I already have a selection of USB flash drives. My main two are a 16GB SanDisk Cruzer Micro which I bought a little over a year ago and mainly use to store music for my car, and a 512MB Sony MicroVault which I’ve had for several years and has never faulted me. I have several other flash drives of varying sizes lying around as well, but they’ve been sitting in the draw gathering dust since forever and probably don’t work now. Would be interesting to see what kind of 5 year old coursework I have on them if they do…
Anyway, while I can’t really complain about the reliability of these drives, one common complain I have is that they are all made of the same cheapo plastic and all have loose connectors. The MicroVault and the Cruzer Micro have sliding mechanisms, and the Cruzer’s in particular feels incredibly cheap and prone to snapping at any given moment. That’s why I have it sitting in my car and not in my pocket.
Enter the LaCie XtremKey. Now, most of LaCie’s products are made from high quality materials, but the XtremKey goes a little bit further in the quality department. I just thought I would share some of my thoughts on it here, and see whether it is worth the premium price tag.
As all the adverts and product descriptions like to show off about, the XtremKey was designed by Constance Guisset
. It's a sleek little chappy, and doesn't look out of place in any modern setup. It has a curved base, so you can stand it upright and use it a a weebl (woot!). Its brushed appearance means it looks quite at home next to some of Apple's aluminium hardware. In fact, it was pretty much designed around Apple's MacBook Pro - despite the wide base, it doesn't touch the desk, though you could probably only slide one hair in the gap. Good luck plugging this baby in an Air. Because it's a bit longer than the standard USB connector, and has a narrow-ish neck, it doesn't get in the way of other USB ports as much as it would seem at first glance. They've clearly thought about that little detail.
It's made from 2mm thick Zamac - an alloy of zinc, aluminium, magnesium, and copper. LaCie claims it can be run over by 10-ton trucks, survive five metre drops, survive temperatures of +200C to -50C, and can be submerged with your watch to 100m before the rubber O-ring starts letting water through. Reading around the internet, some of those claims have had some disputes, but as with wrist watches you're never really going to test a USB stick to these extremes (well, I'm not, not one I've bought myself), but it's nice to know it'll be ok if it falls out of your pocket onto concrete or into a puddle.
You'll certainly notice if this thing finds itself outside of your pocket though. It isn't a small drive, and it's pretty weighty. It has a strong lock wire thing (liking the technical terminology?) that you can use to put it on a keyring but it's a little big for that. I certainly don't want it rattling around when I'm driving, anyway. At the same time, I wouldn't keep it in the same pocket as anything remotely delicate, like a phone. Mixing a phone with an XtremKey would not bode well for your future communicatory requirements.
I'll be honest, I'm not interested in read/write speeds and don't really care to test them. Other reviews show that they're impressive (apparently) but real world tests fall short of what LaCie claims is possible. Oh well.
LaCie isn't known for producing flash drives that fry within a couple of months so I expect this will last a while. I'm not worried about reliability by any means, but of course there's only one way of testing that. Maybe I'll add to this review in 5 years time, if I remember.
Bundled on the drive is a piece of software that nets you a 4GB Wuala account (without the drive you can sign up for 1GB). It's basically LaCie's answer to Dropbox. I already use Dropbox and the Java client that LaCie ships for Wuala 1. is made in Java and 2. looks as horrendous as any other Java app, so I haven't given it a try. Like I said though you can get a smaller account for free so feel free to try it for yourself anyway.
Interestingly, for such a physically secure device, there is no built in encryption software.
I paid £40 for the 'entry-level' 8GB version (RRP £44.99). You can get it in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB sizes for £69.99, £114.99 and £199.99 respectively (also RRPs). That's a lot of money. You're definitely paying a premium here.
So to summarise this piece of **** review. You get a well built, sexy, well performing (apparently) USB flash drive, but you have to pay a premium. I'm happy with my purchase, I don't regret spending £40 for 8GB at all. I already have cheap sticks lying around, I wouldn't have bought it if it was going to be much the same. I guess you could consider it to be the Apple of the USB flash drive world.
Really, whether you buy this or not comes down to how vain you are and how secure you like to keep your data in the physical sense. A big part of why I bought it is the way it looks and because I don't know anyone else who has one (sounds very Apple-esque, no?), but I also like the security of knowing my data will be ok even if I do accidentally launch it into the middle of a busy road. Yes, you still need to create backups of all your data, but this can be inconvenient if you don't have access to them at the crucial moment. With the XtremKey, you get piece of mind that your data will be safe regardless of what happens, but at the same time you're not stuck with some ugly as sin USB drive that looks like it was made from used Michelins.
I'm not a photographer