Fast USB 2.0 Flash Drives
We test vendors' top-speed offerings
SanDisk Cruzer Contour 16GB
SanDisk's fastest drive put in a respectable mid-range performance in our tests, ahead of some but behind others. But we weren't so keen on its fussy, probably-seemed-a-good-idea-at-the-time connector protection mechanism.
These are generally a good way of covering the connector and there's no cap to lose. But they can be fiddly just when you want to grab your drive and go. SanDisk's mechanism is no exception. It's a two-stage system that requires you to hold it with your fingers beneath and your thumb on top. You pull back the shiny, black plastic part of the drive with your thumb to reveal the USB connector. Then you have to push it back to extend the connector beyond the edge of the curved matte metal plate that forms the bottom half of the drive.
To cover it again, you push the plastic forward, over the connector, then pull the whole lot back flush with the edge of the metal. Small flap pops up to cover the whole which would otherwise allow dust and fluff to reach the recessed USB connector. It all makes for a clever bit of engineering yes, but we have to wonder how long it will last with all this sliding back and forth.
Still, new ones aren't expensive: the 16GB test drive costs £55, but the 8GB version costs £33 - not as cheap as the Kingston or PNY. You also get a copy of the U3 home-folder-on-a-stick utility with the SanDisk and a slim pouch that looks like a miniature cosh when loaded.
LaCie IamaKey 16GB
LaCie earns points for its sense of humour: lots of people call USB Flash drives 'keys', so here's a product that looks like a key. It's the thinnest of the drives on test but, being made of metal, it's no less resilient for that. And it'll fit on your regular key holder so there's no messing around with lanyards if you're worried about losing it.
It's not a bad performer. It notched up decent sequential read speeds in CrystalDiskMark. Though it's not the quickest when it comes to writing data to, it's not among the slowcoaches, either.
LaCie doesn't bundle any software with the IamaKey, but it does include a wee plastic cover the clips on over the USB connector wires. A nice touch, but we wonder how long it'll be before you lose it. The two-year warranty is nicer to have.