These days, it seems like almost everyone has a USB flash drive and why not? With prices dropping all the time, a flash drive is a large capacity storage device, allowing you to transport your files, music, pictures or videos around easily. They remove the need to carry around low capacity (and increasingly obsolete) floppy disks or bulky CD-ROMs. Small, lightweight and very portable, they allow you to carry your files with you and access them on virtually any PC or Mac.
The ScanDisk Cruzer is no exception to this. Its available in a range of different sizes (the smaller Mini range starts with 128Mb (megabytes) of storage, whilst the Cruzer Micro is available with up to 2Gb (Gigabyte) capacity. The model under review here is the Micro 1GB version.
The first thing you notice about the Micro is its really compact size. It measures approximately 5cm long, 0.5cm wide and weighs about as much as a standard house key. This means its easily going to fit in any pocket without weighing you down. The Micro comes with a plastic cover and cap (to protect the bit that goes into your PC from dirt or damage.) Better still, you actually get two spare and different coloured protective covers. So if you lose or damage one (or, if youre just really fashion conscious and want to colour co-ordinate with your outfit!) you can just replace it. Mine came with a clear/grey cover (the one I use, since Im boringly conventional!), together with red and blue spares. If you want to change the cover, its simplicity itself simply slide the old cover off, then slide the replacement on.
At the top of the drive is a solid plastic loop. This is so that you can clip the drive onto your keyring to make it even easier to carry around with you more on this later.
The Cruzer Micro uses USB 2.0 technology, making it faster to save/access files to it. However, it is also backwards compatible with USB 1.1 accessing files using USB 1.1 will be slightly slower, but it means that the drive should be usable on any PC (or Mac) which has a spare USB port. Its compatible with any PC running Windows 98SE or higher, or Macs running OS 9.1.x onwards again, meaning it should be compatible with most machines out there. I use the drive on a PC, so my review will be biased towards that.
Ease of Use
How easy can a piece of hardware be to use?! At last, a Plug and Play device that does exactly what it says on the tin! Plug it into a spare USB port and the drive is instantly recognised and available for use. Even better, you always know which way to insert the drive, as the word ScanDisk is printed on it. Insert this, so that the words are facing upwards and youre ready to go. This might sound a simple point, but with some drives Ive owned in the past, it was difficult to remember which way round you had to insert the drive. This meant you would spend time fiddling with it, trying to find the right way round each time you wanted to use it. OK, so its only a minor point, but it does point to good, thoughtful design that this has been considered and addressed.
The drive also has a green light at the top (the loop mentioned above forms part of this). When the drive is inserted correctly into your PC, this lights up, making it clear that the drive is available for use. Similarly, when the drive is in use (e.g. when you are saving or opening a file), the green light blinks on and off. This is very useful, as it means youre not in danger of removing the drive mid-save and risking corruption to your files.
Your flash drive is automatically assigned a drive letter (this will vary depending on how many drives are already fitted to your computer e.g. CD-ROM drive, DVD Drive etc.) and then all the files on it are accessible by selecting that letter.
When you insert the drive each time, you are presented with a standard Windows menu giving you a variety of options for example, you can play any media files, view the files using Windows Explorer etc. Alternatively (as I do), you can simply cancel this box. To be honest, it is a little bit annoying getting this menu every time, but this is a feature of Windows, rather than the flash drive.
As Ive said, once youve inserted the drive, its accessible just like any other drive on your PC. So, you can open up Word or any other application and youll see the flash drive listed and your files available. This is pretty reliable. Occasionally, you may try to open or save a file to find the flash drive is not listed, but if this happens, simply click on the Save in box (for example in Word) again, and it will re-appear.
The other nice thing about this disk is that, on Windows XP PCs at least, you can just remove it from the drive without going through the cumbersome eject drive process which older PCs insist on. Again, this might sound like a minor thing, but when youre racing around trying to get stuff done, its great to know you can just pull the drive out when you need to. The one exception to this is if you have a file open from your flash drive and pull the drive free, the file will become corrupted. This is a fairly obvious point, I suppose, and Ive only ever done it once accidentally. However, it is slightly annoying that it corrupts the whole file, rather than just not saving any recent changes. This corruption occurs even if you realise what youve done and plug the drive back into the PC straight away.
Give it the Boot
The other annoying aspect is that I cant leave it in my PC when I switch off. If I do, the next time I switch my PC on, it tries to boot from the flash drive and wont do anything until I remove it and then switch the PC off and on again. This is a bit frustrating if you want to access files on your flash drive as you have to remove it, wait for the PC to boot, then plug it back in (getting that annoying menu again). In fairness, I think this is more a function of the way the PC works, and I could probably get round it by fiddling around with the settings, but people who dont know much about PCs will find it slightly frustrating.
When accessing or saving files, the drive is pretty nifty. I have no idea of (or interest in) the actual technical specifications of the speed of file transfer, but its pretty nifty particularly using a high speed USB 2.0 port. To give you some idea of the speed, its significantly quicker than saving a file to either a floppy disk or a CD-ROM drive, and youll only notice a very small difference in speed with saving it onto your PCs hard drive. This review, for example, written in Word, takes about 2 seconds to save. Obviously, exact transfer speeds will depend on the size and type of the file you are using, but youre not going to spend ages waiting around for it to do what youve asked.
Durability-wise, Ive now had this flash drive for 6 months and have only one issue with it.
Remember the plastic tag I mentioned earlier that you use to attach the drive to your keyring? Well, its not the strongest thing in the world and mine snapped off after a few months. In truth, this was probably partly my fault. I have a fairly heavy bunch of keys and the USB ports on my PC are towards the top of the machine. This meant that when I inserted the drive, the keys were hanging down, unsupported and placing strain on the plastic top. Having said that, my setup is not particularly unusual, so it is a bit of a design flaw.
The trouble is that the plastic tab is attached to the flash drive itself (rather than being part of the replaceable cover), so once it has snapped, it cannot be replaced. This is a real nuisance, as it now means I have to carry the drive around in my pocket. Since it is so small and so light, it would be very easy to unwittingly pull it out of your pocket and lose it. Ive managed to avoid this so far, but its been a close call on a couple of occasions. The worrying thing is that there are so many personal documents on this drive, that if I ever did lose it, it would be a godsend to anyone who wanted to use it for nefarious purposes.
Ive never experienced any difficulty accessing files and so far have had no corrupted files (except the one instant mentioned above, which was my fault.) However, as with any important files, its sensible to take precautions to backup your data, so I do occasionally back it up to a CD-ROM.
As stated earlier, the Cruzer is available in a variety of different sizes. Personally, I would recommend going for the largest capacity you can afford, as you will always find you use it for more than you expect! How long it will take you to fill the drive will obviously depend on the types of files you save to it video and music files will take up far more space than simple Word documents. To give you some idea, I have had my drive for 6 months now and have 187 files on it. These are a mixture of Office documents, pictures and programs which Ive downloaded from the internet. Even with 187 files on the drive, Ive still only used 147Mb of the 1Gb capacity (i.e. less than 15%). At this rate, its going to take me a long time before I need to worry about deleting old files to make way for new ones!
In addition to providing a great, easy to use, large capacity device, there are also a couple of pieces of software supplied installed and ready to use on the drive. I havent actually used any of these, so I cant comment on how useful or otherwise they are, but the details are as follows:
** CruzerLock encryption software. This allows you to encrypt the files stored on your drive. I really should get around to looking at this, as obviously it would help allay my fears as to what would happen to the data if I ever lost the drive.
** CruzerSync allows you to synchronise your files, emails, favourites etc between different PCs so that you can make sure each PC has the same version of the document and that you dont accidentally start editing an earlier version.
** PocketCache (14 day trial version) use your flash drive to back up the most important data on your PC at the push of a button.
The Cruzer ScanDisk Micro is available from most decent PC shops and from various on-line retailers. The cheapest place Ive found for the 1Gb version is from Amazon, where it can be bought for around £23. The larger 2Gb version can be bought for £39.99.
Price-wise, the Cruzer works out marginally more expensive than some other brands. However, because of its ease of use and reliability, I think its worth spending a couple of pounds extra on this model, rather than going for a cheaper, generic brand.
The main reason that attacts me towards this pen drive and make it stand out from others is its cleaver design. Just think of how many times you forget/misplace/damage the lid of the memory stick once finished and then you have to stick with the pen drive without the lid which with passage of time gets damaged, gets dirt stuck in it etc. This pen drive eliminates that error. Quite cleaverly designed - once finished just drag the metal bit in and it lock's it in there. How cool. one less thing to worry about isent it!!! and above all does the job.
so here's my review on the sandisk cruzer micro. quite a boring topic to discuss since the flash disk cant exactly be anything more than a flash disk. it connects to usb ports, it stores stuff and thats about it....but this has a little more!
i bought this flash disk after losing my miniusb adapter to my flash mp3 player. flash disks are very useful and can store more files than a floppy disk. how much more depends on the size of flash disk you get. this one you can get in 128mb, 256mb, 512mb, 1gb and 2gb which means they are equivalent to 90 or 180 or 360 etc floppy disks.
the two major advantages of a flash disk over floppies are its physical size (again variable) and its speed (variable once more). I'll go into these in a bit more detail later.
this particular flash disk/drive is only .9mm x 18.95mm x 52.2mm. so its only about two thirds the length of my index finger and a third wider. this is the smallest i have ever seen and one of the main reasons i paid a little bit extra to buy this.
the cruzer micro is a small sliver object as pictured above. it actually has a clear transparent plastic cap over the usb port which comes off very nicely. the actual flask disk is grey/silver with a transparent plastic coating. in all it looks very nice. engraved on the plastic is "cruzer micro" and the size. I remember when i first showed it to my friends they were amazed at the size and then impressed by the design! (yes..indeed i have sad friends).
when you stick the usb into the socket, a brilliant blue LED flashes brightly from near the end to show that it is connected. this LED cant be seen when its not plugged in, very much like the power LEDs on imacs and ipod shuffles...(the led is hidden and shines through the plastic). It has a loop at the top so that you can attach it to your keys.
The whole thing is very solidly built and the cap isnt flimsy as it is in some other flash disks. I've taken the cap off many times and it still attaches very firmly.
the features of any flash disk is basic. with cruzer micro you can transfer all files. with newer cruzer micros, you can install programs into them as well. the transfer speed is very fast because it has a usb 2.0 support. if your computer has it too, then you can transfer files faster than your cd rom can. for example when i had downloaded mp3s onto the disk, it took me less than 5 seconds to copy and paste 256mb into my computer! amazing! :|
it also has password protect, if you want to protect the documents in your flash disk. the blue led shines when connected and flashes when transferring files.
Other random stuff
Thus, my reasons for buying this were...
1. Sandisk Cruzer micro is the smallest flash drive there is.
2. it supports usb 2.0 meaning i can transfer files quickly
3. sandisk is the leader in the flash memory industry. some cheap flash disks have been known to break down very easily but with sandisk, you know that you get quality!
If you dont already have an mp3 player, you can get a small, credit card sized sandisk mp3 player with a little socket where the cruzer micro can plug into. quite cool i'd say. i was temtped to buy one with a 2gb cruzer micro but i already had an amazing mp3 player so i decided against it.
so, i'd definitely recommend this over other slightly cheaper flimsier, unreliable flash drives! :P
(to be honest, its ONLY a flash drive and there isnt much to say about it..but i managed to write a lot somehow.)