Flash USB Drive

The Flash USB Drive is tiny (a little bigger than a disposable lighter – 89-x-20-x-8mm), weighs 10g and holds up to 16MB of data. Different capacity models are available, ranging between 16-512MB. I took a test drive with a 16MB unit. Though they are referred to as drives, they are in fact solid-state memory cards, similar to Compact Flash or SmartMedia cards. The difference being that these plug directly into a USB port. It’s been developed primarily for PCs, so the software CD that shipped with it was for Windows only. Sadly, the unit won’t show up until software is installed on Macs – so Macintosh users must download relevant software to each machine they want to use the device with, or burn a CD to carry with the unit. It’s a shame – in theory the drive should plug into any USB port and show up on the desktop. It indicates that USB drivers for Flash devices don’t ship as part of the Mac OS. The Flash USB Drive is tiny (a little bigger than a disposable lighter – 89-x-20-x-8mm), weighs 10g and holds up to 16MB of data. Different capacity models are available, ranging between 16-512MB. I took a test drive with a 16MB unit. Though they are referred to as drives, they are in fact solid-state memory cards, similar to Compact Flash or SmartMedia cards. The difference being that these plug directly into a USB port. It’s been developed primarily for PCs, so the software CD that shipped with it was for Windows only. Sadly, the unit won’t show up until software is installed on Macs – so Macintosh users must download relevant software to each machine they want to use the device with, or burn a CD to carry with the unit. It’s a shame – in theory the drive should plug into any USB port and show up on the desktop. It indicates that USB drivers for Flash devices don’t ship as part of the Mac OS. Driving trouble
The OS 9 drivers can be found on the manufacturer’s site, www.usbdrive.com, asa small 100K download. Another negative is the lack of Mac OS X compatibility. This may change with OS X 10.1, which could have the relevant drivers installed as part of its enhanced support for different categories of USB device – essential to the Mac’s role as a “digital hub”. Once connectivity problems are fixed, the drive shows up on the desktop and can be used just like any other drive. A two-coloured light on the device glows green when connected, or red when data is being transferred. The side of the device also holds a blue locking switch, like those found on floppy discs, in order to protect against overwriting data. The manufacturer claims a data-retention span of ten years.

OUR VERDICT

The flash USB Drive is an exciting technology, that’s ideal for road warriors, creative workers or The Sims addicts who want to share neighbourhoods. The lack of inherent Mac USB support for the product is a shame, though. The other drawback is price – the 16MB unit costs £46, the 32MB £68, and the 512MB unit £792. I think the price of the higher-capacity drives will prevent the product selling widely on initial launch. However, its inherent portability, and theoretical ease-of-use, guarantees that a market will emerge. Once Flash-memory manufacturing ramps up, prices should fall. It’s got a lot to offer, but today, this product is for early adopters and international spies only.

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