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LensVid Exclusive: Nexto ND2901 Memory Backup Unit Review


A few weeks ago we received the new Nexto ND2901 – a memory backup unit capable of saving all your images and videos from your SD or CF cards directly into the internal hard drive even if you have no computer around.

Memory backup devices such as the ND2901 have been around since the early days of digital photography, and there are several manufacturers (Sanho, Digital Foci to name just two) that have been selling them besides Nexto. As for Nexto, the company (based in Korea) has been developing and selling memory backup units for years – some of them for the high end video and production market and some for for stills photographers.

ND2901 – pro memory card backup device

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The ND2901 is the latest model from Nexto and has a pretty impressive specs for a unit of this sort:

  • CF (type 1/2) and SD (UHS-1) memory card support.
  • Ability to copy files larger than 4GB (exFAT support).
  • Sync to an external drive (up to 24 MB/s).
  • View images on a 1.44 inch color screen.
  • Internal battery (good for up to 90 min), external battery (sold separately) can last up to 3 hours.
  • USB 3.0 for host connection (for connecting an external drive) and for PC connection.

Build quality 

The ND2901 has very good build quality. Its made almost entirely out of metal and feels very solid in the hand (with the 1TB 2.5 inch HHD installed it weighs about 270 grams or 9.1 oz). Both the SD and CF card slots are bare – meaning that if you operate in a very dirty environment with lots of dust things might get into the unit. Luckily Nexto provides the ND2901 with a cover which has a scotch covering the CF slot (although the smaller SD slot is still exposed).

The ND2901 about to copy files

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On the front you can find a small 1.44 inch color display which allows the user to view menus as well as images. The screen is low resolution so you will only be able to identify images but not much more. Nexto added an option to connect the ND2901 to an Android based device using an USB OTG cable (see here). In this way you can see your images on a larger display without a computer. 

ND2901 tiny display showing list of images

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We still wish Nexto will include WIFI in a next version – this way you will not need a cumbersome cable to watch images from your device (something that the new Western Digital My Passport Wireless can do).

Operation

The ND2901 is very straightforward in terms of operation. One long click turns it on and from here on you only have very few options to play with – either a short click (typically O.K.) or long click (typically cancel or back) as well as up and down with the control button. 

The functions that you have available are: preview images, hard drive self test, auto copy files from the memory card, buzzer sound (turn on/off beeping sound), format hard drive, temporary folders (in case a file transfer was stopped unexpectedly) and firmware update.

ND2901 connections – hot, computer, battery and DC

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There isn’t much to controlling the unit and for the most part the operation is very quick and simple. There a few points though we would like to mention:

  • Annoying control button – there is no way around this. The ND2901 has just one multifunction button and is really annoying to use. Many times it feels like it does not register the click and the need to use a short or a long click to do opposite things is just plain bad interface.
  • Self power down – if you do not touch the device for 30 seconds it will power down automatically. It seems strange at first, but it was done to save power (no way to change this with current 1.03 firmware – maybe later on).
  • External power needed for syncing with external drive – we had to learn this one the hard way, but unless you connect the ND2901 to an AC adapter, it won’t be able to operate an external hard drive (you would also need the drive to be formatted in exFAT otherwise it will ask you to do that on its own and format your drive – your best bet is to have a new blank drive for this task).

Performance

We tested the ND2901 quite extensively trying different memory cards and connections. The first tests that we did was trying to transfer several Gigabytes of images and videos with a few different SD memory cards. Unsurprisingly we got the best results with the fastest card on our disposal – the SanDisk Extreme PRO 280MB/s SDXC UHS-II we reviewed earlier this year (the ND2901 does not support UHS-II although we had no problem using the card in the unit as the standard is backwards compatible). Our average transfer speed we got was around 35MB/s (the official speed is 40MB/s). With different slower cards we did get all sorts of results down to about 13MB/s. Although with the faster cards this is certainly quite a fast transfer speed (we are talking about over 2GB a min), its worth remembering that USB 3.0 computer connected card readers such as the Lexar memory card reader we are using is capable of speeds 3 times as fast (and the UHS-II memory card reader from Sandisk is twice as fast as the Lexar).

We did test the ND2901 with a CF card and it worked perfectly although since we do not use CF cards on a regular basis we did not have one fast enough to test the maximum speed (which is said to be up to 70MB/s).

We did check the transfer speed to the computer and here we had a very pleasant surprise with speeds close to about a 100MB/s (depending on the sort of files we transferred). This means that even a full 64GB memory card backup can be transferred into the computer in just about 10 min. You might get even faster results when using an SSD instead of conventional HHD like we used but then you must use an external battery at all times.

The ND2901 open with a 2.5 inch 1TB drive

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As for sync speed – we first had to discover that you will need to connect the ND2901 to the external power (as we mentioned above) and only this way will you be able to power your external hard drive. However since our own external drive was not formatted in exFAT format and we did not want to format the entire drive and lose our data, we did not test the sync speed, but as it is USB 3.0 just like the computer connection, there is a good chance that we will see a similar transfer speed here as well (given the drive support this of course).

Conclusion

The Nexto ND2901 is a simple device – it was created to do one main task – to make sure you will be able to backup your important images and videos on the go. It’s a kind of no-bulshit type of unit – you put your memory card inside (SD or CF) and with 2 or 3 clicks your backup is on the way. Its simple, fast and very easy to use and built very well.

The unit has a pretty decent battery life (around 200GB of data that can be transferred into it before it requires a recharge) with an option to add an external battery if you need it (we didn’t). The sync option which allows you to use any external hard drive to be used as a secondary backup drive for maximum redundancy is another very nice touch to this device.

No bulshit memory backup – ND2901 

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There are very few negative things that we can say about the Nexto ND2901. Maybe the only thing about the device which really bugged us was the control button – for us its stand in sharp contrast to the rest of the device which seemed very well made. Nexto explained to us that this is the same control button they have been using on their lineup for several years and had no complaints. We would really like them to change this in future models to a joystick style button and a separate on/off switch on the side. Is the bottom thing a deal breaker?  for us no. the ND2901 is a type of device you use very few times a day – so even if you need to play with a bottom a few more seconds its not really an issue.

There is one feature which we would have liked to see on the ND2901 and that is WIFI. The logic here is simple – the ND2901 has a very small screen. Nexto could have used an even simpler small monochrome display just for controlling the device and allow their images to be viewed (and even deleted) from a smartphone or tablet. Is this really necessary for this type of device? no. But its nice to have, and for the price we think they could have included it.

The ND2901 top CF card slot 

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Talking about the price, this might prove to be the biggest drawback for a lot of users. The ND2901 with 1TB drive will set you back almost $450 (on Amazon) and just under $400 (if you settle for 500GB drive). The ND2901 is a premium device and functioned very well in our test, but for the average user $400 is a lot of money (there are DSLRs that cost less) and there are other cheaper options on the market. However, if you are a professional photographer (or even a serius ametour who plan a long trip), having a very reliable high quality, fast mobile backup option for the field is in many cases a necessity – one that far outweighs the extra cost.

What we liked

  • CF and SD card support.
  • Good build quality.
  • Simple to operate.
  • Fast transfer speed.
  • Sync capabilities (to a second external hard drive).
  • Decent battery life.

What we liked less

  • Poorly designed control button.
  • No built in WIFI (but does have a 1.44 inch screen and option to connect to an Android device with a USB cable).
  • Relatively expensive.

You can check out more LensVid exclusive articles and reviews on the following link.

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