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.
There has been one problem though with past flash drives I've used, and that was that they were USB 1.1. For a couple megs of data, I can deal with the speed, but 100MB does take a little longer.
We got a chance to test out Mushkin's 256MB USB 2.0 Flashkin Drive. Other than offering more memory storage than past devices I've used, the big feature is the potential USB 2.0 speeds.
USB 2.0 up to 480Mb/s data transfer
Includes USB Extension cable
Read: Up to 7MB/s
Bootable (motherboard dependant)
OS support covers Windows 98/ME/2K/XP, MacOS 8.6 and above, and any distro of Linux with a 2.4 Kernel and above. There is a driver disk included for Windows 98, though for the other operating systems, support is built in, so long as you have the proper USB drivers installed (which is motherboard dependent).
The Flashkin itself measures 3 1/8" long, about 1" wide, and just under 1/2" high. This puts the Flashkin in the upper range in terms of size, though it is still easily portable. The brushed silver appearance is also nice, though no other colours are available if silver isn't for you. There is a driver disk (as mentioned), a neck strap, and a short USB cable should your PC be in a hard-to-reach spot. Using the neck strap wasn't my thing, but the Flashkin also has a pocket clip if you're looking to match the pens in your pocket protector. :)
With the cap off, the USB connection on the Flashkinis about 1/2" long, though one potential issue I can see is if you have a USB port that is enbedded into your case chassis, it could cause problems with installation, as illustrated below...
The base of the Flashkin is fairly wide, and if the USB connection on the PC is in a narrow depression, it may not fit. Now, this problem can be remedied by using the included USB cable, but without it, the potential of this problem does exist. I tested it on a Compaq EVO PC, and though I didn't have this problem, the Flashkin just barely fit in the front USB of the EVO. If the EVO's front USB connection had just been 1/8" deeper, the Flashkin would not have fit on its own. Eitherway, just keep that USB cable handy.
There isn't any management or encryption software included with the Flashkin, which is a bit of a concern for those who are concerned with security. There is a lock to write-protect data from being erased, but that's it. You'll need to spring for third party software if more serious security is needed.
Unlike past flash drives we've tested, the Flashkin allows for system booting as a USB device. I know many people, myself included, who have ditched floppies long ago, and in case you do not have a bootable CD handy, this feature will come in handy. Keep in mind that support for Flashkin booting is dependent on your motherboard.
MSI K8T Neo-FIS2R: Athlon 64 3200+, 2x512MB Kingston HyperX, 120GB SATA Seagate, ATI AIW 9600 Pro, Windows XP SP1, ATI Catalyst 3.8.
We will be benchmarking the Flashkin using Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark, as well as copying a folder with mixed media files, totaling 246MB. The comparison device will be a Crucial 7in1 USB 2.0 card reader with a Sandisk 256 Ultra CF card.
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.
Combined Device Index
Operations per minute
The Mushkin performs about 69 operations per minute faster than the Crucial card reader. Basically the Flashkin is capable of reading and writing faster than the card reader.
512B File Test
Read/Write in KB/Sec
Here we can see that the Flashkin is a lot faster at reading small chunks of data than the Crucial reader, though the gap does close in the write tests. The Flashkin still maintains a noticable lead though.
2MB File Test
Read/Write in KB/Sec
Much the same story here with larger files, though the write tests tip to the card reader's favor.
Real-World 246MB Copy Test
Lower Numbers are better
Here, the Flashkin wins convincingly over the Crucial reader. At first, I thought the Crucial was running at USB1.1, but it was not (times were almost doubled at USB1.1).
The Flashkin is definitely the fastest flash drive we've had the opportunity to test here at VL. For anyone who has used one of these devices, they will almost certainly tell you that they are extremely useful, and it's tough to live without one.
The one issue that we found is the width of the drive may cause problems with some PCs. I mentioned one of them earlier, but another problem I discovered is if you have four USB slots right by each other in the rear of your case, and you have other USB devices plugged into 2 or 3 of them, the Flashkin will not fit. Again, the USB cable that's included solves this problem, so it's important you don't lose it.
At about , the Flashkin is in the upper range in terms of pricing. Just keep in mind that most of the cheaper ones are USB1.1, so the extra speed may make it worth your while.
Pros: Fast, portable, 256MB of storage
Cons: Slightly larger size may cause problems with some PCs
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 you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.