Sony Micro Vault USM256F
The third and final device on test is the Sony Micro Vault USM256F, which is both the slimmest device here and the longest device on test. Actually, it’s not, as what makes it a lot larger than it really is, is the weird docking cradle that Sony ships with it. I'm not entirely sure how Sony came up with the idea of shipping a docking cradle with a USB storage device, especially as the cradle makes it much larger than it has to be.
The cradle has a small rubber stand just below where the fingerprint sensor is located on the USB key when it's inserted into the cradle. The bottom of the cradle has a mini USB port into which you can connect the supplied mini-USB to USB cable. The only reason you would use this rather than plugging the USB key into your PC would be if you don’t have any front-mounted USB ports. Although a USB extension cable would’ve done the job just as well.
The Micro Vault also has the smallest storage capacity of the drives on test, a mere 256MB. But more intriguing is the way that Sony hasn't taken advantage of the fingerprint scanner. First of all you have to install drivers for the fingerprint scanner to work; it’s a rather large and cumbersome application that managed to crash my PC more than once. It doesn’t protect any data on the device itself, but is rather used with another piece of software to encrypt files stored on it.
If you want to encrypt more than one file, you have to encrypt a folder, but sub-folders aren’t supported, so only the first folder will be encrypted. You can also use the USM256F for storing passwords to websites and locking your screensaver, so rather than having to remember a password you put your finger on the scanner. Finally, you can store your Internet Explorer bookmarks securely on it.
There’s no denying that I was disappointed with the Micro Vault, although it is an older device compared to the other two, and Sony has a new version in the pipeline with a swipe scanner with 512MB capacity, but the rest is unchanged.
Performance-wise the Micro Vault is faster than the SanDisk when it comes to copying loads of small files to the device, but otherwise it is the slowest device on test by a few seconds.
The Sony Micro Vault USM256F is disappointing in comparison to the competition. It's downfall lies in the software, along with the fact that it doesn’t automatically protect files stored on it. At £49 it’s not the most expensive device on test, but I’d get the SanDisk any day ahead of the Micro Vault.