Being able to back up your memory card without using a computer is a very handy way to safeguard your photos and videos while traveling or on a shoot in the field. It makes it all the more likely that you’ll get back home or to the studio with the images safely.
I’ve reviewed several portable memory card backup devices. The newest offering is the ColorSpace UDMA3 from Sanho. I’ve previously reviewed the previous model, the ColorSpace UDMA2, as well as what I consider to be the most direct competitor, the NextoDI ND2901.
Memory Card Compatibility
The ColorSpace UDMA3 has one CompactFlash and two SD slots. It’s compatible with CompactFlash Type I cards and SD/SDHC/SDXC and MMC cards.
It doesn’t take microSD cards directly, but you can put a microSD card into an SD adapter cartridge and then insert that into one of the SD slots.
It is not compatible with CFAST 2.0 or XQD memory cards.
File Format Compatibility
The device can read standard image formats, including most major RAW formats. With RAW images, it can read both the embedded JPG thumbnail preview (faster) as well as render a preview directly from the RAW file itself. The latter is particularly handy if you want to bypass the effects of any in-camera processing that will affect the embedded thumbnail but not the underlying RAW image. If camera manufacturers come out with any newer updates to their proprietary RAW formats, Sanho can, at least in theory, issue a firmware update to make the UDMA3 read them.
There is a menu item on the device specifically for GoPro. It isn’t mentioned in the instruction manual or any of the online promotional material. So far as I can tell, it’s only compatible with the previous generations of GoPro cameras (i.e.,. HERO3+ and before) that generated LRV low-resolution preview versions. In trying to use it with footage from a HERO4, which doesn’t generate LRV versions, I simply got an error that the LRV file wasn’t present, and it wouldn’t play the video. It will show JPG photos from any GoPro just fine, though–they’re just regular JPG files.
Screen and Controls
The LCD screen covers a bit over half of the front face, and it’s much larger and more useful than the one on the NEXTO ND2901. At 3.5″, it’s roughly the size of the screen on the back of many of today’s cameras. It displays at 320x480px (you can rotate the image to use the full screen).
It’s quite clear, and it works very well for the menus, but it’s still not suitable for proofing images because it has a strong blue cast and doesn’t give you a very accurate version of the image. But it works great if you’re looking to see whether you got the shot, and you can zoom into 100% to check focus and sharpness.
It’s not a touchscreen. Controlling the device is handled through the array of buttons underneath the screen. In the center is a group of 5 buttons–up, down, left, right, and enter. On either side are buttons for things like zooming, moving up a level, home, and menu. I found them to be functional and sensibly laid out. I much prefer them over the controls on the NEXTO ND2901.
Basic Operation: Backing Up Photos
The reason this device exists is to back up photos from memory cards. The process is straightforward and intuitive. Simply insert a memory card and hit the Import option, which is the first menu item. You can then choose to do a full backup of the entire card or an incremental backup, which compares what’s on the card with what’s in the folder on the hard drive and only copies over what’s new since the last backup operation.
You can also choose to show preview thumbnails during the import process and/or run a verify function, which compares what’s copied with the original at a data level to ensure that the copy is true and accurate. Both of these options slow down the process–the previews by only a little, while the full verification doubles the copy time.
With the incremental feature, though, there’s something to watch out for. The device relies on the filenames to detect duplicates, so if you’ve reformatted the card between backups, you’ll need to specify a new folder so that the potential or duplicate filenames doesn’t become an issue. As the instruction manual puts it:
While using Incremental Import, always define a NEW destination folder whenever the memory card has been reformatted to capture new pictures. The camera repeats the file names when capturing picture files in a newly reformatted memory card. In Incremental Import mode, the system will skip importing filenames that already exist in the destination folder. Using a new destination folder will ensure that the system does not skip importing any file by error.
Many cameras don’t repeat the filename number sequence right away–they’ll often cycle through 9,999 or so images first before restarting the number sequence, which is a lot of photos to take before you run into this issue in real world shooting–but it is nonetheless a sensible recommendation.
There are three memory card slots on this device: one CompactFlash slot and two SD slots. Unlike in the previous model, which had only two slots, you can insert a CompactFlash and an SD card concurrently, but you have to make sure you’re using the SD slot on the left. The reason is that the other two slots use the same controller, so you’ll confuse the device if you fill both slots at once. So if you’re inserting a CF and SD card at the same time, be sure to use the SD slot on the left as you’re looking at the screen (I found no difference in speed between the SD slots in my tests). It doesn’t, however, import from both cards simultaneously, as same of the more advanced card readers can do.
Sanho claims both the SD and CF slots will download files at up to 30MB/s. So I put it to the test.
For these tests, I used a ColorSpace UDMA3 with a SATA internal drive. I haven’t tested with an SSD drive. In theory, an SSD drive could be faster, but it appears the speed bottleneck in the UDMA3 is related to the card reader controllers and not the drive itself.
For testing, I used a collection of 199 images files, each a 14-bit uncompressed NEF file, with an average filesize of a shade over 75MB each. In total, it was 15.05 GB of data.
To get the fastest speed, I disabled the preview and verify options. The preview option only slows things down a little, but the verify options can extend the time taken to complete the process by quite a lot (it doesn’t slow down the transfer speed, per se, but it does add new tasks to the process to extend the time).
I used an Lexar Professional 2000x UHS-I U3 SDXC card, one of the fastest SD cards currently on the market. The transfer speed averaged 31.4MB/s, and it took 8 min 31 sec and used about 7 percent of the battery charge (as reported by the device). That’s about double the speed I got out of the SD slot on the ColorSpace UDMA2 (with a different, slower memory card), and it’s a little quicker than Sanho’s claimed speed. But it’s also still about 10 percent slower than the NextoDI ND2901 (the same card, same files took 6 min 52 sec, or roughly 34.4 MB/s).
It also confirmed that the UDMA3 is not using host controllers that can make use of the boosted speeds of UHS-II U3 memory cards.
I tested both SD card slots on the ColorSpace UDMA3 and found no difference in speed between them.
I used the same batch of files on a SanDisk EXTREME Pro UDMA 7 card. Rated for a read speed of 160 MB/s and using UDMA 7, it’s one of the fastest CompactFlash cards available.
I got a transfer rate of 31.6MB/s and finished in 8 min 25 secs. Again, it used about 7 percent of the battery charge (as reported by the device). That’s marginally faster than I got out of the CF slot on the ColorSpace UDMA2, but it’s not a significant difference. And, again, it’s a shade quicker than Sanho’s claimed speed of up to 30MB/s. But it’s still a lot slower than the NextoDI ND2901. Using the same card and same files, the transfer on the NextoDI with an internal SSD installed took just 2 mins 41 secs at 89.1 MB/s (and 3 mins 4 secs at 77.4 MB/s with a regular HDD installed). So the UDMA3 is faster than the UDMA2, but they’re both still a lot slower than the NextoDI ND2901.
Other Functions and Features
WiFi. The ColorSpace UDMA3 has built-in wifi, so you can set it up with an ad-hoc network so that you can connect a wifi device like a phone, tablet, or computer, to the ad hoc network that the device creates. You don’t need existing wifi access for this system–it’s creating its own–but you can only access the device and not the wider web. You can also connect the UDMA3 to an existing wifi network, which will give other devices on that same wifi network access. Sanho puts out a free app, iUSBPort, for accessing the files, which is a bit clunky. You can also use a web browser through the dedicated addresses of http://22.214.171.124 or ftp://126.96.36.199.
Copy Verification. This is a safety feature. This is an option you can add as part of the import process from a memory card or as a separate function. It compares the copy on the device’s hard drive with the copy on the memory card, checking at a data level that the copy is accurate and wasn’t mangled during the process. It takes a while, so it’s an optional feature.
There are two levels of verification: a quick mode that compares only the first 2MB header of every file, and a full mode that checks the entire file.
Data Recovery. Like its predecessor, the ColorSpace UDMA3 has a built-in data recovery function. So, depending on what went wrong to lose the data on the card, you might be able to recover your photos. It won’t recover every kind of possible file–only selected photo formats.
S.M.A.R.T. This is a self-monitoring feature that checks on the health of the internal hard drive. It will tell you if there are problems with the drive, in which case you should reassess and potentially replace the drive asap.
Basic File Management. You can do simple file management operations in the device like copying and moving files, but any real heavy lifting is best done on your computer.
Internal Hard Drives
While most of the configurations available via retail come with a hard drive already installed, it is possible to insert your own hard drive in the ColorSpace UDMA3. There’s even a small screwdriver and spare screws included to help with that.
The drive uses 2.5-inch drives of 9.5mm thickness.
It is also compatible with SSD drives. This is a big deal, because while they’re more expensive per gigabyte, SSD drives are much faster and much less prone to damage from knocks. But previously there have been problems in making these devices compatible with the different way that SSD drives draw power, and Sanho did not recommend putting an SSD in the ColorSpace UDMA2. I haven’t tested the ColorSpace UDMA3 with an SSD drive, but if the claimed compatibility holds up in practice, this is a very useful upgrade, although any speed improvements will likely be limited to internal file management and viewing rather than improving the speed of downloading from a memory card.
And the UDMA3 is even available without a hard drive so you can insert your own.
External Hard Drives
The device supports one-way copying, or syncing, from the ColorSpace UDMA3 to an external hard drive. So you can make a safety backup and keep it separate (because one of the things you can count on with computers is that hard drives will fail). And in another of several improvements over the previous model, there’s no need for a separate OTG adapter. The OTG conversion, which is needed to communicate between the host (UDMA3) and the client (external hard drive), is built right into the device. So you just plug in the external drive via USB.
There are two things to be aware of when syncing to an external hard drive:
- It will only work with hard drives that are formatted as FAT32. It won’t work with exFAT or OSX Extended formats. If you need to, you can format the external drive from the ColorSpace UDMA3 (which of course wipes the contents of the external drive). One thing that does mean is that you can only work with files up to a maximum of 4GB. That’s not an issue for still most still photos, but it can be an issue with video (many video cameras will split long recordings into 4GB chunks automatically). And since the ColorSpace UDMA3 uses FAT32 for its internal drive, that limitation also applies to the device itself.
- You’ll need to connect the ColorSpace UDMA3 to a power supply to use an external drive. You can still use an external drive that draws its own power from USB and doesn’t have it’s own separate power supply, but the UDMA3 itself will need to be connected to power.
Charging and Battery
In another change that I consider a big improvement and sets it apart from its main competitors, the ColorSpace UDMA3 charges via the USB standard. That means you don’t need to carry around another dedicated and bulky AC adapter. It uses a micro USB, with DC 5V/2A.
The internal battery is rated at 2600mAh, and Sanho claims that you’ll get 120 mins or use while importing photos.
ColorSpace? HyperDrive? UDMA3 vs UDMA 7
The branding of this device is certainly not as clear as it could be. The device is put out by California company Sanho, and they have a product line called Hyper, and a sub-line called HyperDrive.
If you look at the box, the device is called the HyperDrive UDMA3. Which is also what it’s called in the very fine print on the back of the device. But if you look at the front of the device or the software splash screen that loads when you turn it on, it’s the ColorSpace UDMA 3. And if you look at their website, it’s the HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA3.
That’s all fair enough, but where it gets unnecessarily confusing is with the UDMA3 part. UDMA is a transfer protocol. For our purposes, it’s mostly relevant to CompactFlash cards. It stands for Ultra Direct Memory Access. The various generations of the protocol are each assigned a number. The fast CF cards these days use UDMA 7. But the “3” in “ColorSpace UDMA3” has nothing to do with the number in the UDMA protocol–the ColorSpace UDMA3 is compatible with UDMA 7 CompactFlash cards. Instead, Sanho uses it to mean that the ColorSpace UDMA3 is compatible with the UDMA protocol and is the third model of the device. The previous version was the ColorSpace UDMA2. They really could, and should, come up with a less confusing and more meaningful name for the device.
What’s in the Box
In addition to the UDMA3 itself, there’s a neoprene case, a USB 3.0 Micro B cable, a Micro USB-B cable, a screwdriver and spare screws (for replacing the hard drive), and self-adhesive frame for installing thinner SSD drives. And there’s a quick-start instruction manual.
It does not include an AC adapter, but it will work with standard 10W, 5V/2A AC adapters or from an external USB battery pack.
Memory Card Slots: 1 x CompactFlash Type I and 2 x SD/MMC/SDHC/SDXC
USB Port: 1 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0
Internal Hard Drive: SATA, 2.5 inch, 9.5mm thickness, SSD compatible
Built-In Wifi Adapter: WiFi IEEE802.11n 150Mbps
Charging Port: Micro USB DC 5V/2A
LCD Screen: 3.5″ TFT 320×480 Color LCD
Battery Life: 2600mAh
Dimensions: 2.87 x 5.35 x 1.02 inches / 73 x 136 x 26 mm
Weight w/Hard Drive: 9.7oz 276g (will vary a little with different hard drives)
|HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA3||NEXTO DI ND2901||WD MyPassport Wireless||HyperDrive COLORSPACE UDMA2||Digital Foci Photo Safe II OTG||Digital Foci Picture Porter Advanced|
|Model No||ColorSpace UDMA3||ND2901||MyPassport Wireless||ColorSpace UDMA2||PST-252||PPA-500|
|Memory Cards||CompactFlash Type I|
|CompactFlash Type I|
|CompactFlash Type I|
|CompactFlash Type I|
|CompactFlash Type I|
|Hard Drive Type||2.5" SATA HDD 9.5mm|
2.5" SATA SSD 9.5mm
|2.5" SATA HDD 9.5mm|
2.5" SATA SSD 9.5mm (requires external battery, sold separately)
|Internal / Not user replaceable||2.5" SATA HDD 9.5mm||2.5" SATA HDD 9.5mm||2.5" SATA HDD 9.5mm|
|Hard Drive Size||320GB|
casing only for user-installed drive
casing only for user-installed drive
|External Hard Drive Compatibility||Yes||Yes||No||Yes, with adapter (sold separately)||No||Yes (with adapter)|
|LCD Screen||3.5" color TFT LCD||1 x 1" color||No||3.5" color TFT LCD||2" mono (text/icon)||5" color TFT LCD|
|USB Type||USB 3.0||USB 3.0||USB 3.0||USB 2.0||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|Max Download Rate Per Minute (Tested)||CF: 1.8GB|
|0.8 GB||CF: 1.8GB|
|Max Download Single Charge (Tested)||350GB approx.||140GB approx.||140GB approx.||16GB||CF: 120GB|
|WiFi||Yes||No||Yes||Yes, with adapter (supplied)||No||No|
|External Power||USB||AC, dedicated external battery (sold separately)||AC, USB||AC, USB||AC, USB||AC|
|Dimensions||in: 5.4 x 2.9 x 1|
cm: 13.6 x 7.3 x 2.6
|in: 5.0 x 3.0 x 0.9|
cm: 12.8 x 7.7 x 2.3
|in: 5.0 x 3.4 x 1.0|
cm: 12.7 x 8.6 x 2.4
|in: 5.4 x 3.0 x 1|
cm: 13.4 x 7.5 x 2.6
|in: 4.6 x 3.0 x 0.8 |
cm: 11.7 x 7.6 x 2.0
|in: 6.7 x 3.9 x 1|
cm: 16.9 x 9.8 x 2.6
ColorSpace UDMA3 Manual
At the time of writing, Sanho hasn’t yet put the UDMA3 manual or firmware on its website. I’ll update here when it is.
I ran into two serious issues that give me pause.
Battery/Charging. In the copy I tested, I couldn’t get the battery to charge beyond 53 percent, regardless of how long it was left to charge and with trying a variety of charging adapters. I put this down to a faulty battery.
Lockups. It completely locked up for me twice when importing images. The screen froze part way and remained on full brightness. The small green LED stayed flashing, as it does during import. There’s no error message or way to break out of it using the regular buttons, so it’s not exactly failing gracefully. The only way to fix it was to do a hard reset using the small reset button hidden under the CF slot cover. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that the device will reliably back up and protect my photos when I’m in the field. And, in fact, that is something I’ve run into with the previous models as well. Indeed, the very existence of a reset button suggests its needed from time to time.
The ColorSpace UDMA3 continues what its predecessor did in leading the field in terms of features. Among its immediate competitors it leads the pack feature-wise (although it’s still slower than the NEXTO ND2901).
On the positive side, it’s a big improvement over the previous model. The key improvements for me are:
- power via USB (i.e.,. no need for a dedicated AC adapter)
- faster transfer speeds from SD slots
- SSD compatibility
- external drives plug in directly without needing an adapter
That said, while these are all useful evolutionary improvements, it’s still playing catch up technology-wise. These are all features you would expect on any device manufactured in the past few years. But it’s not exactly cutting-edge–there’s no support for USB-C, Thunderbolt, touchscreen, UHS-II, CFast 2.0/XQD, or direct social media sharing. It doesn’t play video in any meaningful way. And GoPro users are short-changed by limited support for video and no built-in microSD slot.
As I’ve said before, most of the memory card backup units seem intent on focusing on yesterday’s technology. That’s not necessarily a bad thing–it’s a proven technology, after all, which is a plus for a device whose reason for being is safety and security of your images. But it also means that there’s a lot of room in the current offerings for someone to swoop in with a top-notch memory card backup unit that really caters to what current-generation of shooters wants. It’s an opportunity new players like the Gnarbox are looking to seize. But perhaps the market simply isn’t there to make it a worthwhile business investment for the established players.
On the negative side, the lockups I experienced during import are a concern to me when the purpose of the device is to be rock solid backup. And a faulty battery isn’t great, but it’s presumably easily fixed with a replacement. We’ll just have to wait and see how many other users report similar problems.
But overall, this is a well thought-out device that’s well worth a look and is one of the two best current options if you’re looking for a portable memory card backup device you can take with you to shoots or when traveling.
The ColorSpace UDMA3 is available in several configurations related to the hard drive. You can get it without an internal drive if you’d prefer to add your own, or it’s available with 320GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB drives pre-installed.