The round base of the XtremKey’s USB drive component looks like it could cause a few problems on laptops, but it had just enough clearance, the only obvious issue here being connecting it to the USB port on an Apple low-profile keyboard, as it lifts the corner slightly. Plugging in to MacBook Pro, with its notoriously cramped USB port spacing, proved hassle-free too, which was a surprise. The XtremKey is deceptively slim, allowing enough space for cables to be plumbed in to adjacent ports.
Hard, but not so fast
Perhaps the most curious aspect of the XtremKey was that the device itself gets rather hot. The flat metal shaft housing the flash chippery dissipates a fair amount of heat in use, which may be a good thing for longevity and no doubt something typical plastic thumb drives insulate against.
There is a hardy wire ring to attach it externally and this can be unscrewed and removed. Given all the trouble gone into protecting the drive, I’d not be inclined to trust leaving it to dangle. Having it in the pocket seems more secure, although the XtremKey is a bit of a lump and rather than having the appearance of carrying treasured data, some may presume you’re just pleased to see them.
Protection against the elements aside, it’s in the environment of the pocket, alongside keys and coins, where most USB flash drives come to grief. No matter what the conditions, if you carry data with you all the time and are weary of drive disintegration, LaCie’s XtremKey could be just what you’re looking for, but it'll cost ya. ®
More Portable Drive Reviews...
Will it blend?
Will it survive
Wash cycle 40 degrees plus a trip in the tumble drier, typical means of failure at home? Flames, because you don't have a washing machine symbol.
I can't say it's a bad product...
...but do you really need one?
I suppose that there are some people who can make use of a hardened USB key. Of course, then I'd have to say that there are probably better options. The LaCie of today is not what it used to be, and their product support isn't as good as it once was. As for the built in security, I wonder how well it holds up to something like TrueCrypt, which works on any old storage device, is considered a "proven" product and costs nothing?
I'm not sure you need a "hardened" key anyway. To wit:
Someone once came to me with an old (256MB, to give you an idea) PNY Attache USB memory key. You see, word got out long ago that I can fix about anything, predict the weather, or at least do a competent job of swearing at something that isn't working. Little plastic pegs held its circuit board in place, and they'd snapped off, allowing the USB connector to beat a hasty retreat every time an attempt was made to connect it. They gave it to me, in hopes that I could retrieve the data. It didn't take much, the thing was still electrically perfect. I popped its plastic case apart and connected the circuit board directly to a USB port. Bingo!
They were done with it and when I brought it back, they tossed it into the trash. I asked if I could have it, for I am a man who will not be stopped by trivial broken plastic pins.
And I have a glue gun.
So that's what I did. I put half of it together, packed it with molten glue and then put the other half on. It worked just fine. I've used it non-stop ever since...and it's been baked, frozen, dropped, thrown, zapped with static electricity on the USB connector shield, washed and dried several times and it keeps right on trucking. It goes almost everywhere I do. The contents are protected by TrueCrypt.
I make backups because I'm not stupid. It could fail at any time or get lost. But it hasn't, and I suspect that I will use it until it drops.