One of the more popular items of the new digital lifestyle is the USB flash drive. This is the easiest way for digital folks to tote files along to wherever they go. As such an essential gadget to have, we have the opportunity to test another of the current crop. This is the Titanium Cruzer, 512 MB, from SanDisk. This company makes a variety of flash memory products, including all types of memory cards, their Sansa MP3 player, card readers, and USB flash drives. The Titanium Cruzer is their flagship drive. Read on to see what the top of their line up can do.
In the usual, difficult to open hard plastic packaging, I found the following:
- Titanium Cruzer 512 MB
- Pocket clip
- Quick start guide
Examining the basic features…
The Titanium Cruzer is a little larger than its competition. This gives it a substantial feel, but also makes it more likely to block the adjacent USB ports. The Cruzer has a bright blue LED. It is much brighter and larger than the LED in most other USB flash drives. The 512 MB version formats to 495 MB of usable capacity.
The SanDisk drive comes with a pocket clip. It attaches easily, and fits very securely. It was long enough to secure the drive securely in a shirt pocket, and still look fashionable in a “geek sheik” kind of way. The clip has just the right amount of spring to it.
The ring to connect the Cruzer to the lanyard is another story. It reminded me of a metal bent wire puzzle. I spent 15 minutes on trying to put the ring on the back of the drive. It looks like it should fit, but the ring is quite small, and without the use of two pairs of needle nose pliers, and some deformity to the ring and a few scratches to the drive, it was not going on. I am guessing that different teams designed the drive and the ring. Things should be a lot easier than this!
What makes this drive special…
USB flash drives are a very crowded market segment. Every company that makes some kind of memory makes at least one of these drives. However, there are two features that let this drive stand out from the rest.
The first feature is the retractable USB port. Most drives have a removable cap that exposes the USB port. A minority of drives have some type of swivel mechanism to expose the port. The Titanium Cruzer has the unique design of a slider that pushes out to expose the USB port. This means that there is no cap to ever lose. The slide mechanism worked well, with minimal effort. I needed to push both down, and out to move it smoothly. Some folks I showed it to thought it was some type of Special Forces knife, and were surprised to see it was a computer peripheral (maybe you can bluff your way out being robbed). One possible downside is that even when retracted, the USB connector can pick up dirt and lint so I’d be a little more conscious of where I placed it. I would like to see more drives using this type of retractable mechanism because it’s very effective.
The second unique feature is the metal that comprises the body. Most of these USB drives are made out of a hard plastic. The trendier ones are translucent. The JumpDrive Lightning is constructed of a chromed stainless steel. I could immediately tell that the Cruzer Titanium was made out of something unique. Whereas the JumpDrive is a little heavy, this Cruzer was surprisingly light.
Is the Titanium Cruzer actually made out of titanium? After all, I thought of the aerospace industry, which used titanium to make the U2 spy plane at considerable cost and difficulty of working with the exotic metal. The Titanium Cruzer is actually made out of a new type of alloy, called LiquidMetal. Using a titanium-based metal, they have constructed a new light, but very strong alloy, with elastic properties. What’s the secret? This LiquidMetal is not crystalline, like most metals, but rather is more of an amorphous substance. Therefore they have created a metal alloy, which takes on the characteristics of a plastic! This is a breakthrough, and the first product to use this new type of alloy for the household market.
It goes without saying that SanDisk’s flagship drive would come with some serious software. Most drives today ship with some type of software to require a password to keep a portion of the data on the drive safe from whoever might find the drive. The Cruzer comes with CruzerLock 2.1 software for this purpose. The files that you need encrypted are simply dragged into the box in the lower right hand portion of the screen. Therefore, you don’t need to predesignate how much space on the drive you wish to be public and private.
The better USB flash drives ship with some type of synchronization software. This is especially useful if you plan to work on a document between 2 different computers, and you want to keep it up to date between the two machines. The Titanium Cruzer includes CruzerSync software for this purpose. First you select the folders, and then the file types to synchronize. Then every time you plug the drive into the USB port, the drive will synchronize the file on the drive with the one on the hard drive. We all know we should back things up; this makes it real easy to do so even for the most absent minded professor. The CruzerSync is also designed to take your Microsoft Outlook information with you including emails, contacts, calendar and task. For the mobile professional, this is an awesome tool to keep essential information with you on the road. Now any computer, anywhere, with a USB port, can function with the same info as the computer back on your office desk!
How’s the speed…
SanDisk’s Cruzer Titanium uses the USB 2.0 interface. This is capable of a 48 MB/s, although nothing ever achieves these speeds. To benchmark in the most objective fashion, we use Simpli Software’s HD Tach, version 184.108.40.206. This excellent software can do both read and write tests.
The Titanium Cruzer did very well in the benchmark tests. Consistent with its flagship status, it performed as the second fastest drive we have tested here at LIVEdigitally. An impressive read speed of 13.1 MB/s is complemented by an 11.5 MB/s write speed. Also note that the curve for both reading and writing is smooth, without spikes and valleys. This is one fast drive, and for these types of devices, faster is always better!
Strong & weak points…
- titanium LiquidMetal alloy is extremely strong and lightweight
- retractable mechanism
- bright blue LED
- five year warranty
- pocket clip
- fast read & write speeds
- Included class leading encryption and synchronization software
- key ring attachment cumbersome
- even with unit retracted, not sealed completely
Who should buy…
The discriminating computer user will be very pleased with this drive. Leave the plastic drives to the kids. The Titanium Cruzer will look sharp in any business situation, with features and performance to back up its good looks. The user that values form as well as function, this drive should be on the top of your short list for this category. The included software makes it even a better buy.
In summary, SanDisk’s Titanium Cruzer is a great USB flash drive. With its LiquidMetal construction, slick retractable mechanism and quick speeds, it is the drive to own. Compared to Lexar’s flagship drive, the SanDisk is a comparative bargain. I award this drive the “LD Approved” designation. Just about every computer user needs a USB flash drive, and when I consider price, the Titanium Cruzer is my current favorite. For a small premium above a vanilla ordinary drive, this one has a whole lot more style and speed, but is still affordable.