Mega Fifteen-way USB 2.0 Flash Drive Roundup

From the fast and furious to your grand daughters dream come true, we test enough flash drives for you.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, Sep 8 2008 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:04 PM CST
Manufacturer: none

Introduction


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By now, few can deny the convenience of having a small size, high volume storage device that is able to travel with them in the same manner as a set of keys or wallet. I was first introduced to a thumb drive several years ago at a LAN party I was hosting. Until that time I really couldn't understand why someone would spend forty to fifty Dollars on a small device that only held 32 MB of data, but that same day my outlook changed when we needed to transfer an antivirus update to a server without exposing it to the network. As I was fumbling around looking for a blank CD, someone handed me a key chain with an odd looking device on it. The rest as they say is history and I have kept a thumb drive with me since then.

Over the years flash storage has changed. The early thumb drives were fairly bulky compared to today's standards. With that reduction in size, companies have changed the way they package units. It is possible to get a thumb drive that is nearly the size of a credit card and easily fits in your wallet or purse. Other units like the Super Talent Pico C are barely an inch long and resemble a device carried by James Bond for his secret spy work. Modern super spies may need a little more security than a drive that can be plugged in and read by everyone. For them, and many people working with HIPAA sensitive documents, there are drives with hardware and software encryption.

Today we will be looking at fifteen readily available portable flash drives from a variety of manufacturers. Some of the drives are targeted for a specific audience while others cover the basics without extras such as data privacy protection or flashy accessories.

A-DATA N702




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The A-DATA N702 is from the Nobility Series and is currently available in three colors. Impeccable beauty is how A-DATA describes the drive and I have to admit it is a very sharp looking product. Others must have agreed as the N702 won an IF Product Award Design Award in early 2008. Capacities available are 2, 4 and 8GB.


Specifications and Features

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Packaging

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For some reason, when I look at the box front for the A-DATA N702 I think of a Zippo box, although I can't really recall exactly what one looks like...

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The back of the package lists the specifications and features.


The A-DATA N702

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The A-DATA N702 is closed in this image, but with a 180 degree twist of its base...

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The USB connector slides out, giving us an easy connection to a PC.


Accessories

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The drive comes with long and short rubber pieces that can be used to hold the N702 around your neck or wrist. The short version could also double as a key ring.


Benchmarks

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A-DATA S701 (Eee PC Edition)




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There is no denying ASUS' Eee PC has enough users to be called a sub-culture, many of whom seek out accessories to match their tiny PCs. Life is always a little easier when a company actively markets products built to support such a device and that is what the Eee PC Edition of A-DATA's Sport Series S701 is for. Available in both white and black, the S701 Eee Edition comes with a leather strap and looks like it was built for Rodeo Drives. Capacities available are 2, 4 and 8 GB. Non Eee PC Editions of the S701 are available in black, red and blue.


Specifications and Features

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The S701 is a little smaller than the N702 and appears to have a little more durability with its zinc frame.


Packaging

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The S701 Eee Edition seems a little basic, but gets the job done. As you can see, A-DATA isn't shy about marketing the product to Eee users; it says so right on the package.

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On the back we see a mini manual for the S701 that covers use, specifications, features and system requirements.


The A-DATA S701

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The S701 uses a material that feels like leather and uses a diamond pattern over the zinc frame. On the top you can see the mechanism to release the data connector.

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By pushing the tab to the front we expose the data connector.


Accessories

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Accessories for most thumb drives are pretty slim, but A-DATA has given the S702 a nice leather bracelet for your wrist with a matching zinc coupler.


Benchmarks

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A-DATA T801




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Mickey Mouse is one of the most recognized characters in history, but don't think A-DATA is only marketing the T801 to children; many adults love Disney too. A-DATA hold a license to manufacture and sell Disney products and is the only company I was able to find that is legally able to do so with flash drives. The T801 is available in Mickey, Minnie and Winnie the Pooh with 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16 GB capacity.


Specifications and Features

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Weighing in at only 9 oz the T801 is a little larger than most of the drives being looked at today, but this makes it a little easier for smaller, uncoordinated hands to master as their first thumb drive.


Packaging

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The outer packaging is very playful and features Mickey throwing out candy.

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The back side of the package lists the features and specifications.


The A-DATA T801

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The T801 uses a base / cap configuration that may not be ideal for children since I as an adult lose most of the caps to my thumb drives. Still, the market is there and you can never go wrong with Mickey Mouse.

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With the cap removed, we can see the data connector. The cap can be placed on the back of the drive for storage, but that makes attaching the drive to keys or other holders difficult.


Benchmarks

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A-DATA T802




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The T802 is the second product we are looking at today from A-DATA's Disney Series. According to the Lunar Calendar, 2008 is the year of the mouse and as such A-DATA has created a special product with an eastern touch. The T802 is available in two accent colors, red and gold with capacity sizes of 2, 4 and 8 GB.


Specifications and Features

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As you can see from the specifications, the T802 was made for the Chinese market. I wonder how many people returning from the Olympics brought one home with them.


Packaging

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It looks as if the T802 was packaged to be sold in the Disney Stores throughout the world. On the front we did not find an A-DATA label anywhere.

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On the back we found the specifications and features list along with an A-DATA logo.


The A-DATA T802

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The T802 has the familiar Mickey likeness accompanied with Chinese symbolism. Once again we find a cap / body type where the cap can be held in place with the drives 'tail'.

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With the cap removed I found that the drive is actually very small, one of the smallest drives in this round up.


Accessories

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As if those of us with kids need to put another product in their hands that makes noise! All joking aside, the extra small wrist holder has a bell attached at the midpoint.


Benchmarks

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Crucial Gizmo! Plus




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Crucial has been a leader in flash memory for many years now with three distinct versions of their Gizmo! Brand. The Gizmo! Plus is the product we are taking a look at today and it is available in capacities of 1, 2 and 4GB.


Specifications and Features

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The Gizmo! Plus is what we think a typical thumb drive appears to be, a little longer than the minis yet smaller than the earlier generations of similar products.


Packaging

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Crucial was one of the few manufacturers to publish the read and write performance on the front of their packaging.

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Some general statements about the Gizmo! Plus are listed on the back.


The Crucial Gizmo! Plus

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Like its packaging, the drive appears very plain. But once plugged in, the back side LED comes to life to let you know the drive is working.


Benchmarks

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Gingle T01 Twist Disk




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Gingle was new to me prior to this article, but company representatives promised me that I would be impressed with the T01 Twist Disk's read speeds and lifetime warranty. With read speeds approaching 30 MB/s I can say that Gingle is a competitor for the high speed challenge. The Twist Disk is available in capacities of 1, 2, 4 and 8 GB.


Specifications and Features

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The real stand out from the specifications list is the lifetime warranty. Many companies offer this warranty but there are an equal number that offer much shorter terms like 2 year warranties.


Packaging

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The Gingle Twist Disk packaging is colorful yet simple with capacity information as well as PC/Mac compatibility listed.

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On the back we found some general statements about the company, but missing from the package was any performance information.


The Gingle T01 Twist Disk

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Here we see where the Twist Disk name comes from. With a little pressure on the back of the drive the connection end appears.

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Two small holes are on the back side so you can attach the drive to a key ring or other device.


Benchmarks

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Kingston DataTraveler 400




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Kingston is a large player in the thumb drive market with three classes of products; Consumer/Small Business, Enterprise Business and Government. The DataTraveler 400 is our first drive that comes with security software. The drive also comes with MigoSync so you can easily synchronize your files such as email, data and browser settings. The security software allows you to partition password protected areas on the drive called Private Zones.


Specifications and Features

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The Kingston DataTraveler 400 is available is in 2, 4, 8 and 16GB capacities.


Packaging

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The DT 400 packaging has a lot going on the front. Drive information, minimum speed and warranty information can be found here.

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The back of the package lists some information about the software and compatibility notes.


The Kingston DataTraveler 400

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The DT 400 is setup similar to the Gingle Twist Disk and operates the same way. The outside metal is textured like metal that was hit with a fine grain in a sandblaster.

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On the back side there are two holes for attaching the drive to a key chain or other accessory.


Accessories

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The main accessories for the DT 400 are found on the disk itself. Here you will find MigoSync and SecureTraveler software along with two manuals in PDF form.


Benchmarks

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Kingston DataTraveler HyperX




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When enthusiasts think about Kingston, the first thought that comes to mind is HyperX. Kingston gives great thought to enthusiasts and because of that they have made a HyperX version of the DataTraveler. The DT HX is available in capacities of 2, 4 and 8 GB and like the other HyperX line of products, it is one of the fastest on the market.


Specifications and Features

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Kingston includes a ten day trial to World of Warcraft with their drive that claims the highest read speeds in our roundup.


Packaging

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The packaging is nearly identical to the DT 400 with a lot of information listed right on the front.

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The back of the package lists some general information about capacity and compatible operating systems.


The Kingston DataTraveler HyperX

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The A-DATA N702 might have won a design award, but you have to admit that the HyperX looks pretty sharp with its anodized aluminum on top of a black mat base.

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The slider on the bottom produces the data connection in this cap less design. The drive is a little larger than some of the minis, but with claimed performance of 30 MB/s and actual performance even higher, we can't complain.


Benchmarks

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Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy




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Of all the drives in this roundup, this is one of two that really deserve a full dedicated article. While most thumb drives simply hold a set amount of data and transfer it at a set rate of speed, the Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy (DTVP) is a rarity. The security feature list and explanation alone would cover three pages and even then I would be just skimming the surface. When Kingston calls the DTVP a vault, they are not kidding; the product is a true hardware encrypted vault and features more than enough security to be compliant with the Trade Agreement Act (TAA).


Specifications and Features

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The specifications list shows that DTVP is available in capacities of 1, 2, 4, 8 and 16GB and that it requires two drive letters.


Features/Benefits:

Full Encryption - 100 percent of stored data is protected by hardware-based, 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
Fast - data transfer rates of up to 24 MB/sec. read and up to 10 MB/sec. write for 2-16GB; Up to 15MB/sec. read and 10MB/sec. write for 1GB
Secure - drive locks down and reformats after 10 intrusion attempts
Enforced password protection - complex password is user set with minimum characteristics to prevent unauthorized access
Easy to use - no admin rights or application installation required
Customizable - preload content, password length, maximum number of password attempts*
Cologo available* - add your company's logo to increase brand recognition
Guaranteed - five-year warranty with 24/7 customer support
Durable - aluminum casing
The DTVP is all about data protection; James Bond would carry one of these or at least would be allowed to since it meets the government standards for encryption.


Packaging

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Kingston uses the same outer shell for all three of the DataTraveler drives we are looking at today. On the front of the DTVP you can see the hardware and capacity information.

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The back of the package lists some general information but fails to go into great detail of the encryption capabilities of the drive.


The Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy

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The DTVP is one of the few drives that list a serial number on the drive. On the top right side you can see the opening for a key ring or other accessory. The casing is water proof and is made of aluminum.

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The DTVP uses a cap / base arrangement like several of the drives in this roundup.


Accessories

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As stated previously, the DTVP is all about hardware encryption; you are simply not getting in without the password and after ten attempts the drive will self destruct. Well, the data on the drive will automatically be erased and you will be prompted to enter a new password.


Benchmarks

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Lexar JumpDrive FireFly




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Better known for their efforts in memory cards, Lexar actually produces several different devices based on flash including Solid State Drives. Their JumpDrive line is divided into two segments, Premium and Standard. The FireFly comes from the Standard line and is available in white, black and topaz in capacities of 1,2, 4, 8 and 16GB. The Lexar website states that a red 16GB version is 'coming soon'.


Specifications and Features

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The JumpDrive FireFly is what I would consider a mini drive, around the same size in height and width, but the length is much shorter. On the software side, the FireFly comes with a 30 Day trial of D-Mailer.


Packaging

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The packaging is comparable to what we have seen so far from the other drives. Lexar isn't going for extreme users or enthusiasts, just your typical Best Buy shoppers.

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The back of the package lists some general features about the JumpDrive FireFly along with compatibility information.


The Lexar JumpDrive FireFly

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At first I wasn't really sure where the FireFly name came from until I plugged the drive in and a blue glow covered the room. When the drive is activated a bright blue LED in the back of the unit emits enough light to light up a dark room.

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Here we see the clear cap off of the drive. You can place the cap on the back of the drive and with the LED on, the effect looks very cool.

Accessories

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Don't look for much when it comes to accessories, the drive does come with a 30 day trial to D-Mailer.


Benchmarks

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Lexar JumpDrive Lightning


Lexar Lightning

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The Lexar JumpDrive Lightning offers the best of all worlds; speed, encryption and beauty. The drive is available in 1, 2, 4 and 8GB capacity sizes and features full 256-bit AES encryption that does not require two drive letters. You can store data with multiple passwords for separate partitions called Privacy Vaults, but for the most part the security is software based.


Specifications and Features

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The specifications lean heavily to the transfer speed side of things and the Lightning produced the fastest write speeds in our testing. The drive also features powerful software based encryption that is second only to the Kingston Privacy Vault.


Packaging

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Lexar does a good job of showing their drives in the package and the chrome finish really shines through.

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The back of the package does a good job relating general information about the drive and as you can see the Lightning also comes with a lifetime warranty.


The Lexar JumpDrive Lightning

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The JD Lightning is another cap / base drive but as you can see the keychain attachment area is much larger than some of the others in this roundup. One thing I found that may interest some of our readers; if you purchase the drive from Lexar's website they will engrave the drive for free.


Benchmarks

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Lexar JumpDrive Secure II Plus


Lexar Secure II Plus

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Available in all capacities from 512MB to 16GB, the Lexar JD Secure II Plus features a display window that allows the user to see how much data is on the drive without the need to plug it into your computer. Lexar calls this feature a capacity meter. The security on the drive is software based but it does include what Lexar calls a File Spreader that completely removes data from the drive.


Specifications and Features

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The JD Secure II Plus uses 256-bit AES encryption for on-the-fly data transfer that is drag and drop compatible. As you can see, D-Mailer makes a return with a 30 day trial, but the biggest features are the capacity meter and security software that works on both Windows and Mac.


Packaging

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Lexar balances the packaging on the front by showing the capacity meter and security features.

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General information for the drive is shown on the back of the package.


The Lexar JumpDrive Secure II Plus

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The capacity meter on the front takes most of the real estate on this cap / base drive.

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With the cap removed, you can see the data connector. Lexar chose to put the keychain attachment on the cap which may result in a lost drive if you are not somewhat careful. The cap does fit securely to the base, but this setup is not ideal.


Benchmarks

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Super Talent Pico A




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Super Talent sent us three very small drives from their Pico Series. The first drive is the Pico A; a folding drive that is considered a mini which also has a cover to help protect the data connector. The Pico Series is available in 1, 2, 4, and 8GB capacity sizes, but we are still not sure how Super Talent was able to stuff so much storage space into such a small package.


Specifications and Features

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The Pico Series all weigh less than 6 grams and feature very fast data transfers. The Pico A has the swivel cover and is water resistant.


Packaging

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Packaging for the Pico A is pretty basic; you can see the drive and printed at the top is the capacity information.

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On the back we find a little general information about the Pico Series.


The Super Talent Pico A

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The Pico A has a chrome cover that protects the USB connector.

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With a little force, the data connector end swings out and you can plug it directly into a USB port.


Benchmarks

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Super Talent Pico B




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Similar to the Pico A, the Pico B uses the same memory and controller and is available in the same capacity ranges; 1, 2, 4, and 8GB. The Pico B separates itself by using a slide mechanism that gives the data connector a little more protection than the Pico A.


Specifications and Features

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The Pico Series all weigh less than 6 grams and feature very fast data transfers. The Pico B is the only Pico Series drive to use a slide to hide the data connector when not in use.


Packaging

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Packaging for the Pico B is pretty basic; you can see the drive and printed at the top is the capacity information.

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On the back we find a little general information about the Pico Series.


The Super Talent Pico B

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With the slide closed it looks like a little piece of chrome that has flaked off of something. The drive isn't much larger than 1 inch square.

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Flipping the drive over and opening the slide, we see the Super Talent logo and the data connector.


Benchmarks

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Super Talent Pico C




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The Pico C is the real mini from the Pico Series and is also available as a blinged up gold plated version. I liked the Pico C so much it was used in a review just after its arrival. Don't let the small size fool you; this is one fast drive that is perfect for attaching to a backpack or other personal item that is taken with you regularly. The drive is so small you will never know it is there until you go to use it.


Specifications and Features

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The Pico Series all weigh less than 6 grams and feature very fast data transfers. The Pico C does not have a protective cap, but including one would only detract from its usefulness since you would need to worry about it.


Packaging

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Packaging for the Pico C is pretty basic; you can see the drive and printed at the top is the capacity information.

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On the back we find a little general information about the Pico Series.


The Super Talent Pico C

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The Pico C is my favorite of the Pico Series due to its size and ease of use; no cap, no problem.

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As you can see here, the drive is very thin. Be sure to attach it to something because you may lose it or at least not see it when you get up from a computer.


Accessories

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The Pico C comes with a chain so you can put it around your keys or on a zipper to a purse or backpack right out of the box.


Benchmarks

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Testing and HD Tach - Write Performance


Test System

Notebook: Lenovo T61p
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 @2.4GHz
Memory: 2x 1GB PC2-5300
Graphics Card: NVIDIA Quadro FX 570M
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2


I finally found a way to get my new Lenovo mobile workstation into an article. The T61p features Intel's mobile version of the Core 2 Duo in Merom flavor and joins it with the NVIDIA Quadro FX 570M. The widescreen 15.4 inch display is very good and although it is a little smaller than my previous Gateway 17 inch notebook screen, I have yet to notice since the Lenovo runs at 1920x1200.

All drive tests were performed on the same machine with the same Windows installation on the same USB 2.0 port.


HD Tach - Average Write Speed

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0.4.0 RW Editors License
Developer Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.simplisoftware.com/Public/index.php?request=HdTach
Buy It Here




HD Tach has been around for a long time and is excellent when it comes to testing hard drive performance. It is also a very handy program when it comes to testing the controller used on particular motherboards. Tests such as Read, CPU Utilization and Burst are available at a click of the button and give you a good idea of how the hard drive can perform from system to system.

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Before data can come off of a drive, first it has to go on. In the drive write test we found the difference between top to bottom performance scoring to be much larger than first anticipated. At the very top we found the two products that are built and marketed specifically for speed; the Lexar JumpDrive Lightning and Kingston DataTraveler HyperX and we're not surprised. The HyperX line is synonymous with high speed and with a name like Lightning we didn't expect a turtle either. The label on the Lightning stated the drive should perform close to 21 MB/s write speed, but our testing did not show that level of performance.

Just above the median level of performance is where we found the Crucial Gizmo! Plus and Kingston's DataTraveler 400. These drives performed well above the level of my daily use Corsair Flash Voyager that just two years ago was the speed king when it came to portable flash.

HD Tach - Read Performance


HD Tach - Average Read Speed

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The tables are now turned on our two shooting stars. In average read speed the HyperX took the top spot by 1.6 MB/s, but the Lightning kept with its namesake and performed very well.

When it comes to read performance, we see the median speeds increasing a great deal. A-DATA's T801, the slowest drive in the Write Test approached performance numbers close to our top performers with the Gingle Twist Disk and Super Talent Pico Series doing the same.


HD Tach - Burst Read Speed

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Burst speeds have little to do with real world performance while transporting data, but when it comes to Vista's ReadyBoost, the story changes. Every drive in our test listed ReadyBoost in the marketing material, but a few of the drives really stood out in this category.

Just as before, the Lexar Lightning and Kingston HyperX lead the pack, but nearly all of the other drives tested are right on their heels.

Final Thoughts




It is easy to get wrapped up with speed testing and forget about real world use of portable flash media. Most of the drives tested serve a purpose other than just being fast. Rarely will a user plug a drive in, transfer data and think to themselves "Wow, that was fast". Although several products tested in this article are capable of doing so.

When purchasing a thumb drive, first consider what you are using it for and how it will be transported. In Asia flash media has become a fashion statement; it is not uncommon to see a drive around a persons neck or wrist attached to a gold or platinum chain. In the U.S. most IT workers and college students keep a drive on a keychain with their house and auto keys. These users need a drive that is more durable since you rarely think of your key ring as being a delicate item. For these users I really like the Super Talent Pico Series drives and specifically the Pico C. The Pico C is small enough to attach to just about anything and the build quality is top notch. I attached mine to a zipper on a backpack I use to carry my notebooks when attending industry meetings and for overnight visits out of town.

Professional users and high level IT managers need products that are secure since most of the data being transported is of a sensitive nature. With the new HIPPA laws a company could actually be fined if data is found to be located on unsecure devices. Drives like the Kingston Vault Privacy and Lexar Secure II are ideal for these users. Secure flash media generally costs a little more than your average drive and when it comes to total security, the cost can be escalated to nearly five times the standard rate compared to a drive of the same capacity. This cost is far less than the fines handed down from government agencies and I am sure you would get more than a talking to from your supervisor if your company had to go on the morning news to tell thousands of customers that their data has been posted on Usenet because someone lost an insecure drive.

For some casual users, a thumb drive is an extension of their personality or a long time love of a product or character. If you shop at the Disney store for yourself or a child then the Disney licensed products from A-DATA certainly are for you.

Enthusiasts will always stick to their tried and true ways and go for speed. And in this category two products stand above the crowd. The Lexar Lightning and Kingston HyperX are very fast when compared to other offerings. The fastest products usually require a price premium and these two are the same; expect to spend a little more for the speed, but if speed is what you desire then you can't go wrong with these two products.

For the typical consumer, purchasing a flash drive is about price and convenience. While ordering from Newegg is a something most do for graphics cards and processors, the average user is going to walk into a brick and mortar store and compare capacity to price of the other drives in the same store and make his buying decision based on what is presented in front of him. Certainly, better deals can be found online outside of retail, but the fact is flash media such as thumb drives are now commodity items meant to be used and abused until the day they are left at a university computer lab or fall behind a desk not to be seen for months. In that time, you simply go out and pluck down another 30 Dollars and give little thought to your purchase other than remembering to pick up another one while getting that spindle of blank DVDs from the big box shop. If that sounds like you, then just about any drive will do as long as it is in stock, looks nice and is cheaper than the others offered on the retail floor or sitting by the cashiers table.

I want to thank all of the companies who submitted drives for this roundup which has been in the making for several months now.

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