Portable Photo Backup Devices – My Top Picks

Portable Photo Backup Devices – My Top Picks

September 14, 2018 6 By Scott Hinkle

So now you have a drone (or maybe a fleet of drones) and you’re running around getting those perfect shots and awesome footage. What’s the best way to offload, backup and protect your creations when on location or on the road? Enter portable photo backup devices.

This post will list my top 5 picks for stand-alone portable photo and video backup solutions. I have listed the various brands in alphabetical order and not in order of personal preference. Please note, I do not have the budget to buy all of these devices. As such, some of the following reviews are based on observations and research vs hands-on experience.

A portable backup solution should be added to your must-have list when it comes to drone accessories. For a list of other accessories to consider, check out my Essential DJI Mavic Pro Accessories – The Must Haves post.

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Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 1Why a Portable Photo Backup Solution?

There are several reasons to consider a portable backup solution. Maybe you only have one memory card and you’re worried you’re going to fill it up. Perhaps you’re concerned about a card going bad and want to back it up for peace of mind. Maybe you want the ability to perform edits without having to pull out the computer (yes, I know you can edit on your phone or tablet, but you’re really only editing the cached data on your device unless you sit down and download the full version to it). Then again, you could be a bit OCD like I am and can’t go on living without organizing the images right now.

Whatever your reasons for considering a portable solution, you’re sure to find something here that meets your specific needs.

Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 2What Are the Criteria to Consider?

This topic is very broad. There are several ways to go about evaluating your needs:

  • Use Requirements:
    • Does it require software installed on a phone, tablet or computer to use?
    • Can most or all of the functions be performed on the unit directly (independent of using an additional device)?
  • Physical Aspects:
    • Power Supply – Does it have a battery, is it powered from your computer or do you need to plug it into a power outlet?
      • If it does have a battery, how long does it last? How long does it take to charge? Is it removable so you can bring charged spares?
    • Storage Size – How much space do you want/need?
    • Connectivity Type – Do you need wireless, USB-C, etc.?
    • Speed – Do you need an SSD? What are the card reader transfer rates?
    • Size – Will it fit in your travel setup?
    • Ruggedness – Do you need padding or other protective measures?
  • Capabilities:
    • What types of cards does the unit need to support (In the DJI world microSD will meet this need however, I don’t know if you have other devices you’d like to back up that may use other card formats).
    • What file formats are supported – This one is more important depending on what you plan to use the device for. If’ your’e just backing up and not editing, renaming or organizing then it’s not so important but if you’re doing any of those things then file format support is critical.
    • Number of Simultaneous Cards Supported – Is one card at a time sufficient or would you like a device that can back up multiple cards simultaneously?
  • Software Features:
    • Organizational Abilities – Can you rename files, move them around, etc?
    • Editing Options – Can you edit the media and if so which (photo, video or both)?
  • Price – There comes a point when cost outweighs features. That point is different for different people so you’ll have to be the judge of that.

There are probably many other things to consider but these are the ones I could come up with based on my wants and expectations.

GNARBOX – GNARBOX 1.0 and almost, but not quite, released GNARBOX 2.0

First up in our review is GNARBOX. In their own words GNARBOX is “A rugged backup device for content creators

who prefer to travel without a laptop” and I have to say it lives up to that tag line.

At the time of this writing there are two versions of the GNARBOX, 1.0 and 2.0.

Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 3GNARBOX 1.0

This unit comes in two sizes, 128GB and 256GB FLASH memory. It measures 5.3″ x 3.4″ x 1′ and weighs in at 1lb. Boasting an Intel Quad Core processor running at 1.92GHz, a four core Intel HD Graphics GPU, dual band 300mbps 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, SD Card slots and USB3.0 ports offering 100MB/sec backup speeds and 260MB/sec export speeds, this device is no slouch. Each USB port can provide one AMP of power and the unit is compatible with CF Card readers. The battery life is approximately 4-6 hours.

The one thing that may make this one a deal breaker for some is that it requires the mobile app to operate it.

This unit is encased in a pretty rugged looking shell that is rain, shock and dust resistant.

Price point at the time of this writing: $299-$399.

Pros:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Rugged

Cons:

  • App required to use
  • Fixed internal battery
  • No display to quickly review shots and footage
  • Relatively low capacity offerings

Personal rating: 6/10 – The low capacity offering, inability to swap out batteries and the requirement to use an app to use even the basic functions left me wanting more.

Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 4GNARBOX 2.0

The one will be released in a range of sizes from 128GB to 1TB NVMe SSD. It measures 6″ x 3″ x 1.16″ and weighs in at 1.1lb. The specs include an Intel Quad Core processor running at 2.40GHz, a four core Intel HD Graphics GPU, 867mbps 802.11ac/b/g/n wireless, 2-4GB of RAM depending on the model selected, and USB-C connectivity offering 400-500MB/sec read/write speeds. The specs include two USB-C ports, SD and Micro HDMI ports.

One of the really nice features of this unit is the user swappable 3200mAh 7.4v battery pack. This means you don’t have to worry about running out of juice or finding a place to plug it in to charge. Just grab some extra batteries and go to town. Each battery should provide approximately five hours of backup time or three hours for editing.

This unit is IP67 rated making it waterproof to 1m for up to 30 minutes.

This unit has buttons to perform basic backup and organization tasks and does not require a mobile app as it’s predecessor did.

Pros:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • App not required to use
  • Swappable batteries
  • IP67 rating
  • Status display

Cons:

  • No display to quickly review shots and footage

Price point at the time of this writing: $249-$6500 depending on the package you select (some packages include multiple 1TB units, extra batteries and so on). Currently this is only available via Kickstarter.

Personal rating: 9/10 – It’s as if GNARBOX reached into my mind and addressed almost every wish-list item that popped up when reviewing their first offering.

Verdict: GNARBOX 2.0 is the winner between these 2 options. The SSD means less moving parts and faster operation. The user swappable batteries is a huge advantage on those long shoots and the IP67 rating helps with peace of mind in questionable environments.

Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 5LaCie DJI Copilot

The second company we’re going to take a look at is LaCie. They have been around for as long as I can remember. We used to have one of their 200MB SCSI drives connected to our Macintosh Plus back in the 80s! It worked flawlessly. I was quite fond of their Tsunami line back in the day. Based on their history, I expect this offering to be very reliable and simply work.

Enter the DJI Copilot. Measuring 5.34″ x 4.37″ x 1.417″ and weighing in at 1.177lb, this unit boasts a drop, splash and dust resistant enclosure. You can copy files directly using the SD card slot or you can connect your device or a card reader and import at your hearts content. The unit features a status screen that will provide information such as transfer time, available space and battery life remaining. It can also be used as a power bank for your devices.

Pros:

  • Rugged
  • App not required to use
  • Status display

Cons:

  • Spindle – More moving parts means more potential failure points.
  • Fixed internal battery
  • No display to quickly review shots and footage

Price point at the time of this writing: $349.99

Personal rating: 6.5/10 – Simple to use and gets the job done.

Verdict: With their long track record of reliability, I’m hard-pressed not to like this unit but in the end it’s limited feature set and single capacity option leaves me longing for more.

Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 6Sanho – ColorSpace UDMA3

The second company we’re going to take a look at is Sanho and their ColorSpace UDMA3 photo/video memory card backup device. It measures 5.4″ x 2.9″ x 1″ and weighs in at 9.7oz. One of the features that sets this one apart is it’s user changeable storage. It can support up to a 2TB hard drive or 1TB SSD. You can get the unit in various storage sizes including none so you can put your own drive into it.

Component specs are not readily available to reference on this device but It does boast a 3.5″ color screen, once CompactFlash slot, two SDXC slots, one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 port. The CompactFlash and SDXC slots have a maximum speed of 30MB/sec.

One interesting feature of this unit is it’s Data Recovery option. It actually has tools built in to recover lost images/data. It doesn’t support every file format but it’s nice to know there’s a chance it can get you out of a bind. Another feature is the one-way copy to an external drive. You can connect a USB disk to this device and it will allow you to clone its contents to you can have a backup copy.

The battery is rated at 2600mAh and offers approximately two hours of operating time. Sadly this battery is integrated and cannot be user swapped at whim.

Pros:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • App not required to use
  • User installable storage
  • Multiple card readers including two SD slots
  • Large display to review shots and footage

Cons:

  • Not in a rugged case
  • Fixed internal battery

Price point at the time of this writing: $259-$649.99 depending on storage options.

Personal rating: 7.5/10 – This would really be a contender for me if it weren’t for the fixed battery. I suppose I could carry an external source around but at that point why not just bring my laptop?

Verdict: With the large screen and user installable storage this one is a great option for those looking to start out small and expand down the line.

Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 7Western Digital – My Passport Wireless Pro and My Passport Wireless SSD

The third company rounding up our review is Western Digital. This
company has been around for quite a while and chances are you’ve come
across their drives at some point in your life. They make laptop,
desktop and server drives, NAS devices and even portable photo backup
devices. The two offerings to look at are the My Passport Wireless Pro
and the My Passport Wireless SSD.

Both of these units share many of the same features:

  • One-touch SD card copy
  • 802.11ac wireless
  • 4K streaming over 802.11ac/n
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • USB port that works with external card readers
  • Can act as a power bank to charge your devices
  • USB 3.0 (2.0 for importing)
  • Ability to act as a WiFi hub for up to 8 devices

Where these models differ include:

  • Dimensions:
    • The Pro measures 5″ x 5″.
    • The SSD measures 5.31″ x 5.31″.
  • Capacities:
    • The Pro ranges from 1TB to 4 TB.
    • The SSD ranges from 500GB to 2TB.
  • Speed:
    • The
      Pro’s speed ratings are not provided however with the drive being a
      spindle vs solid state it will be slower than the SSD model.
    • The SSD offers transfer speeds up to 390MB/sec.
  • Protection:
    • The Pro has a relatively protective shell.
    • The SSD boasts shock resistance.

Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 8Pro’s Pros:

  • One-touch SD card copy
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • Ability to use external card readers
  • Price point
  • Larger capacity options

Pro’s Cons:

  • Spindle – More moving parts means more potential failure points.
  • Fixed internal battery
  • No display to quickly review shots and footage

Price point at the time of this writing: $149.99-$219.99 depending on storage options.

Personal rating: 7/10 – This is a great option for the budget minded person who just needs to back up/store their images. My only gripes are the fixed internal battery and that it’s a spinning drive inside.

SSD’s Pros:

  • One-touch SD card copy
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • Ability to use external card readers
  • Speed – The SSD model is much faster.

SSD’s Cons:

  • Spindle – More moving parts means more potential failure points.
  • Fixed internal battery
  • No display to quickly review shots and footage
  • Price point – The SSD options can make this unit a bit expensive.

Price point at the time of this writing: $199.99-$799.99 depending on storage options.

Personal rating: 8.5/10 – The speed and one-touch copy features make this a no-nonsense option for the photographer/videographer on the go who just needs a simple, quick backup solution.

Verdict: This is a tough one. One the one hand, you have the speed and reliability of the SSD but it’s pricey. On the other, you have the spindle option but it comes with great capacity and a fraction of the price. The winner for me would have to capacity so to the Pro it goes.

Portable Photo Backup Devices - My Top Picks 9Where Can I Get My Hands On These?

As always, there are several places to purchase from. You can buy direct from the manufacturer, at a local store such as Best Buy or online from places such as Amazon.com. Here are the links to each device online. All except one are from Amazon. The GNARBOX 2.0 is only on Kickstarter at this time.

 

GNARBOX 1.0

GNARBOX 2.0

DJI Copilot

ColorSpace UDMA3

My Passport Wireless Pro

My Passport Wireless SSD

Conclusion

I’ve been looking at solutions for quite a while and there are others out there but they are geared more toward the professional vedeographer and are exponentially more expensive than the offerings listed here. The solution you choose should meet your needs and check off most, if not all, of your wants. If budget is at the top of your list, you can’t go wrong with the Western Digital My Passport Pro, 4TB for $220, that’s a lot of bang for your buck.

For me I am leaning toward the GNARBOX 2.0. Its rugged construction, interchangeable batteries, speed and available accessories make it my top choice. A close second was the ColorSpace UDMA3. WIth its great screen and user installable storage the options are endless. It was a hard decision but in the end it was the GNARBOX 2.0’s interchangeable battery that won me over.

I hope you enjoyed my top picks of portable photo backup devices. Do you have experience with any of the above? Is there a brand/model I didn’t cover that you think I should? Is there something I missed? Please let me know by commenting below.

Thank you,

Scott Hinkle

MavicManiacs.com

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