SSDs are amazing. They’re so fast, once you’re using to using one in your day-to-day work, switching back to working from a traditional hard drive is painful. You’ll get so used to apps opening nearly instantly that everything will feel slow. It’s no wonder Apple’s switched its most popular laptops – the MacBook Air and the new MacBook Pro Retina Display – to SSD.
There’s only one problem: SSDs cost more per gigabyte than traditional hard drives, so instead of the roomy 500Gb hard drives you might be used to in other computers, a MacBook with an SSD will likely only have 128-256Gb of storage. With HD video downloads and retina display ready apps, it’s rather easy to fill that up.
If you’ve got a 13″ Air or a Retina Display MacBook, though, you’ve got an SD card slot. Now what if that could be used to add extra storage that felt integrated fully with your Mac? That’s exactly what the Nifty MiniDrive - a tiny microSD card adaptor that sits flush with the exterior of your MacBook - sets out to do.
Seeing a Kickstarter Dream From Start to Finish
The Nifty MiniDrive started its journey with a Kickstarter campaign back in July, 2012. Kickstarter, the poster child for crowdfunding, has been the incubation place for so many new products of late, but quite a few popular ones have struggled to meet their initial expectations, and the process from idea to real, finished product is often far longer than originally expected. The Nifty MiniDrive team hit their share of bumps in the road along the way, dragging their initial delivery time from the originally anticipated late October all the way to the end of February.
But along the way, the team behind the Nifty MiniDrive kept backers up-to-date on how everything was going through their Kickstarter updates, letting us see the behind-the-scenes process of turning a dream into reality with anodized aluminum, PCB assembly, force testing, manufacturing in China, shipping around the globe, and more. It was quite the interesting journey, one that’d make me – for one – much more cautious about thinking I could make a real product.
An Apple Quality microSD Adaptor
In essence, the Nifty MiniDrive is just a microSD to SD card adaptor, much like the one that you’ll likely find included in the package if you purchase a microSD card today. If you’re running out of storage space on your MacBook, and you own a newer MacBook Pro or Air 13″, then the SD card slot gives you a way to add extra storage. The only problem is, an SD card will stick out of your MacBook, so you’ll need to pull it out and store it before dropping your MacBook in a bag to carry. The Nifty MiniDrive solves this problem by being just as long as the depth of your MacBook’s SD card slot, so you can push it in and leave it, making the microSD card’s storage feel much more like it’s just an extra internal hard drive.
Just pop a microSD card into the Nifty MiniDrive, then push the Nifty MiniDrive into your MacBook’s SD card slot, and you’re ready to roll. If you need to pull the MiniDrive out so you can, say, copy pictures from your camera’s SD card, you can use the included hook or a bent paperclip to pull it out. The MiniDrive doesn’t look quite as perfectly cut as it looks in their press pictures, but unless you’re looking really close, it’s close to perfect. Sure, it’s basically just a simple plastic microSD card reader with a piece of anodized aluminum attached to it, but the overall effect makes it feel like it was designed as a part of your MacBook, and hey, that’s got to be worth something.
All That Extra Space
If you’ve been struggling to keep everything you need on your MacBook’s SSD, and have resorted to using flash drives and external hard drives daily, then the MiniDrive will certainly be a nice storage space buffer that’s a lot less trouble to use day-to-day than most removable storage. For now, the most you can add to your Mac with microSD is 64Gb, though 128Gb microSD cards should be coming out later this year (and there’s the eventual potential of up to 2TB microSD cards). I bought a new 32Gb microSD card for around $30 to use with my MiniDrive, and 64Gb microSD cards should cost around $55-60 right now.
One thing you should make sure is that you buy the fastest microSD card you can, which should be rated Class 10 UHS-1 right now. Class 10 cards should get transfer speeds of at least 10MB/second, while cheaper microSD cards have as low as 4MB/second transfer speeds. Transfer speeds will also depend on your MacBook, as older MacBooks treat the SD card slot as a USB 2.0 connection, while newer ones use the PCIe bus to connect to the SD card slot. You can find your MacBook’s SD card reader speed from the System Profiler in OS X.
My MacBook shows a max transfer speed of 480Mb/second (or 60MB/s), though in real-life testing, I found I got about 10MB/second transfer speeds. Copying a ~600Mb file (VMware Fusion) took right around one minute. That’s slower than transferring files to my USB 3 external hard drive (copying the same file took around 40 seconds), but then, it’s not bad at all. It’s perfectly fine, say, for storing files – even your iTunes library – and I was even able to run an Ubuntu virtual machine from it decently.
The Nifty MiniDrive is indeed a nifty little solution to the MacBook’s limited – and non-upgradable – internal storage, one that’s a tad hard to come by. Right now, if you didn’t back the Nifty MiniDrive on Kickstarter, you’ll need to enter your email on their site and wait to get one. Presumably, sometime soon, they’ll be for sell again at around $25-$30 as they were in the Kickstarter campaign. Throw in a microSD card, and you can quickly add 25-50% more storage to your MacBook. You can get the MiniDrive in a handful of colors, though the silver option will look the most integrated with your MacBook.
Then again, for the price of the microSD card, you could pick up a USB3 external hard drive and get 4+ times the amount of storage. Only then, it won’t be so nicely integrated. I, for one, am glad I got a Nifty MiniDrive, and I’d recommend grabbing one if you want a way to add storage to your MacBook as soon as they’re available again.