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Data Storage Technology

USB Flash Drive Round-up 348

Adam writes "Ars has published a massive USB 2.0 Hi-speed Flash drive roundup, with 10 USB 2.0 flash drives that they've tested on three OSes. They rate the drives by performance, durability, and features/accessories (including the crappy software that no one uses). Definitely a good read for anyone who has recently sat on their USB thumbdrive!"
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USB Flash Drive Round-up

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  • BIOS upgrades? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Saturday April 23, 2005 @01:38PM (#12323565) Homepage Journal

    Still, the most important feature is that it's bootable. (And some still aren't)

    Are BIOS upgrades generally available for those older mainboards that have USB ports but no ability to boot from USB storage? For instance, I use a Dell Dimension 4100 computer manufactured in fall of 2000.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @01:41PM (#12323582)
    FYI, the photos taken with the flash-drive/camera were right on the Charles River, for the most part. The first building is (I believe) the Biogen building right by Alliston Mass Pike exit. The Trader Joe's happens to be in the same parking lot as (ahem) a Microcenter computer store (gee, wonder where everything was bought..) The red building is right near/behind the Central Square T stop. The last photo looks to be taken right after pulling out of the parking lot of the Microcenter/TJ's.

    I opened that page up accidentally in Safari instead of Firefox, and man, now I remember why I installed Flashblock []. Ow. Ow. OW OW OW. 3/4 of the page is flash advertisements!

  • What's with OS X? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 23, 2005 @01:44PM (#12323607)
    Any idea why the OSX test yielded results 5MB/s slower than Windows?

  • by licamell ( 778753 ) * on Saturday April 23, 2005 @01:45PM (#12323614)
    The PQI stick is absolutely amazing. I have one and leave it in the cargo pocket of whatever pants I'm wearing and hardly remember it's there until it's needed. My roomate also has one (he actually got me mine for this past Christmas) and he has put his through the wash twice already and it still works perfectly.

    One thing that's weird in the review is they act so shocked that the I-Stick can be so small and still be so good... but have they ever opened up any other USB thumb drive? Most have what looks like a I-Stick inside them. The case broke off my cruzer titanium (yeah, its titanium, but the part that holds the two halfs together definitely was not!) and I used to carry around the inside piece after that which was about the size of the I-Stick, but of course was not as strong of plastic and couldn't survive like the I-stick has.

    Just my $0.02
  • by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @01:47PM (#12323633) Journal
    These flash drives are nice, but problematic. First, on many computers the only USB ports are on the back of the computer. This is a pain to try and stick the usb memory stick in a port behind the computer, when the computer might be pushed up against a wall, or under a table.

    The other problem is they are rather pricey. They are expensive. The cheapest one was $46 bucks. They can get to be over $100 dollars.

    What we need is another jump in floppy disks. Like when it jumped from 720k to 1.44 megs. The #1 file type that I carry around are documents. And some PDF files, some powerpoint presentations can get to be big.

    With all the innovation, we run a risk of having multiple products doing the same thing, and different computers supporting different hardware. For example, I really wished that all computers had a CD-RW. My computer lab has just DVD drives. It does not make sence, it is a lab, who is going to watch movies in a lab? But writing data to a drive is needed.

    The anwser is to keep the #1 standard of the past 20 years. Floppy drives were the standard, every PC had a floppy, you could take your disk and know with 100% certanty you could read the data. There was no problem of "I brought my zip disk... huh? You don't have a zip drive?". Lets work on making a floppy drive take a couple leaps. I expected the past couple years for the 1.44megs to double a few times, to be around 11.52 megs if it doubled 3 times the past 6 years. That size disk would be big enough for most files, and people would not need a usb keychain, zip drive, and 3 other methods of transporting files.

    Plus, am I the only one who thinks USB keychains are flimsy. A friend had the ipod shuttle and I kept thinking the USB part was going to snap off the cheap plastic. It stuck out of the computer, one bad move, one slip or shove into it and it would snap.

  • by x0dus ( 163280 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @01:49PM (#12323643)
    I would also say stay away from Apacer. I have a 256MB HT202 flash drive, and it has never worked. I constantly get "insert a disk" errors when copying files to it. If you do a Google search you will find many others with the exact same problem. They do have a utility on their website that claims to fix the drive by reformatting it, but I haven't heard a single report from anyone saying it works..

    Bottom line.. Don't buy Apacer flash drives.
  • by ArAgost ( 853804 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @01:51PM (#12323663) Homepage
    It seems like the FA didn't conider the fact that some USB drives simply *don't fit* in some USB ports. I think it's one of the most annoying thing about those little things.
  • SD USB (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TummyX ( 84871 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @02:07PM (#12323770)
    I'd rather have one of these [].
  • by RonBurk ( 543988 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @02:08PM (#12323775) Homepage Journal
    I've long followed and tried to predict the struggle to replace the floppy as the standard for removable media. Finally, I realized that there will be no standard for removable media -- the standard that matters is the interface for removable media, and that prize goes to USB 2.0.

    Once there was an interface standard that supported the basic "something that looks like a disk drive" concept, the war was essentially over. Who cares if different people choose flash, or miniature disk, or anything else that might come along? So long as they can all plug into that USB port and behave pretty much the same to your host computer's software, there's no reason to mind that a single removable media format is not king.

    What's left for the USB media revolution is its use in bricks and mortar commerce. In the B&M scene, they are constantly trying to create schemes to get you to carry a device (e.g., smartcards) to let them "touch" your data. The information benefits for the B&M store are clear, and the example of store cards ("10% off if you have your QFC card!") shows that they can offer rewards to induce the information sharing.

    But who wants to carry 15 different magstripe cards for 15 different stores? The answer is in those little USB devices that more and more people have in their pocket. What's needed is an open standard for sharing data on a USB device -- a standard that lets the customer control what the merchant can store on the card, and what information the customer is willing to share with that merchant.

    Consider the following scenario. I walk into a store I've never visited before. They tell me that if I sign up for an "affinity card", I'll get 30% off today's purchase. But now, instead of spending 15 minutes filling out a lengthy form of personal information, I just plug in my disk on key. Up comes a list of personal profiles I've created. I pick the one I'm willing to share with the store, select how much device storage I'm willing to let the store have on my USB device, punch a button, and I'm done!. When I return that store, I can just plug my pocket USB device into their socket to qualify for discounts.

    You can already purchase password database applications designed to run from USB disks. These let you walk up to your Internet cafe machine, plug in your USB disk, and gain access to all your many encrypted passwords for logging into various web sites. There's no reason the same sort of thing can't be extended to "logging in" to B&M stores.

  • Poorly Written (Score:2, Interesting)

    by yakofdeath ( 835581 ) <> on Saturday April 23, 2005 @02:08PM (#12323776) Journal
    Previously, most people had no idea what a Flash drive was, but now you can be sure to find most people with even a basic Flash drive in their pocket or purse.

    I thought this article was fairly informative, but their writing sure could use a little work.
  • Re:Poorly Written (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mondoz ( 672060 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @02:12PM (#12323805)
    But you've got to give them props for dunking one of them in a glass of water...
  • Re:Whitelist (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @02:22PM (#12323850) Homepage
    Some of the newer arcade video games accept select brands of USB memory cards.

    In order to find out WTF you were talking about, I googled [] your text... and got zilch. So what did you mean? And how can you identify a USB device in a video game... and why would they do this?

  • by nemattoad ( 828569 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @02:26PM (#12323871)
    Firstly, I have not seen a single new computer in the last year or two without front USB Ports. Also, a USB Hub or a USB extension cable works wonders.

    Secondly, the last thing I'd call one of these devices is expensive. I recall it was about 2 years ago when I bought a 256MB SD Card (cheap one) for $139 canadian which was around $100 US back then. Today you can get a 1GB one for $100 US that is of decent quality and a top of the line 1GB for 100$ US.
    Now, you may be saying WTF, that is expensive! you must be rich. Well, no, I just have an appreciation for the difference between solid state and magnetic or optical storage. Even compared to todays leading comparable storage medium, CD-RWs, they are A) Much faster, B) No software required, C) Virtually indestructable if retardedness is not an issue.

    Finally, I have a Pentium 2 333mhz computer that has USB ports. I think it's safe to say that USB is a standard. As for drivers, if you still run windows 98, using good 'ol floppy drives may not be a bad idea. But if you want to embrace USB mass storage and don't want to upgrade your OS, included win98 drivers will do the trick, but are slightly slow to begin access to the device.

    I must say that having had an M-System DiskOnKey 64MB for the last few years, I have had NOT ONE issue with corrupted files, durability, or speed, even on a win98 system. I can however think of numerous times where having to read/write many times to a floppy has yielded in extremly slow speeds and how easily it is to break them.

    To top it off, a 11.52 MB floppy disk? Why not just write the 0s and 1s down on a piece of paper, it shouldn't be much slower.

    Long live USB Mass Storage Devices! I say this as I am about to head out to buy a verbatim store and go pro 512MB and from my computer which does not have a floppy drive.
  • Write cycle limits (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 23, 2005 @02:34PM (#12323926)
    That article didn't discuss my main concern about USB Flash drives - longevity. Flash memory used to be quite limited in the number of write cycles per block. What is the limit on these modern devices? One hundred thousand, one million, or what? And which devices (if any) have the write-leveling that you sometimes hear about, and is it built into the USB drive?
  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @03:11PM (#12324141) Journal
    I understand that older PCs don't boot from USB - so no surprise there. But why are some of the the USB sticks bootable and some not? Aren't they all implementing the same standards, and just adding their features on top (like crypto drivers or whatever)?
  • by ChrisCampbell47 ( 181542 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @03:22PM (#12324189)
    I wonder why the Iomega Micro Mini drives [] were not included in the review. If you include the PQI's somewhat necessary enclosure, the Iomega model is smaller than the PQI and a better form factor (can't lose the Iomega's swivel cover). As far as I know this is the smallest drive on the market right now, and they're priced to move. Still I'm looking forward to more models that use the low profile USB jack like the PQI.
  • by Doppler00 ( 534739 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @03:25PM (#12324204) Homepage Journal
    I noticed that newer drives are not including the write protection switch. Can anyone explain why that was ever useful? I'd figure that people would be more prone to accidently write protect their drive and not know why it doesn't work.
  • Re:Whitelist (Score:3, Interesting)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @03:38PM (#12324289) Journal
    Yeah, but you ought to be able to save your high score and position in an arcadde game on a flash drive.
  • by myowntrueself ( 607117 ) on Saturday April 23, 2005 @04:51PM (#12324684)
    "Notice something about the pricing for those devices? They're expensive. FW requires more intelligence at the device end"

    And, IIRC, the licensing costs for the manufacturer are significantly higher.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears