As Flash drive technology keeps progressing, there is becoming less and less of a reason to keep the ancient floppy disk around. With Flash drives size gaining size (2GB for a DiskGO! 2GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive) and popularity, the floppy may soon be finding itself sitting on a shelf in a museum.
Most drive makers now have USB 2.0 versions of their drives. However, the consumer needs to be careful...many of the early USB 2.0 drives are not USB 2.0 Hi-Speed compliant. Only the USB 2.0 Hi-speed drives meet the theoretical 480Mb/s (60MB/s) specification. However, as we'll see, that does not seem to matter yet.
With so many manufacturers producing flash drives these days, it's getting increasingly difficult for them to differentiate their products. There are rugged drives, translucent disco drives and drives combined with Swiss army knives. There are drives with the cap built in minimizing the chance that the the cap will get lost. There are even flash drives built into watches. Crucial decided on a simpler approach...reducing the size of the drive.
While the length is pretty typical, its width is not. This newer, more svelte profile brings the added benefit of allowing two drives to sit side-by-side at the same time.
The Crucial Gizmo! Flash drive is available in densities of 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB. The 512MB version was used for this review.
The Gizmo! Hi-Speed drive requires
- Windows Me/2000/XP
- Mac OS 9.1 and above
- Linux Kernal 2.4.8 and above
The Gizmo! ships with a key ring, lanyard, user guide and security software.
For comparison purposes, the Crucial Gizmo! was pitted against a Lexar Media JumpDrive 2.0. To start the benchmarking, synthetic benchmarks were used.
SiSoftware's Sandra includes a Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark. The Sandra test uses 512B, 32kB, 256kB and 2MB file sizes. The results of the 32kB and 2MB tests are shown below.
Sandra Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark (ver. 2004.2.9.104) 32KB Test (Operations/minute)
The 6522 number gives the Gizmo! an effective speed of approximately 19X while the JumpDrive scored a drive rating of 30X. The JumpDrive was significantly faster than the Gizmo! when dealing with smaller file sizes.
Sandra Removable Storage/Flash Benchmark (ver. 2004.2.9.104) 2MB Test
In the 2MB test, the 141 number gives the Gizmo! an effective speed of approximately 27X while the JumpDrive scored a drive rating of 33X. The performance difference between the two drives narrowed significantly.
HD Tach is another synthetic benchmark.
HD Tach 2.70
Random Access Time
Read Burst Speed
Average Read Speed
While the transfer rates are fairly close, the Random Access Time is not. When I asked Crucial about this, they said it had to do with the number of NAND chips used. A 512MB drive uses twice as many NAND chips as the 256MB drive. Therefore, one cannot really compare the access times between the two sizes. It also means that JumpDrive may be faster simply because it uses fewer NAND devices. Additionally, it means that if you need the drive to repeatedly access files (maybe a Temp folder kind of thing), 256MB looks to be the sweetspot.
Synthetic benchmarks serve a useful purpose in quantifying basic performance. However, it is the real-world tests the usually prove to be the most beneficial. For the real-world tests, a 184MB compressed archive file was used.
Large File Transfer (184MB)
Time (in seconds)
As seen above, synthetic benchmarks don't fully describe the Gizmo! In a real-world task, the Gizmo! managed to complete the file transfer almost 10% faster than the JumpDrive.
There was a small issue I ran into with Sandra and the Gizmo! For some reason, the Flash benchmark would stop running on the Gizmo! with a file delete error. It was driving me nuts. After long talks with both Crucial and Adrian over at SiSoftware, we finally nailed the problem. Using File Monitor, it turns out that antivirus software was trying to access a file at the same time Sandra was trying to delete it. Now I always turn off my AV software before running benchmarks. However, even though I disabled it in the Tray, there were still small AV apps running in the background. Once I stopped those apps, Sandra ran without a hitch. No other drive experienced this problem while running Sandra. Fortunately, that glitch did not show up in any of the real-world testing.
In the synthetic benchmarks, the JumpDrive was clearly superior to the Gizmo!. However, most people won't buy a flash drive just to run benchmarks. Instead, they will it for tasks like copying files from one computer to another. Sometimes it might be a bunch of small files...other times, it may be a large file. In the case of large files, the Gizmo! outperformed the JumpDrive by almost 10%. Without a similar drive available, it's difficult to say if another 256MB on the JumpDrive would have made a difference.
Finally, there the issue of security. When I purchased my JumpDrive (almost a year ago), it came with no security software. However, all drives that have crossed my desk recently, have bundled some form of security software. Crucial's software is called Secure-D. The main screen looks like this.
Since there is no "Help" button on this screen, it is advisable to read the instructions first before attempting to use this software. It must first be copied from the flash drive to the host PC. The "Format" function allows the user to determine how much space is reserved for secure storage. I copied files to both the Secure and Unsecure partitions and the software worked as advertised.
The Secure-D software is very basic without any fancy features. There is one caveat to setting up a secure area, though - you cannot view the secure and unsecured areas at the same time. The drive must be removed from the computer to switch between views.
Where space is an issue, the slim size of the Gizmo! should help sell the drive. Remember, though, in order to reduce the overall size of the drive, the case has gotten thinner.
If a drive was only known by it's synthetic benchmark performance, the Crucial Gizmo! Hi-Speed USB Flash Drive would be in trouble. Fortunately, the real-world performance of the Gizmo! redeems it. And as we saw, the "bottleneck" of USB 2.0 Hi-Speed is quite safe for the moment. Neither drive could do even 1/10th of USB Hi-Speed's 60MB/s.
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