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Review – Transcend JetDrive 820: Upgrade Your Mac’s SSD

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  • NCgong's Avatar
    13 posts since Dec '15
    • The original review is found at http://www.tech-critter.com

      Let’s be honest here – those who have a Apple’s MacBook Air was aiming for one thing – its price. The MacBook Air 11-inch in particular was Apple’s entry to their walled garden at the lowest price, yet it offers decent performance with an extremely long battery life. Perfect for mobile warriors. I’m sure that there are many MacBook owners are like me – cheap out during the initial purchase and opted for the lowest storage capacity available, but regret now because 128GB is clearly insufficient. This is where Transcend’s slew of Apple memory products come to the rescue – particularly the Transcend JetDrive 820 SSD for Macs.

      If you don’t already know, some MacBooks can indeed be upgraded. I recommend checking the compatibility list on Transcend’s website before purchasing. Apple also uses proprietary interface for its SSDs. I’m personally using a MacBook Air 11-inch from mid-2013, can be upgraded. Other Mac computers might have soldered SSDs or different interface, and Transcend has other JetDrive series SSDs for those machines.

      We also prepared a quick and simply unboxing and review video, showing off what the Transcend JetDrive 820 is all about, and a brief walkthrough on how to upgrade the SSD in the MacBook Air!
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      Specifications
      Interface HCI PCIe Gen3 x2
      Capacity 240GB, 480GB, 960GB
      Storage Media 3D TLC NAND Flash memory
      Maximum Performance Sequential read: 950MB/s
      Sequential write: 950MB/s
      Operating Temperature 0°C (32°F) ~ 60°C (140°F)
      Warranty Five-year Limited Warranty (Warranty does not apply when
      JetDrive Toolbox’s wear-out indicator displays 0% within 5 years.)

      Please access here for more information about the Transcend Warranty Policy.

      Note Speed may vary due to host hardware, software, usage, and storage capacity.

      Unboxing
      Come to think of it, this is the first time ever that Transcend changed its packaging design. Drastically, too. It has a classy black look throughout the entire box, and it has a soft-touch finish. It feels surreal to have a box with soft-touch material.

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      There’s nothing much on the back other than a QR code that tells you how to identify the model of your Mac.

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      Opening up the box reveals a cradle – which is also covered in soft-touch material – that holds the SSD, protected by a plastic shell. This plastic shell is exceptionally thick. Does an SSD even need such packaging?

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      Beneath the SSD are two screwdrivers that are positioned longitudinally in parallel. More on this later.

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      Underneath the screwdrivers are the quick installation guide and also the warranty card. Make sure you keep the latter, as Transcend has a 5-year warranty for the Transcend JetDrive 820.

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      I want to give Transcend a big thumbs up for including the two screwdrivers – one with a P5 bit and another with a T5 bit. That means you don’t need to own any sort of special screwdriver set to open up the machine. However, as Transcend has stated, upgrading a Mac Pro or Mac mini requires additional screwdrivers. Though, you can purchase them separately on the Transcend website.

      I am a bit disappointed that Transcend did not include an “upgrade kit” to convert the existing SSD to become an external storage drive. Since Apple is using a proprietary connector, it essentially rendered the old drive useless once it’s replaced.
      Design

      Let’s talk a little bit about the Transcend JetDrive 820’s design. There aren’t much to talk about when it comes to an SSD’s aesthetics – let alone an SSD that hides within a laptop’s chassis. But we’ll be doing a technical analysis on it.

      At the top side, we can see that there is a Nanya DRAM chip and a bank of NAND flash chips.

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      At the back we can find a lot of solder balls that are on the PCB itself. We’re unsure if these are solder balls that can be soldered for other JetDrive 820 with higher capacity. From the looks of it, Transcend is using the same PCB for all other variants within the JetDrive 820 series SSDs.

      JetDrive Toolbox software
      Transcend likes to provide their own tailor-made software to their customers for free, and I really appreciate that. They developed a software to let you monitor the SSD’s health, enable TRIM, and even upgrade its firmware.

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      I recommend everyone who uses the Transcend’s JetDrive 820 to install the JetDrive Toolbox software because you need to enable TRIM. The only way you can enable TRIM is through this software. This is to prolong your SSD’s life span.

      Transcend JetDrive 820

      As for the firmware upgrading process, I find it a little weird as the JetDrive Toolbox does not create the firmware upgrade drive for you. It downloads a DMG image and a user manual, which tells you to format a USB drive to FAT with MBR partition and copy all the contents in from the aforementioned DMG image into the newly formatted USB drive.

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      Another method you can do is to “restore” the USB from the downloaded DMG image. For some reason, the DMG image can’t be downloaded outside of the JetDrive Toolbox. It’s just not available on Transcend’s website.

      Then, change your startup disk to the USB drive and upgrade your firmware there. Transcend can definitely improve in this department.

      By the way, always backup your files or create a Time Machine backup on another drive before upgrading the firmware. Because it wiped my entire drive when I upgraded the firmware. Yes – that happened.

      Transcend could have developed their own migration software and built it within the JetDrive Toolbox suite to make the process more streamlined. It’ll also be great if Transcend includes an external enclosure for the MacBook Air mid-2013’s proprietary SSD – that’ll work together with the suite perfectly.

      In all honesty, I’m glad that Transcend released such products to the market. Apple is known to charge an insanely high amount for simple upgrades, and Transcend is offering an alternative that’s just as good – if not better. The upgrade process is a tedious one, but that’s not Transcend’s fault.

      The overall performance is – without a doubt – better than the original SSD, but the upgrade process is just way too tedious and time-consuming.

      However, I do wish that Transcend included a converter so that I can use my old SSD as an external storage device instead. Also, it’ll make the migration process a little easier as there’s no need for an intermediate external storage device.

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