The SanDisk Ultra Backup packs several features that will appeal to users who want to keep data safe and sound when they’re on the go: fast performance, password protection, and the ability to run programs such as Firefox and OpenOffice directly from the device. What differentiates this 64GB drive ($277 direct; as low as $154 online) from others in SanDisk’s stable is a backup button that makes copying important files to this thumb drive a no-brainer. Although the capacity is small compared to that of similarly priced (but larger) portable hard drives, the rich feature set and easy portability of the Ultra Backup makes it a compelling option.
With its black, plastic shell, the Ultra Backup doesn’t look radically different from other SanDisk flash drives. We like the soft-touch paint and glossy accents, but this drive doesn’t have the sturdy metal construction of the SanDisk Extreme Contour. It actually feels somewhat cheap in the hand for a device so pricey. On the plus side, SanDisk opted for a slide-out USB connector that reveals itself when you push the latch on the top of the stick forward. What’s unique about the design is the backup button which, when pressed, begins copying files to the Ultra Backup.
Plugging the drive into an available USB port and pressing the backup button launches a menu that displays the types of files the Ultra Backup copies (movies, music, photos, presentations, spreadsheets, and text documents), and lets you select which file types you’d like to back up. Clicking the Advanced Settings tab offered options such as activating automatic backup (so you can back up without pressing the button), incremental backup of revised files, and the ability to back up files by size (50MB or larger, for example). Andn, you can also set the Ultra Backup to begin copying files based on a date. Automatic backup is limited to the Windows Vista and XP platforms.
After backing up our data, the Ultra Backup launched a menu on our PC that displayed a Windows Explorer-like file tree in the left column (showing our desktop, documents, music, photos, and video), while the main content area displayed the files within each folder. Across the top of this window are icons for Backup, Restore, Settings, Update, and Archive (which you can use to save backup files). You can’t drag files to or from this window, but when you double-click the Ultra Backup icon in My Computer, you can access the drive and move files as you please. Similar to the Clickfree Traveler, the Ultra Backup allows you to back up data only, rather than the entire operating system and settings.
The Ultra Backup proved to be one of the most well-rounded drives we’ve tested: Transferring a 1GB folder of mixed media from our Gateway P-7808u FX testbed to the drive took 1 minute and 13 seconds (a rate of 14.0 MBps), which was faster than the Clickfree Traveler (11.0 MBps) and the flash drive category average (7.9 MBps). The Ultra Backup didn’t show quite the same potency when we tested its read speed; we were able to copy the same 1GB folder to our notebook in 46 seconds, (22.2 MBps), which is on a par with the 21.8 MBps category average. That measurement, however, was 4.7 MBps slower than the Clickfree Traveler (26.9 MBps) Although these scores ran neck and neck with the SankDisk Extreme Contour, which notched read and write rates of 22.7 MBps and 14.6 MBps, respectively.
Because the Ultra Backup houses an unusually large 64GB of memory that eclipses the typical flash drive’s capacity, we decided to test its read and write speeds using our 4.97GB folder of mixed media (which we use to test large-capacity external pocket drives). Copying this folder to our PC took 3 minutes and 58 seconds, with a read rate of 21.3 MBps. That result is a fraction slower than the 22.5 MBps pocket hard drive average, but nearly 4.0 MBps slower than the Clickfree Traveler (25.1 MBps). The Ultra Backup’s write speed proved much slower, however; it took 11 minutes and 41 seconds to copy files to the drive, or a poky 7.9 MBps. That rate lagged behind the Clickfree Traveler (9.4 MBps) and the portable hard drive average (16.6 MBps).
Overall, the Ultra Backup copied files at a slower pace than the Clickfree Traveler. It took 56 minutes to backup 11.4 GB of files, versus the Traveler’s 40 minutes.
Software and Warranty
Preinstalled on the Ultra Backup is the U3 platform, which allowed us to run applications—such as Firefox and the Veoh Web Player—downloaded from the SanDisk U3 Download Central directly from the drive. The U3 applications proved exceptionally useful, because they enabled us to fire up our favorite services—with their settings intact—whenever we popped the Ultra Backup into a Windows XP or Vista system (the drive acts only as a storage device within the Linux and Mac OS X operating systems). Password protection and AES hardware encryption helps keep sensitive data away from snoops. SanDisk covers the drive with a five-year limited warranty.
Besides our 64GB model, SanDisk offers 8GB ($49.99), 16GB ($97.99), and 32GB ($166) capacities. You can find these models for much lower prices through online retailers.
Street-priced at $154 and featuring a five-year warranty, the 64GB SanDisk Ultra Backup has a higher dollar-to-GB ratio ($2.42) than portable external hard drives. For example, Clickfree’s 250GB portable hard drive costs $129 ($1.94 per GB), and the 320GB version sells for $179 ($1.79). However, the Ultra Backup is much lighter and smaller than the typical portable drive, and because it has no mechanical parts, you don’t have to worry about losing your data. The 16GB Clickfree Traveler ($79.99) offers equally simple backup, and one-ups the Ultra Backup with faster data transfer rates despite the smaller capacity. Still, if you want a backup drive that fits in your pocket, the Ultra Backup is a very solid choice.