A very wise woman once made an observation that struck me as being largely true, that in the quest for making things better, things are largely getting smaller. This was in 1999 when I was still rather obsessed with minidisc, right before I adopted the first gen iPod, and it struck me as very true. We are constantly looking for creature comfort in life, and especially for those of us in tech-related fields where it’s a necessity to carry around lots of equipment, a small form factor can be a godsend.
If you’re shooting on location, even if a rather casual shoot, at the bare minimum you’ll have your camera bag with a few lenses, maybe a strobe, and if for a paying job, you better have some sort of backup solution. This could be in the form of a laptop, or external drive. If you’re traveling and working as I often do, carrying a laptop is a must, along with external back-up drives. Even if I’m not shooting tethered in the field, the laptop serves as a monitor and the initial back-up location which then distributes copies to external drives – just in case.
So storage solutions are always with me, and while that may be a textbook definition of a cognitive bias, which is simply an addiction to a past evaluation (a self-inflicted wound of sorts), it’s not changing anytime soon. I recently reviewed the Samsung T1 external SSD drive and have literally fallen in love with it. It’s fast, it shares the dimensions of a credit card (spare the depth), is easy to use, and sturdy. It’s also a steal at around $100 for 250GB. I am transitioning all my external storage solutions to SSD and I have half a mind to use these almost exclusively when not doing a RAID set-up. I really have seen no fault in the product and you can see the full review here with speed tests and so forth.
However, if you’re moving around a lot, sometimes it’s nice to have hard drive expansion that’s ‘within’ the confines of your laptop itself, without the need for a cable, and to that effect the BaseQi Ninja Stealth Drive (yes, quite a mouthful) is a really nice solution. Some of you had asked me to look into this product and after having spent the past few weeks with it, using it traveling between 3 countries, I’m happy to share my initial findings.
What Is The Ninja Stealth Drive?
So what is the Ninja Stealth Drive aside from a mouthful? Simply there’s not much to it – it’s a MicroSD card adapter, and it’s built specifically with MacBooks in mind, so it’s made out of machined aluminum that looks like it’s an Apple product. That’s it, really. You can take your MicroSD card, slide it into the adapter, which then can be slid into the SD card port in your laptop and read and written to accordingly a la drag and drop.
In case you haven’t looked, you can pick up 64GB MicroSD cards for around $20, and even get 128GB cards for about $50, and this adapter only costs $25 USD. I can hear some of your minds yelling at me now that at $50 for 128GB you could get the Samsung T1 250GB which is faster read and write, and possibly more stable for the same dollar/GB cost. This is true, but the purposes of use I recommend using the Stealth Drive for are different.
What makes using the Stealth Drive different from a typical external drive, is its ability to slide into and be totally flush with your laptop, so you can drop in a 128GB card, slide it into your Macbook, and then leave it there without cords or any protrusions. This makes it ideal for traveling and moving around a lot, in a way giving you more ‘internal’ storage at low cost. And, of course, you can have multiple cards expanding your storage as much as you like taking up no space (not to mention MicroSD cards are actually quite robust and somewhat more stable than SD cards apparently due to less recycling).
How I Recommend Using It
What I love about this little drive is it lets me offload some weight from my computer’s internal SSD or keep a back-up of important files. If you’ve ever had a laptop hard drive fail on you, you know how horrifying it is not to be able to access key files, but you can set the MicroSD card within the Stealth Drive to do automatic back-ups of your pertinent info, so in case your laptop drive goes all Britney Spears mid 2000s, you can just pull out the Stealth Drive and have your much treasured files safe. I leave my adapter with the card in my laptop at all times now, and have set mine up to copy important documents and a particular folder of my most recent photo work.
*I recommend getting the fastest MicroSD card you can if you’ll be using the data on it often and the read/write times aren’t very fast.*
One of the things I do on a shoot is use multiple cards. I don’t subscribe to this ‘get one large storage card and save it all on there’ mentality. If that card corrupts you’re in barney, so I tend to shoot nothing more than 16-32GB cards, and multiples of them to mitigate the losses. I will sometimes use a larger card for overflow of an entire shoot, and this card, (once the shoot is done), I take out and slide into my wallet. Why? Because should my computer get stolen, or camera stolen, or any of it broken or waterlogged, I still have this copy of the entire shoot on a tiny card in my wallet.
The Stealth Drive essentially allows for storage of all types of media onto MicroSD cards that can also be stored in a pocket or wallet. I have one card I now keep my iTunes library on to free up my internal SSD, and have stored some movies on it for my flights. It works without a hiccup. You may have found that if you insert an SD card into your laptop and you close it or it goes to sleep, that often upon waking the card isn’t being read, and needs to be taken out and re-inserted. This doesn’t happen with the Stealth Drive and that makes it easy to just leave in.
Not many. The adapter is flush with the Macbook, it looks good, easy to put in and retrieve, and couldn’t be simpler to use. As with any file storage solution, you will understand that no solution is permanent, and your MicroSD cards aren’t good forever, but that’s the same for anything. If you choose to keep the card adapter in your computer at all times, you should be aware that there is a slight battery life cost to doing so, but frankly shouldn’t be more than about 20 minutes with a new Macbook of any type, which is fine by me.
I don’t recommend using this as a full on storage solution to your image files, and if you are the type to keep your Lightroom catalogues and files on an external drive, know this will not suffice – it’s just not fast enough. I do that at times and for the sagacious traveller have found nothing better than the Samsung T1 – seriously, get one…or 4.
It’s a great little tool this Stealth Drive, and for the cost, I think well worth it. It’s available for MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, all with and without Retinas, and you can select which you use from their drop-down menu on site.
Learn more about it and order yours here.