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SanDisk Professional-Dock 4 Evaluate: The Greatest Card Reader for Professionals

Photographers and videographers who shoot giant campaigns depart units with a ton of knowledge that must be ingested, backed up, and arranged for modifying. For profitable companies, one measly SD card slot on the again of a pc doesn’t reduce it. For them, a multi-card ingestion system is a should, and proper now the SanDisk Skilled Professional-Dock 4 is completely unbeatable in that division.

For the higher a part of 5 years, I relied closely on my Lexar Professional Workflow Hub HR2, the second era four-port reminiscence card ingestion system that I’ve heaped reward on previously. Each shoot day would finish with me at my desk and all of my reminiscence playing cards emptying into my RAID array at 4 instances the pace that it used to take me. SD, microSD, CFast, it didn’t matter: all playing cards could possibly be plugged in and ingested concurrently.

However after these 5 years of labor and lots of of terabytes ingested, my beloved Lexar Hub started to falter. I went to switch it solely to be met with a grim actuality: it was not being manufactured. I looked for an answer to take its place, however Lexar was not Lexar and nobody was producing one thing that I felt would match my wants.

That was, till SanDisk introduced an choice final yr. It took a while to lastly get my arms on it (international provide scarcity and all), nevertheless it’s right here, and I’ve by no means seen a greater ingestion machine than what SanDisk has put collectively right here.

It’s not low cost at $500 and that’s earlier than you choose up the modular card readers you’ll must benefit from it, however all the pieces that was nice concerning the Lexar Professional Workflow Hub is right here and extra, upgraded and renewed for the present era of computer systems and pumped as much as 11.

Extra Than Only a Card Reader

The Lexar HR2 used Thunderbolt 2, a plenty-fast resolution that has since been changed with the even quicker and higher Thunderbolt 3, which shares a kind issue with USB-C. As I transfer away from the computer systems that I edited on for years, I’m additionally abandoning Thunderbolt 2. The SanDisk Professional-Dock 4 joins me in that future and has two Thunderbolt 3 inputs on the rear of the system that permits for daisy-chaining to a full Thunderbolt 3 system.

SanDisk Pro-Dock 4

Whereas this matches the connectivity choices from my previous Lexar HR2, SanDisk didn’t cease there. The corporate appears to have seen the good thing about this system as greater than only a card reader or ingestion machine and determined that, whereas it was already making this, why not additionally flip it right into a hub of kinds. To that finish, the Professional-Dock additionally has a DisplayPort 1.4 enter and a gigabit ethernet port which may be related to a pc via the Thunderbolt 3 ports I beforehand talked about.

SanDisk Pro-Dock 4

The entrance of the Professional-Dock is simply as spectacular. Along with the 4 modular bays that home the person readers (extra on that shortly), it additionally has two USB-A, 5 Gbps ports and a pair of USB-C 10 Gbps ports in addition to a headphone jack. SanDisk appears to have acknowledged that Professional-Dock isn’t small (it’s concerning the depth of two of these Lexar Hubs and considerably heavier), so it determined to take advantage of needing that house by offering extra choices for connectivity. I’m completely on board with that.

Another factor: these two Thunderbolt 3 ports present as much as 87 watts of energy, which may cost appropriate computer systems and gadgets. If it wasn’t clear but, the Professional-Dock itself does require energy within the type of its included 260-watt cable. It is usually each Mac and PC appropriate.

The actual magic of one of these system is the aforementioned modular port and reader system. The Lexar HR2 labored in an identical method. Somewhat than a set card reader, this method permits for a plug-and-play resolution that may be particularly tailor-made to a specific photographer’s workflow. In the event you don’t use SD playing cards, you don’t need to get the readers for these. In the event you do now however in two years have moved on to CFexpress, you don’t want to switch the entire unit, you solely must get the modular insert.

SanDisk Pro-Dock 4

SanDisk Pro-Dock 4

These modular inserts aren’t stand-alone, both. They use a USB-C interface that permits you to pull a reader out while you’re about to hit the street and use it as a journey card reader as effectively. These readers are fairly beefy in measurement, however they forestall waste and permit a photographer to pare down what may be very seemingly a rat’s nest of cables and readers of their desk.

SanDisk Pro-Dock Modular Readers

On the time of publication, SanDisk solely makes 4 modular inserts: a “multi-card” reader (one microSD, a CF, and one UHS-II SD port), a CFexpress Sort B reader, a CFast reader, and a RED Mini-Magazine reader. SanDisk may ultimately make SSDs that slot in these modular ports (just like the Lexar HR2 did), ought to take into account CFexpress Sort A reader, and I’d like to see a multi-SD card reader (two ports in a single could be nice) however for now, most will get what they want out of the present choices.

Stable Construct High quality

For essentially the most half, SanDisk didn’t reduce corners with the construct high quality of the Professional-Dock 4. This man is heavy and contains a plethora of metallic elements. It has a built-in fan that solely kicks in throughout extraordinarily taxing ingestion workloads, so the very fact it’s fairly loud is simply a minor nitpick towards the system. It’s, nevertheless, fairly loud.

SanDisk Pro-Dock 4
The skinny, plastic, hinged door feels low cost on an in any other case beefy, strong construct.

The entrance of the Professional-Dock 4 the place the playing cards go is overly sophisticated. I think about this was completed to stop you from by chance pulling a reader out, however there’s a moderately flimsy plastic hinge that must be opened with the intention to insert a brand new modular reader and presses closed to maintain them in place. I actually don’t suppose this was obligatory for the reason that readers themselves even have a metallic pull-tab that you simply actually have to make use of since they’re so intently crammed collectively, you may’t simply take away them from the dock accidentally. That plastic cowl is basically my solely grievance from a constructed perspective, principally as a result of it feels actually low high quality. If I’m not cautious, I’ll break it proper off. It’s an unlucky smudge on an in any other case high-end construct.

SanDisk says that it designed this dock for use not simply on desks, but in addition on digital tech playing cards on manufacturing units. That’s why it’s bigger, heftier, made with metallic elements, and options so many connection choices.

Easy, However Required Software program

One main distinction between the Professional-Dock 4 and my previous Lexar HR2 is that the Professional-Dock requires software program to work appropriately, no less than on macOS. With out the software program, my MacBook Professional with M1 Max wouldn’t acknowledge even energy coming from the Professional-Dock.

SanDisk Pro Dock Software
That is the knowledge that’s introduced via the Professional-Dock’s software program, which lives within the Mac’s taskbar.

Fortunately, it’s a reasonably non-intrusive affair that gives some useful perception and performance. The Professional-Dock Utility is out there on the Mac App Retailer and permits the system to appropriately work with an Apple pc and in addition exhibits the fan’s RPM, the temperature of the ability provide, CPU, and reader bay individually, and means that you can management the brightness of the LED on the dock. You can too eject both all of the gadgets plugged into the Professional-Dock or simply the reminiscence card readers from the software program. When utilizing the eject button on the entrance of the Professional-Dock (it’s the button just under the right-most USB-A port), the software program tells you that’s occurring as effectively.

A Reminiscence Card Ingestion Velocity Demon

With SanDisk Skilled’s Professional-Dock readers, you may unload concurrently from a number of reminiscence playing cards directly, which dramatically saves time within the ingestion section, particularly if in case you have lots of of gigabytes of footage to take care of. Whereas the readers themselves aren’t any quicker via USB-C (I checked), the good thing about the dock is the very fact you may take full benefit of the bandwidth of Thunderbolt 3 and pull footage at blazing quick speeds all at one time.

The reader works rather well. I examined a couple of reminiscence playing cards and bought pretty much as good or higher efficiency than I’ve been getting with devoted readers that I’ve had to make use of since my Lexar Hub gave up the ghost. Beneath are two examples, one a Sony SD UHS-II card and the opposite a SanDisk CFexpress card.

CFExpress Type B Transfer Speeds
SanDisk Skilled Professional-Dock 4, CFExpress Sort B Switch Speeds
SD UHS-II Read Speed
SanDisk Skilled Professional-Dock 4, SD UHS-II Learn Velocity

I can empty these playing cards concurrently extraordinarily shortly which implies I don’t have to take a seat there and swap playing cards out and in after every one finishes; I can simply do all of them on the similar time.

The Greatest Card Reader for Professionals, Interval

SanDisk Pro-Dock 4

The SanDisk Professional-Dock 4 is a big improve over my earlier favourite ingestion system at $500. That’s $300 greater than the Lexar Professional Hub HR2 retailed for and that’s earlier than including as much as 4 modular readers that begin at $80 however may be as a lot as $200 every. That’s no small quantity of funding, and whereas I didn’t expertise any points throughout my testing, some consumer evaluations point out that the software program may be spotty at instances and that PC workflows aren’t excellent. For a really costly, premium system, this isn’t tremendous encouraging to see. That, and a budget plastic bits on the entrance of the Professional-Dock suck a little bit of wind out from what’s in any other case my dream ingestion machine.

However given the dearth of choices on the market that do precisely what this does, I’m right down to say it’s nonetheless the best choice for heavy-duty, high-volume picture and video ingestion. Utilizing the Professional-Dock 4 has been a dream and the truth that it goes above and past what Lexar as soon as gave us is one thing I actually respect. The period of time this protects is a godsend.

Are There Alternate options?

There are a plethora of choices that do a few of what the Professional-Dock presents, however nothing that may do all of it. OWC has a Thunderbolt 3 dock that options CFast and SD readers, however they aren’t modular and it’s extra of a dock than an ingestion middle. Delkin makes a multi-slot CFast, SD, and microSD reader, nevertheless it’s a lot slower because of counting on USB 3.0, and is once more, not modular. I actually like ProGrade Digital’s card readers (there may be an SD dual-slot reader and a CFexpress Sort A and SD dual-slot reader, amongst others), however they don’t remedy the issue with needing one place to ingest much more footage from quite a lot of card varieties.

If the multi-card studying, modular nature of the Professional-Dock 4 is what you discover most interesting, like I do, then there actually is not any good various.

Ought to You Purchase It?

Sure, however provided that your workflow necessitates ingestion of numerous footage from a number of reminiscence card varieties. In the event you’re simply taking pictures one card sort and also you solely want one or two reminiscence playing cards per gig, then the Professional-Dock 4 actually isn’t for you. However for those who had been like me and taking pictures picture, video, drone, and timelapse multi functional job and burning via 10 plus reminiscence playing cards per gig, then your cash will likely be effectively spent with the period of time the Professional-Dock 4 will prevent.

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