A little known memory company, Ao-LAB, has had an innovative idea that, now we've seen it, we can't imagine why no one came up with it before. The company has taken your average USB flash drive and stuck an eSATA interface on one end. Simple, yet brilliant.
USB has certain benefits particularly in terms of its ubiquity, but with more and more motherboards and notebooks being fitted with eSATA connectors specifically designed for plug & play storage applications, why aren't we making the most of them and instead using the much slower USB bus for transferring data?
Thanks to the eSATA connection, Ao-LAB's flash drive is capable of read speeds of 75MB/s and write speeds of 25MB/s, which for point of reference significantly outperforms all of the USB flash drives tested in our recent roundup review. However, don't expect performance levels to match a high-end notebook SSD. Those drives typically use significantly more expensive SLC flash (versus the Micron MLC chips in this device) and/or more complex memory controller ICs which is why they cost several hundred dollars each.
Other nice touches Ao-LAB added to the drive are the ability to get operating power through the eSATA port (the product would be a lot less appealing if we had to carry around a separate power supply), and a mini USB port on the other end in case you find yourself needing to transfer data with a system that doesn't have eSATA.
Dimensions of the drive are 79x29x8mm, so slightly wider than a typical USB drive. It is available in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB capacities priced at $295 HKD, $450 and $790, a slight premium over average flash drive prices, but still cheaper than some "high-speed" models from brand vendors.
The only downside is that the product doesn't seem to be available outside of Hong Kong unless you are prepared to run the gauntlet using a certain online auction site. We have contacted the company to ask what its plans are for selling overseas.
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