The XferMax X8 is a standalone device that allows you to back up memory cards to an external hard drive without a laptop. The main target for this device is photographers who want to travel light. The device has a screen and a simple user interface which provides all of the options you might need for backing up and organizing your images. A few things set the XferMax X8 apart from other devices that perform a similar function.
First of all, the device is not sold with a hard drive included. Instead, you can insert any standard 2.5 inch SSD drive. This means you can easily upgrade the storage in your device, or even swap out drives and use the device to back up images to several different drives. Bare SSD drives can be significantly cheaper than portable SSD hard drives that come with enclosures which helps offset the cost of the XferMax X8 itself.
Secondly, the device can be configured with a selection of three different card readers, including CF, CFast, XQD, and SD. CFast and XQD often require you to carry a specific card reader dongle so this drive can also reduce the number of card readers you need to carry.
The device is powered by Li-ion cells. These are not included due to shipping restrictions but are easily purchased online. With fully charged batteries, I filled up a 500gb SSD without needing to recharge it which makes this fantastic for use in remote locations. The device is charged via a regular micro USB socket.
Transfer speeds from card to the internal drives are very fast. It is not as fast as my thunderbolt card reader and SSD but it is still faster than any other standalone backup device that I’ve seen and the ease of use to actually turn on the device and initiate a back-up makes up for it.
When you back up images, you have the choice of a full back-up or an incremental backup. Incremental back up will only back up new images on a card since the last time you backed it up. This is a handy way to quickly copy over new images after a shoot so you can have a back up in two places.
You can also connect a regular external drive to the XferMax X8 and have it back up to the external drive at the same time as its own drive if you want to make an additional copy (this requires you to use an external power supply as the XferMax X8 cannot power the second drive using battery power alone). When it comes time to import your images into Lightroom, you can connect the device to your computer with a USB 3.0 cable and the drive is seen as a regular external hard drive.
So how did I find using it in the real world? In short, I really liked it. After each shoot, I simply incrementally backed up my cards to the drive. It takes a few seconds to insert the memory card, turn on the XferMax X8 and start the transfer. I could then leave the card backing up while I went off and did other things. When the back-up finished the XferMax X8 would turn itself off after a few minutes to conserve battery. This workflow was significantly quicker than powering up a laptop and backing up a card either through Lightroom or copying images via the finder/explorer. When I wanted to start working on images I just added them to Lightroom directly from the XferMax X8 so the import process was very quick.
For me, the price of the XferMax X8 seemed high, particularly when I realized that it didn’t include the SSD hard drive itself. Thus, this drive is likely to appeal most to people who travel or shoot a lot and would really appreciate the more efficient workflow or who want to travel light and leave the laptop behind. For me, in the last 5 months, I would say that I have used it enough to justify the price tag.
The XferMax X8 is faster than alternatives but it is still not as fast a thunderbolt connection, speeding it up further would really increase its appeal to me. I would also like to see a thunderbolt option for connecting the XferMax X8 to my computer so that my computer can read images from the drive as quickly as my standalone Thunderbolt SSD drive.
In conclusion, I will continue to use the XferMax X8 for quick incremental backups and I will probably buy more bare SSD drives to travel with on future trips. I will still carry my laptop for sorting and processing, images but I will use the XferMax X8 for copying the images from my cards.
About Will Burrard-Lucas: He is a professional wildlife photographer from the UK. His aim to use innovation and technology to achieve fresh perspectives in his work. He is the founder of Camtraptions, a company specializing in products for remote and camera trap photography, and WildlifePhoto.com, a website which offers a range of educational resources and safaris for photographers.
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