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Hi-speed USB2 Flash Drive Round-Up 264

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-hid-it-in-my-space-cavity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars Technica has a USB 2.0 Flash drive review featuring 8 drives from different manufacturers. What's so interesting about the review is that not all Flash drives are created equal. Some have very unique features while some are clearly better than others. They also took a detailed look inside one of the drives as well as put two drives in a RAID-0 array (a la Mac OS X). Now that's cool!"
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Hi-speed USB2 Flash Drive Round-Up

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  • by technogeeky (780692) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:12PM (#9327305)
    in a raid array has to be the geekiest thing I've ever heard of. What is this world coming to?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:12PM (#9327318)
    ...damned schoolgirl called the cops. Who knew she could see it?

    On the playground?

    In a raincoat?

    I'm just saying...

  • Which is which? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696)
    Um...hi-speed vs fullspeed...which one's the gimpy one again?

    • Re:Which is which? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ePhil_One (634771) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:21PM (#9327404) Journal
      -from the article- USB 2.0 now has three different signaling rates:

      Low Speed (1.5Mbps)
      Full Speed (12Mbps)
      Hi-Speed (480Mbps)

  • by patrick.whitlock (708318) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:15PM (#9327354)
    not always, in my office we share usb drives to save time, so far they're the handiest things i've found so far... but if you really need biomectrically locked drive that looks like an inkpen, go right ahead
  • by rot26 (240034) * on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:19PM (#9327390) Homepage Journal
    The issue of durability and/or reliability wasn't addressed in the review but I have to say that I was impressed as hell when my Cruzer-mini went through both my washer and dryer with no apparent effect. That was several months ago and it still works great.
    • by IANAAC (692242) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:23PM (#9327427)
      I've put my Viking through the washer and dryer twice and it still works nicely.

      The case has a vent in it, so water definitely passed through it.

    • I had a 16MB thumbdrive - can't remember the brand - but it was lost, found without the protective cap being kicked around on the floor of our hallway at school. It's, oh, 2 years old now and currently being used (third owner) by a friend of mine. Still Works. (TM)
    • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:45PM (#9327662) Journal
      I wish they had addressed the issue of reliability. I wouldn't have read the review if I had known that they skipped that. Frankly, we need a review of these flash drives that focuses -entirely- on reliability. What's the point of having a data storage device if when you need the data on it, you find the device broken beyond repair?

      I killed my Lexar JumpDrive "Secure" in about two months. My mother's class of about 15 people has killed somewhere around five of them in a semester. I don't know about the cause of failure in the others, but wIth mine, if you flex the heck out of it, you can sometimes get it to show up for a fraction of a second. In other words, the USB plug broke loose from the board inside.

      Needless to say, I don't intend to ever buy anything from them again. I'm not even going to bother getting them to repair it, since the replacement would seem to have about a 40% probability of failing in the first two months. Thus, I'm looking for a new flash drive from a new company, and my mother is looking for a new vendor to use for all the students in her class next year. Does anybody have any recommendations on low-power (keyboard-capable) flash drives that don't fall apart?

      • I killed my Lexar JumpDrive "Secure" in about two months

        I have one of these as a replacement to my stolen bytestor; technically it's about as uninspiring as USB Flashdrives get, but what really irritates me is the case feels cheap and nasty, especially the USB cap, which I constantly expect to fall off or find cracks in. It's stupidly bulky too. So much for Lexar's brand name :/

        Do you still have the dead one, btw? Care opening it and seeing what's inside? Some JumpDrives act as SD card readers; be int

      • SanDisk Cruzer Mini has been a rock for me. It's scuffed, carried around unlovingly, dented, and just generaly abused in a way electronic media shouldn't be. Granted, I haven't washed it yet (or sent it through the drier), but I've been very impressed with how it has held up. It's also one of the least expensive and thinest choices. Go figure.
      • The article states that the Fujifilm drive comes with a lifetime warranty. Probably plenty of fine print, but it is worth investigating.
      • Lost my 256MB Lexar JumpDrive 2.0 Pro in the driveway during winter (lots of snow); found it a week later while shovelling. Dried it off, plugged it in, no problems.
    • My Cruzer fell out of my pocket once.. and by the time I found it again, it had been driven over a few times.

      That was 9 months ago and it is still humming along nicely... gouges and all.

    • Flash in general is pretty reliable. I once dropped a digital camera in salt water, and wasn't able to retrieve it for around 30 minutes. The camera was beyond dead (bleeding rusty water) but the flash memory card was still usable. So usable, in fact, that a friend of mine borrowed it for a trip through Vietnam and Cambodia. God only knows what hell it went though in the jungle, but it still works to this day.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Happened to me before. I had my slashdot cookie with my name and password stored on it..
    • I have to agree they do mention that the neck strap is a bit flimsy and they are right. When my 2 yo got it in his grubby little proto-geek paws the neck strap was the only thing that broke. All in all it is the best 50 bucks I ever gave Costco (Mine is 256 and the "old" model with write lock). Saves me all kinds of time at work. This is really one of those things that I bought cause I had a little extra cash and it was "cool" but once you have it you very quickly start using it *everywhere*. Works out of t
  • OS X Raid Array (Score:4, Interesting)

    by INeededALogin (771371) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:24PM (#9327436) Journal
    Gotta love it. Remember this guy [8k.com]. He used USB floppies in pretty much the same manner. I actually emailed him because I was curious about portability(traveling kind). Apparently all the raid information is stored on the drives so the entire raid array could be plugged into another machine and would work with no problems.
  • MRAM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AnwerB (255422) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:26PM (#9327457)
    NAND Flash is what's making this possible. It's denser and faster than NOR Flash.

    If you haven't heard of MRAM, that's definitely another technology to be on the lookout for. According to IBM and Infineon Technologies, it's supposed to start shipping this year.

    Basically, it has the density of DRAM, 15ns access time, and doesn't loses it's state even when powered down.

    Google turns up some articles: here [techtarget.com], here [motorola.com], and here [internetnews.com].
  • by YetAnotherName (168064) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:27PM (#9327461) Homepage
    Regarding the SanDisk Cruzer Mini, Ars Technica mentions:

    Unfortunately, we were unable to ascertain the type and strength of encryption.

    Apparently, even the product packaging neglects to mention it. Neither is it listed on SanDisk's website. It could be as simple as rot-13 or as complex as multiple cascading one-way secure pads with quantum elliptical entanglements. Do you dare probe further to figure out what it's doing? Certainly not; you could well violate the DMCA.
  • almost there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nizo (81281) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:27PM (#9327465) Homepage Journal
    Now all we need is a small motherboard, lcd display + keyboard + network card, and we have a nice (cheap?) QUIET portable xterminal.
  • Here's the summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:28PM (#9327474)
    I hate when they put the article on multiple web pages. Even Tom's Hardware allows you direct access to the last page. Anyway, here's the conclusion [arstechnica.com]:

    Conclusion

    When we started this review, we only had an inkling of what we might come up with. By the time we finished, our perception that USB drives were a commodity was completely erased. While every USB Flash drive is essentially the same in that they carry data, they are all slightly different and not every drive will meet everyone's needs.

    Drive summaries

    PNY Attache: As drives go, this one was stylish and sturdy. It comes with a full assortment of accessories, including the USB extension cable and a neck strap. Aside from that, the drive itself is a rather lackluster offering. While much faster than any USB 1.1 device, the read and write speeds are rather slow for Hi-speed USB. The other unfortunate thing about this drive is the lack of extra software outside of the Windows 98 drivers. While it may be possible to find this drive for as little as US$15 to US$20 (after Mail-in-Rebate), it typically goes for US$30+. That is too expensive for such a mediocre drive. --- Score = 5/10

    SanDisk Cruzer Mini: Of all the drives in this review, this drive is the thinnest. Some might even call it sexy, but we would not go that far. Unlike most other drives, it does not block dual-stacked USB ports in the slightest. Other positive things include the excellent LED visibility, good read/write scores, and it even works in unpowered USB hubs. Even the CruzerLock encryption software was solid and pretty easy to use. Some complaints would be the lack of a write-protect switch and that the plastic loop for the lanyard is rather weak. (It's fine for hanging around your neck, but it certainly is not load bearing in the least.) That said, the prices found for the 128, 256, and 512MB models make this a good deal. --- Score = 8/10

    Mushkin Flashkin: We had mixed feelings about this drive. On one hand it offered a full complement of accessories and features, such as the standard neck strap, USB extension cable, write-protect switch, security software and it even worked in unpowered USB hubs. Yet despite this, everything about the drive felt like it was cheaply made and the security software felt like it was coded as an afterthought. The plastic body was very bulky and felt extremely hollow. On top of this, the slow read/write performance was troubling and the one-year warranty made us wonder how long this drive would last. Overall, the drive is not that bad, but what really lowered the score is that the price for the drive is more expensive than most of the other drives (which are notably better equipped.) --- Score = 6/10

    SimpleTech Bonzai Xpress: This drive has the best physical design of the bunch. It is both strong and sturdy, yet still compact and a comfortable to carry. While it does not come with a USB extension, it does have a write-protect switch and some very helpful file synchronization software. What makes this USB drive especially nice is the strong read/write speeds, the solid two-year warranty, and the very nice price (considering how much is included.) --- Score = 9/10

    Fujifilm USB Drive 2.0: Two words: speed demon. Without a doubt, this drive is fast! With top read speeds reaching 8.5MB/sec and write performance that destroyed the competition, this drive is perfect for anybody who is impatient or never seems to have enough time. Unfortunately, this drive has its drawbacks. The drive is the largest of the bunch, has no accessories included, no write-protect switch, no low-power support, and a higher price than most. Fortunately, it does come with decent security software and a lifetime warranty. --- Score = 8/10

    Verbatim Store 'n' Go: In a nutshell, this drive was consistently above average. Never spectacular, but never terrible either. Read/Write performance is definitely strong, but nothing amazing. It comes equipped with neck strap, USB extension

  • by kyoko21 (198413) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:31PM (#9327507)
    Well, for those that are interested in the 'bulk' data, you can pickup a 1GB SanDisk Cruzer Mini for only $162 after an instant rebate...

    http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/m as terid=1956584/search=1gb%20usb

  • How about... (Score:5, Informative)

    by jwr (20994) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:35PM (#9327552) Homepage
    How about fixing USB 1.1 support in Linux first?

    USB must be the crappiest kernel subsystem in existence: I can crash 2.4 in a number of ways just by plugging in and removing USB devices. Bug reports are being ignored, sometimes people sugggest moving to 2.6.

    Well, 2.6 freezes dead hard when I plug in my USB audio device.

    USB is the primary reason for the short (several days) uptime on my laptop.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      SHHHHH! Don't say that.

      Linux is good, Linux is great. We surrender our will, as of this date.

      Linux is good, Linux is great. We surrender our will, as of this date.

      Linux is good, Linux is great. We surrender our will, as of this date.
    • How about fixing USB 1.1 support in Linux first?

      Agreed. And while they're at it, could they PLEASE fix Microsoft Optical Mice?

  • by green pizza (159161) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:37PM (#9327569) Homepage
    Thou Shalt Not Use GIF for Screenshots!

    http://arstechnica.com/reviews/004/flash/RAID0.gif [arstechnica.com]

    GIF really makes that screenshot look bad. The gradent in the window bar was reduced to just two colors and the icons and RAID tab are a dithered mess.
  • Does anyone know if Mac OS X 10.3.4 has better USB drive performance? I see that the release notes mention USB fixes/changes since 10.3.3, but it is not much more specific than that.
  • Fuji flash drive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chiph (523845) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:42PM (#9327621)
    I've had a 256mb Fuji for 18 months now, and a 8mb DiskOnKey [diskonkey.com] for 2 years before that (the Fuji is a re-branded DiskOnKey drive). The complaints from Ars Technica are only valid if you keep your flash drive on a lanyard. As I can't stand anything hanging off my neck (too much like a tie!), I keep mine clipped to my keyring. I've never had it come unclipped, nor have I lost the drive part (the clip is on the cover, not the drive itself). In fact, having the clip on the cover is very useful, as I can leave it connected to my keyring while the drive is in use.

    I'm surprised the review didn't cover performance under GnuPG and PGP -- I keep my keyrings on it, as well as my Quicken backups. Plus tons of room left for mp3s to listen while at work. The SiSoft benchmarks are nice, but I'd like to know how slow/fast they are relative to an IDE drive.

    Chip H.
    • I keep mine clipped to my keyring. ..... I keep my keyrings on it, ...

      Argh! The recursion is killing me!

    • Re:Fuji flash drive (Score:3, Informative)

      by ericspinder (146776)
      I keep my flash drive on my keychain, but the loop is on the drive, and for a while it didn't seem like a good idea. Then I thought of using a keychain separator (I found this [branders.com] after a quick seach to show what they look like, you can find one at home depot). Now it works great and I don't have to worry about loosing everything but the cap.
  • by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:44PM (#9327647) Homepage
    But I'm wondering if they reviewed anything that was inside of this little beastie [thinkgeek.com].

    And if what some of the above posters have put up about washer/dryer incidents is true, you can STILL take it into the bath with you!
  • by antdude (79039) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:58PM (#9327792) Homepage Journal
    If the cap/lid comes off, there goes your USB Flash HDD! SanDisk and others are smart to put on the Flash drive, not the cap/lid! My 512 GB PNY brand (not the same one in the article) has it on the cap! I don't bother to wear it on my neck anymore since I can lose it easily.
  • by DroppedAtBirth (776511) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @01:59PM (#9327799) Homepage
    Can you dual boot a bootable USB drive? Sounds like a fun way to waste a few hours....
  • Now there sounds like the most expensive storage device other than carving into pure gold. Actually, solid state RAID may be more expensive.
  • "Very Unique" (Score:5, Informative)

    by jmichaelg (148257) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @02:02PM (#9327839) Journal
    Something is either unique or it isn't. Saying "Very Unique" is like saying "very one of a kind."

    You'd think this place was run by /. editors or sumptin.

    • The other misuse of "unique" that gets to me is how it's used as praise, as if simply being "unique" (or, more often, "one of the most unique...") were a good thing in itself.

    • My favorite is the mind numbingly stupid expression "instant classic" that is constantly tossed about by the movie industry. They actually managed to make it worse by turning it into "soon to be an instant classic."

  • It's a shame they didn't review Kanguru's MicroDrive+ [kanguru.com]. I don't know about speed, but it includes a SD slot (or CF slot on another model), so it doubles as a USB SD card reader.
    • Re:Kanguru skipped? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Deffexor (230167) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:17PM (#9328613)
      We didn't review it for a few reasons.
      1) We wanted to focus on USB 2.0 Hi-speed devices (the link you have is for the slower "full speed" - a.k.a USB 1.1)
      2) We wanted embedded memory drives only. Upgradable models would have made the article more confusing.

      But don't worry, we have a follow-up article in the works that will feature more exotic devices.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @02:16PM (#9328006)

    I noticed that some of these flash drives have "write protect". However, I noticed that some manufacturers claim that Linux cannot use the write protect functionality:

    " When you put the write-protect switch to "ON" position, you cannot write any file or data into the device. You still can view and read the files and data in the device. You can switch the "Write-Protect" switch even you do not disconnect the device. Due to Linux OS limitation, the write-protect switch will not work on-line."

    Flash drive manual [panram.com.tw]

    But I see in status messages when people plug in the flash drives that it says "write protect is off".

    Does anyone have experience with these products in Linux and whether write protect works with the flash drive connected?

  • pqi (Score:3, Interesting)

    by austad (22163) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @02:17PM (#9328026) Homepage
    I wish they had tested the PQI Intelligent Stick [pqi1st.com]. It's the smallest drive around and looks pretty sweet. Pricing isn't bad either if you look on Froogle.

    I guess I could always pick one up and return it if it sucks. But really, how much could it possibly suck as long as it works? I can't imagine I'm going to get horrible transfer speeds with it.
    • Re:pqi (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mclove (266201)
      I have two, they seem quite fast (significantly faster than my Lexar JumpDrive 2.0 anyway, though this is very unscientific) and have been very reliable so far. Plus you can get a little USB drive holder for them that gives you a belt clip and a more standard USB connector (though I haven't encountered a computer yet that won't work with the built-in one) - even in the holder they're still smaller than most other USB drives.

      The one problem I've found is that they can be kind of difficult to carry around s

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I actually got in to discussion today about people wearing usb sticks in a neck strap.

    Seems like there would be a considerable market niche for stylish sticks. None of the drives I've seen look ugly but it would be nice to see some real variety. Something little bit more unique.


    So does anyone make something "special"..?

  • Our IT Dept. is cramming these things down user's throats as the ultimate floppy replacement. I've had one friend though who's usb drive went completely dead, no power, no chance at all of recovery, any body else want to comment on issues of reliablity with these things? Obviously, users should be storing their files elsewhere as a backup but these are the geniouses that save a semester worth of papers to an old floppy and store it in their book bag underneath their 7 lb. math book and the sand from the b
    • Re:Reliablity? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SquadBoy (167263) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:21PM (#9328651) Homepage Journal
      As a floppy replacement they are great. I've had mine since the middle of Janurary. My kids have gotten ahold of it a few times and it has survived that I used to carry it in my pocket now I just carry it in my bag it seens to work fine. But here is the thing that you mentioned that is just what it is a a floppy/burning less than 256 meg to a cd replacement. For example I use mine to carry music between work and home. I use it to grab config files off of machines that are on another network/domain. I use it for putting VPN clients on lusers machines that aren't on the network. In short I use it for temporary storage and transfer where doing it that way is faster/easier than doing it over the network. Sometimes I do it just to impress chicks. :) But I would never use it for long term storage of anything I care about and don't have in another spot, they just aren't designed for that. But then again back in the day I know plenty of folks who would do just that with floppies.

      Wish I could get work to buy me another one. :) Count your blessings.
    • I think it's a *lot* easier to kill a floppy than it is to kill a flash drive, and structural integrity is a big pard of it. It's not hard to bend and destroy a floppy... have you ever tried the same with a flash drive? Those things are *stiff*.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @03:35PM (#9328780)
    How about selling something like Knoppix on a USB drive? It'd boot faster, fit in your pocket, not need a CDROM drive, allow for customization by being re-writable, and you could keep some of your data files on it. Even better, if you eventually decide that you don't want to use Knoppix, you get a handy USB drive...
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @04:10PM (#9329145)
    I've played around with a number of different USB1.1 and USB 2.0 flash drives, and one thing that I was looking for when I read this article (yea, I read it) was the real size of the different devices. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to have been covered.

    You would think that if it's a 256meg drive then you would know the size, 256 megs, right? But marketing has struck again, I've found that 32 meg drivs I have actually seem to have about 30 megs of space on them, and vary by drive. A 64 meg device is also short several megs (as are some flash cards I have). I would have found it really handy if the reviewer had bothered to tell us how much space each of these devices really delivers.

    • That would be do to the fact that the filesystem (usually FAT/16 maybe FAT/32 on larger devices) has overhead. I reformatted a 256MB keychain to use EXT2 and a whopping 32 megs are eaten just by the filesystem data structures. As the size of these things goes up, 32 MB on a large > 4GB device will be much less of a problem.
  • Jaz Raid! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Foxxz (106642)
    I built a RAID5 array from jaz drives! It was the only way to get ANY reliability out of them! :D

    -Foxxz
  • What I want to know is where the encryption actually happens. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's all done on the PC side with the included software. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.

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