Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 review: Add 1TB to 2021 MacBook Pro

Add 1TB of storage to 2021 MacBook Pro with this half-size SD card [Review]

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Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 review
The 1TB JetDrive Lite 330 can sit permanently in your MacBook Pro.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 is a memory card that sits flush in the SD slot in the 2021 MacBook Pro. Use it to add up to a terabyte storage to the notebook or for backups. It’s ideal for people who otherwise have no use for the SD card slot.

I put the just-released 1TB version of the memory card. Here’s why I love it.

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Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 review

There were two reactions to Apple putting an SD card slot in the 2021 MacBook Pro. One was jubilation from people who have a drone or other external camera that uses SD cards. The other can be summed up as, “What the hell am I going to do with that?”

Especially as SD cards don’t insert all the way into the notebook. They stick out, so you can’t carry the MacBook around with a card inserted without risk of damaging or losing the card.

Transcend’s answer is the JetDrive Lite 330. This is about half the size of standard SD cards, so it can stay in the MacBook when you’re carrying it around.

It comes in a variety of capacities. I’m testing the version with 1TB. That’s a significant jump for the storage in the device.

How to upgrade the 2021 MacBook Pro storage

Suppose you find the 1TB of capacity in your 2021 MacBook Pro too confining. You’re not going to be able to pop out the original SSD and slip in a new one. The last MacBook with an easily upgradable SSD came out in 2017.

Fortunately, there’s an easy alternative. Here’s how to add more storage to the latest 16- and 14-inch MacBook Pro:

  1. Buy a Transcend JetDrive Lite 330
  2. Insert it into the notebook’s SD card slot

That’s it. The card will appear in Finder as a drive on your Mac. You can do anything with it you would any other drive, including use it for Time Machine backups.

Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 with SD and microSD cards
The JetDrive Lite 330 is larger than a microSD card but half the size of a regular SD card.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Don’t try this with a standard SD card. The JetDrive Lite 330 is half the length of one of those, which allows it to fit completely inside the 2021 MacBook Pro.

And I mean it’s literally half the size. The card is the usual width for an SD card, but it’s 0.63 inches long, not 1.2 inches.

And Transcend put a couple of tiny flanges on the end to completely block off the SD card slot.

Using the JetDrive Lite 330 with other devices

The JetDrive Lite 330 fits the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro, as well as 13-inch MacBook Pro models from 2012 to 2015. But making the card sit flush with the slot requires a specific shape, and it isn’t compatible with other MacBooks with SD card slots. But Transcend makes cards for those who have one of those other models.

Or you can plug it into an SD card reader, as long as the slot has been designed to leave more than half of the card hanging out. Many card readers use this design – I found one in a few minutes.

Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 with MacBook
The JetDrive Lite 330 works with some older MacBooks, too.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 performance

While we’ve established that Transcend’s mini memory card is the easiest way to upgrade the storage capacity of a 2021 MacBook Pro, there’s an important limitation: speed.

The card’s maximum read speed is 95 MBps, while the max write speed is 75 MBps. In my real-world tests, the JetDrive Lite 330 comes close to those speeds.

For comparison, the SSD in the MaBook has been benchmarked at 5,500 MBps read and 7355 MBps write. So, yeah, you’re going to notice a speed difference.

It’s a slightly disappointing decision on Transcend. The latest MacBook Pro supports UHS-II, and a card that also supports this format can transfer data at up to 312 MBps. That said, you’d still notice a slowdown compared to the SSD.

But you probably won’t care if use the JetDrive Lite 330 to store a collection of documents and spreadsheets.

Almost perfect for Time Machine backups

Transcend has been making versions of the JetDrive Lite for MacBooks many years, and a popular use is Time Machine. The card is always plugged into your computer so is constantly available to make automatic backups.

As noted, the SD card shows up in the macOS Finder like any other drive. Setting Time Machine to use it only takes a few mouse clicks.

And this is another situation where data transfer speeds are unimportant. There’s no urgency is making backups. Your Mac won’t care – the SD card is actually a lot faster than backing up your notebook over Wi-FI.

Just be aware of the downside of using JetDrive Lite 330 for Time Machine: if your notebook is stolen, the backup files go with it.

Also, the size of your SSD is important, along with how many files you make use of. Transcend’s card tops out at 1TB, and conventional wisdom says Time Machine should have twice as much capacity as the files you want backups of.

Makes the MacBook Pro SD card slot useful

Transcend JetDrive Lite 330 sits flush with MacBook SD slot
The JetDrive Lite 330 almost disappears when inserted into a MacBook.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Anyone with a 2021 MacBook Pro who doesn’t have a drone or other external camera should at least think about the JetDrive Lite 330. The SD slot in your laptop is going to go unused, and Transcend’s drive might be your best option to do something with it.

That said, I think peak sales for this card will be in a few years. A buyer in 2021 who thought 512GB of SSD capacity would be plenty might realize in 2024 it’s not enough. Apple is never going to make replacing the SSD in this notebook easy, so popping this card into the built-in SD reader might be the best upgrade option.

Pricing

Transcend charges $249.99 for the 1TB version of the JetDrive Lite 330

Buy from: Amazon

You can also get the drive in smaller capacities:

Transcend provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.