Professional Pro-Blade Transport?

The answer to the purchase dilemma my friends, depends completely what you value. I love the look of the Pro-Blade Transport as it sits on my Mac Studio; the satisfying little thunk as I insert or remove a module; and the way said modules look and line up nicely when stored. I also find it generally fast enough for everyday work even at 10Gbps half-speed.

At full price, you’re paying a rather significant premium for what are basically life’s little pleasures, so look for a deal. Fair warning, depending on your personality, it might remain annoying that you can’t use the Pro-Blade Transport at full speed on a Mac. Blame Sandisk, blame Apple, blame the USB forum.

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