USB flash drives (UFDs) are a dime a dozen in the current market. In order to stand out in the crowd, manufacturers have adopted a two-pronged approach. While one category is devoted to drives that provide maximum possible capacity in a minimal footprint, the other category aims at delivering the maximum possible performance at a reasonable cost. Usually, UFDs are worth a capsule review, since there is really not much to talk about other than performance / endurance and price. However, SanDisk has opted to go with a third strategy for one of their UFD product lines - bundling a 3-year cloud storage subscription along with a commodity USB 3.0 flash drive.

Hardware

The SanDisk Ultra +Cloud drive is the same as the SanDisk Ultra in terms of hardware, and, as we determine further down in the review, performance too. It adopts a retractable design for the USB 3.0 Type-A male port. This avoids the need for a cap and goes a little towards preventing accumulation of dust in the USB connector. However, the sliding mechanism involves pressing down in the middle of the unit. It feels a bit flimsy and is difficult to operate with one hand. The industrial design and external aspects of the drive are pretty much standard for a commodity USB 3.0 flash drive. The gallery below shows some pictures of the packaging and the drive itself.

The real difference with the Ultra +Cloud version is the bundled cloud service - SanDisk +Cloud, which we will cover in detail in the next subsection.

SanDisk +Cloud - Usage Impressions

The Ultra +Cloud drive comes with an installer program for the SanDisk +Cloud service. Since the cloud service offer of 64GB for 3 years is tied to the flash drive, the installer run from the flash drive enables the user to create a new account for the service. The installer program is available for both Macs and Windows PCs. We checked out the cloud feature on a Windows machine. The gallery below shows the sign-up process for the service.

The usage process is very similar to that of Dropbox (minus the versioning capabilities and associated usage features). While Dropbox provides context menu items only within the Dropbox shared folder, SanDisk +Cloud adds a permanent one - a 'Copy to SanDisk +Cloud' option. In addition, a separate drive letter is created on the PC that lists everything stored in the cloud without occupying space on the local machine. A program runs in the background in the taskbar that enables users to pull up the current status (usage, upload data amount remaining etc.) and also alter settings such as local cache size and location, drive letter, upload bandwidth etc. The following gallery shows these aspects of the SanDisk +Cloud Windows client program.

The cloud storage is also accessible via a browser (for machines on which one can't install the client program / access on someone else's machine). The gallery below shows the browser user interface. Note that the cloud servers are accessed via 'pluscloud.sandisk.com' (we will come to this a little bit later in this section). Additional storage can also be purchased via the browser UI.

Like any other cloud service, the SanDisk +Cloud also comes with mobile apps (Android and iOS only). We took the Android version out for a spin on a Nexus 6P. The gallery below presents some screenshots from the Android app.

The app allows users to automatically back up photos and videos taken on the mobile device to the cloud. Obviously, this can be restricted to Wi-Fi only. There are also other settings like passcode locks relevant to the usage of the cloud service on a mobile device.

SanDisk +Cloud - Enabled by Bitcasa

Coming back to the cloud platform, it might surprise users to see SanDisk operating a cloud service that actually rivals the facilities provided by established vendors. SanDisk is more of a hardware / systems company and there is an obvious indication that the cloud service is is not a completely outsourced third-party operation. The SanDisk +Cloud service apparently runs on AWS (going by the IP that corresponds to pluscloud.sandisk.com). Going by these clues, it appears that SanDisk has forged a partnership with a cloud service specialist in order to improve the appeal of their UFDs. A little digging around reveals that the cloud operations are actually backed by Bitcasa.

Bitcasa has had an interesting history. Initially, they shook the cloud storage market with low-cost direct-to-consumer infinite storage capacity plans. However, that ended up getting nixed towards the end of 2014. Since then, the company has shifted its expertise and focus to OEMs and developers who want a cloud platform / backend for their products and applications. One of Bitcasa's new business models is to tie up directly with device manufacturers in order to cloud-enable various devices such as flash drives, NAS units, mobile devices and the like. This business model will definitely serve Bitcasa well compared to a direct-to-consumer play in a very crowded cloud storage market.

Direct-Attached Storage Performance
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  • Murloc - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    meh it may work as a marketing trick, but for most people it's best to buy separate I think. Reply
  • nospecialname - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    My thoughts exactly... Having 128 GB on the package is a bit like bundling a mountain bike with a station wagon and then marketing it as an all-terrain vehicle. Reply
  • Dewend - Friday, March 04, 2016 - link

    Not in a very bad way, although your blog caught me unawares. Bringing this topic to life was surely difficult and i also tend not to assume that I could truthfully have pulled it well this well. Because you can definitely find yourself being offered a position, by among the top newspapers, ensure that it stays up. http://8ballhacks.com Reply
  • masontula - Monday, July 25, 2016 - link

    yes I agree with your thought, Let see, how to go further part and its Southampton.
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  • jabber - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    Always had an odd issue with high-end Sandisk USB3 sticks. I can plug them in and nothing...no detection. Plug in a Lexar/Toshiba/Samsung/Corsair/Kingston etc. USB3 stick the same way and it will detect every time. Can use any USB3 port, same story. To get the Sandisk's to connect I have to pull them out and jam them in hard (ahem) a couple of times...then they might detect. Then of course they have errors and need a scan. I now keep away from them. I've tried one of each generation of the Extreme/Ultras to see if it has changed but never has. (Shrugs) Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    You must own a LOT of drives. Reply
  • Edgar - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    Should be due to bad luck i guess... my Sandisk Extreme is awesome... no issue so far after 1 year... Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, February 19, 2016 - link

    Are you sure? It must have been Windows installing the driver for the Sandisk which you thought is no detection. Reply
  • Arbie - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    A really cheap marketing trick. Sandisk should be ashamed. Techniques like this debase the common terminology and create yet another landmine for the consumer.

    I recall a tape drive maker that advertised their capacity as "250MB". After you got the drive, you discovered that this meant "of compressed data"... so if you were storing MP3s or JPGs, it was only 125MB.

    In any case, there's no way that Sandisk should be printing "128GB" right on the chip icon. They *know* some people will be mislead. And if they will knowingly mislead on this, what else will they do? This really degrades my opinion of a company I have formerly respected.
    Reply
  • Teknobug - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    64GB+64GB cloud? Piss on Sandisk. Reply

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