I have used a number of USB flash drives, and have found them to be a lifesaver in many situations. I always keep one of these drives on me whenever I'm at a client site, just in case they don't have a CD drive, CD burner, or, *gasp* a simple floppy. There have been rare cases where the network is down, or not working properly, and copying 5MB on a flash drive is faster than burning it on a CDRW.
Last year we got a chance to look at Crucial's Gizmo! 128MB flash drive, and today we'll be looking at their . Other than the extra ram, are there any other improvements? Let's find out.
Crucial part number: CT256MBU1
Plug and Play
Solid-state, no moving parts
OS support covers Windows 98/ME/2K/XP, MacOS 8.6 and above. There is no driver disk included for Windows 98, so make sure you grab the proper drivers (motherboard dependant) if you're still using that OS. There is no mention of Linux support, but I would imagine that it will support it if you have the USB enabled in the OS.
There is a three foot USB extension cable, as well as a strap for the flash drive. One end of the cable is used to install into your PC, and the Gizmo! plugs into the other end of the cable. This is handy if your PC is situated in such a way that plugging in the Gizmo! is inconvenient. To be honest, I find the cable to be a little short as my PC is located under my desk, and the cable barely reaches the back edge of my desk.
The Gizmo! flash drive is the same size as the previous model, and weighs almost nothing. One thing I like is the location of the hole to loop the carry strap. Crucial puts this on the Gizmo!'s chassis, rather than on the cap so if you're going to lose anything, it'll only be the cap and not the drive.
Talking with Crucial last year, one of the criticisms of the first Gizmo! was that it was only an USB 1.1 device. I had hoped that later versions would be USB 2.0, but alas, this incarnation is still based on the USB 1.1 interface. It will work in a USB 2.0 port, but not at USB 2.0 speeds.
Pre-copied on to the flash drive is Secure-D, which is a software based security measure for your data. With Secure-D, you can specify what part of the drive you want to set as Public, and what you want to set as Private. Once you do that, simply setup a password, and you're all set.
MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R: Athlon 64 3200+, 2x512MB Kingston HyperX, 120GB SATA Seagate, ATI AIW 9600 Pro.
We will be benchmarking the Gizmo! 256MB USB flash drive using Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark. For our read/write tests, we'll be copying a folder with 56 mixed media files, totaling ~242MB (small files), and a zipped folder of the same files, totaling ~227MB (large file).
The comparison device will be Mushkin's 256MB Flashkin USB flash drive. Please note that benchmark numbers from the Mushkin review don't match up with this review as I've changed the benchmark files to put more work on the flash drives.
SiSoft Sandra 2004 Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark
The Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark is a good synthetic benchmark to get an idea of your USB device's performance. The benchmark writes a number of files to the device, reads, and delete speeds. It then summarizes the results, and compares it against some of the more popular devices.
These are synthetic tests, so there isn't much that I can tell you outside of what is displayed in the image above. Though the drive is 256MB, only 244MB is usable in a Fat32 file system. Let's see how it does in real-world use.
Write Speeds - Small File Test
Lower is Better
We copied 242MB of small media files, varying in sizes of 46KB to 22MB, from a freshly defragmented hard drive to each flash drive. The Mushkin wins the write tests quite convincingly, with Crucial taking more than double the time to write the same folder.
Read Speeds - Small File Test
Lower is Better
For the read tests, we copied the files back to the hard drive from the flash drives. Things got worse for the Gizmo! here as the Flashkin completes the same test in nearly 1/5 the time. Ouch.
Write Speeds - Large File Test
Lower is Better
We deleted all the data off the CF cards, and as mentioned before, we zipped the folder of files, creating one large 227MB archive. Times were reduced in our copy from hard drive to flash drive, but again, the Flashkin runs away here with performance.
Read Speeds - Large File Test
Lower is Better
Again, not even close.
The Gizmo! is an attractive flash drive that's easy to carry around, and with the hole for the strap on the chassis, your chances of losing it are reduced. With a modern day OS, the device is truly plug and play. The Secure-D software is also nice, as some security for your data is better than none.
Performance-wise, the USB 1.1 speed is what killed it today. We didn't slam it that hard with the 128MB Gizmo!, but that was last year. USB 2.0 should really be used for any flash drive sold today, especially if it's more than 32MB. I seriously hope that future flash drives from Crucial jump to USB 2.0, as the benchmarks we've seen today are simply unacceptable for anybody on the move. This includes enthusiasts, who live on speed, and business users who have that 5 O'clock flight to catch, if their cab is going to be there in three minutes, they aren't going to make it if they got 240MB to copy.
Not all is doom and gloom though, as a couple of strengths in the Gizmo! are the durability and power consumption. Though I don't do stuff like dropping it off 10th floor balconies, I did drop it in the snow (it's damn cold here) and didn't realize it until the next day. I found it, and waited a few hours and after plugging it in, I was quite happy that all the data was intact. In case you're wondering, this was after the benchmarks. The Gizmo! also worked in the USB port on my MS Natural Keyboard, whereas the Flashkin would always give me an insufficient power error.
A couple of other areas where the Gizmo! shines is pricing and warranty. A lot of manufacturers offer up to one year of coverage, but Crucial's warranty is lifetime. Considering the quality of their products, I doubt many would have to tap into the warranty, but it's there. At about , it's competitive with similar products, but has the software and warranty to go with it. If only it were a
bit lot faster, we'd put our full support behind it.
Pros: Good warranty and price. Some security via software.
Cons: USB 1.1 makes it slow.
Bottom Line: It doesn't have the storage capacity of writable CDs, but it's easier to carry around, and will work in almost any PC with a USB port (OS dependent). If only it weren't USB 1.1...
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