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Disgo Pro 1GB USB Flash drive

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Reg Review Disgo is one of the pioneers of the USB Flash drive business and while there's now a deluge of the things, Disgo hasn't been lost in the flood thanks to a steady line of improvements, incorporating higher capacities, the faster USB 2.0 specification and security features.

The 1GB Disgo Pro is the company's most advanced product to date. The 'Pro' label marks it out as a USB 2.0 device, but unlike earlier Disgos, it sports a slimline, black casing, part of which is transparent, allowing you to peer through at the circuit board and activity LED within. Disgo has a trick of applying different tints to each Pro drive's transparent casing. The 256MB version was blue, the 512MB sea-green and the 1GB model is brown.

For geeks who like to keep these things tucked into their shirt pockets, there's a pocket clip built into the casing. There's a key ring too, but that's removable.

The case design isn't simply a matter of aesthetics. Long and thin, the device is larger than many USB Flash drives we've seen, but skinny enough to connect to the spare USB port on our two-port notebook without us having to unhook the mouse first. While owners of large form-factor notebooks and desktop machines might not appreciate that, it's a boon to the rest of us. Not having to disconnect mice, or plug in extension cables is a big plus.

Lock-in

Other folk may find its security facilities appealing. The device comes pre-installed with Disgo's KeySafe software. Essentially, it allows you to partition the drive into two and protect one of them with a password. Opening the secure area requires KeySafe to be installed on each machine that partition is to be accessed from. Without the software, your data is not only inaccessible, but the partition is to all intents and purposes non-existent.

So, split the 1GB into two, and all anyone else will see is a 512MB drive. Pop the drive into someone else's computer and attempt to reformat it and you will only be able to format that second, 512MB partition.

Protection is consistent across multiple platforms. We set up a 650MB protected area on an Acer TravelMate 661LMi. When we later connected the drive to our PowerBook G4 and ran Mac OS X's Disk Utility app to reformat it, we could only process the remaining 310MB.

However, KeySafe has a... well... key failing when in comes to multiple platform environments. While Disgo happily warbles on about the drive's cross-platform support, its software remains available only to Windows users. So a crucial selling point for the drive can't be utilised by Mac and Linux buffs. Given that the ease with which USB Flash drives can be swapped between operating systems is a factor in the format's success, this is disappointing.

It also means that if the drive is formatted using an alternative file system before the protected partition is set up, the KeySafe software is lost. Actually, you can potentially zap it by reformatting the drive using a Windows format utility. If you use KeySafe to do it, it automatically makes a copy of itself on the freshly formatted drive.

Performance

Having removed the secure partition and reformatted the drive to its maximum capacity - you're left with around 986.5MB of user-accessible space. We copied over our 100MB test file. On the Acer notebook, which has USB 2.0 ports, we got an average write speed of 6.9MBps.

Repeating the process on our PowerBook, which only supports USB 1.1, we got a write speed of 893KBps (approx. 0.87MBps). The read speed was better, as you'd expect from a Flash device: 960KBps (0.94MBps). Both speeds are better than other USB Flash drives we've looked at, though other drives have been 128MB, USB 1.1 units.

Verdict

The Disgo Pro 1GB is a fast drive that's easier to use than many of its rivals - and offers a solid data security system that protects your data, but allows you to share less crucial information too. It's a shame that the KeySafe software isn't cross-platform, and the drive loses rating points as a result.

It also scores lower than it might otherwise have done because of its price. Higher capacity drives are always more expensive, and the 1GB Disgo Pro is not uncommon in that it's more than twice the price of a 512MB unit. But you can buy more generic 1GB, USB 2.0 drives for £230 - £70 less than the Disgo Pro. They don't look as nice, nor are they as secure, but the difference is tempting, especially when you're a Linux or Mac user who can't run KeySafe. ®

Disgo Pro 1GB
Rating 75%
Pros — Good data security
— Narrow enough that you don't need to remove other USB devices to connect it
— Very capacious
Cons — Expensive
— Security system isn't cross-platform
— Not a small drive
Price £300
More info The Disgo web site


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