Results from An Experiment

Add Your Comments

On the whole, I was very pleased by how this turned out, just by my own personal reaction from editing this.

I really didn’t know much about these drives outside of their existence and thinking that maybe I wanted one, but after
going through this, I feel comfortable about buying one because it will help me do certain things more conveniently. I also feel I have a pretty good idea of what to look for, including those little details often not included in conventional reviews, when I do buy one, without having to do a lot of digging for it.

Something else I liked very much was the sense of balance in the comments. People weren’t afraid to say negative things about products they liked or vice versa, and they didn’t feel the need to come up with excuses for them. They were perfectly comfortable pointing out both and concluding that the positives outweighed the negatives for them.

This is a very common-sense approach that I wished to God I’d see more often than I do in conventional reviews.

I let the users pretty much say all they had to say about the product, even when they talked about uhhh, “those” kind of files; it didn’t seem right to censor out what these drives are actually used for, even though we don’t think they should be there.

While I could just summarize what people found, I think many find it helpful to see a number of people saying much the same thing rather than just get a single statement about something. I think it helps to reinforce what people have found about the device, and makes people feel more comfortable accepting what others have found. Works that way for me, anyway. The most efficient way to teach something is not necessarily the best way to learn it.

Just a few comments, and one additions:

I think it’s important to pay particular attention to how people are using these devices. People generally like these things because they solve particular problems they face. If you run into the same kind of problems, this is something to seriously consider. But not everybody does, so it’s not a must-have. It’s a tool to use under certain circumstances, whether it belongs in your toolbox or not depends on what your circumstances are.

This device really isn’t very convenient for Win98 users; you need a later OS than that to make these devices really convenient. They’re also not terribly fast compared to a hard drive or CD (though much faster than a floppy or Zip).

One issue not raised in these comments is the issue of expandability. As you’ll see, many bought one, and are now looking for a bigger one.

Most of these devices don’t allow you to change the flash memory chip and thus expand its capabilities in the future when prices on flash memory drop.

Here’s one that does. Here’s a review on it.

As noted in the review, plugging this directly into the USB port can be a pain. If you look at pricing, they cost considerably more than the nonremovables; any savings would come from buying the smallest capacity now, and buying more later on. It’s very debatable whether this is any real advantage to many.

Enough from me, let’s see what you said:

Page 2…

Ed

Positive

I have several 64mb ones and love them. I primarily use them for moving files
between non-networked PCs. Heck a 32mb thumb/pen drive costs about
as much as a new 3-1/2″ floppy drive itself. Besides, you can stuff it in your
pocket without much concern, unlike a floppy disk.

My only concern is the rated insertion/extraction cycles for the standard USB
jack. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it’s not infinite.

John “Hoot” Hill


I purchased a USB thumb drive about 2 months ago.

In my opinion the Soyo supported Cigar Pro 128mb drive ($59.99 on sale) is an excellent addition to any system. I waited until a drive with large enough capacity came down to a reasonable price.

My main reason for the purchase was that I do not have high speed Internet at home yet and downloads are a pain. However we have T1 Internet access at work and down load big items there. For a while I was taking my CD burner to work and installing it temporally on my work computer (internal drive). That got to be a real pain.

I had just talked my Dad into getting a 64mb thumb drive for work to transfer office files from home to work. For some reason, he could not remember those floppies do not work well after being sat on when they are in your back pocket. I purchased my drive about a month later. 🙂

The Cigar Pro drive is rated at 128mb but only 125mb is usable. The included mini CD contains the drivers for Win98 and security software for locking files.

So far I have loaded and unloaded the drive dozens of times without a problem. A full 125mb load or unload takes about 3min 30sec.

As long as you use WinME, XP, or 2000 the drive is great. If you use Win 98, you must have the CD to install the drivers (a simpler way is to download them from Soyo.com if needed).

So far I have only found 2 downsides to this product.

  • Win 95, NT, and NT4 are not be supported (I still have a lot of computers at work with those operating systems)
  • Now that I found out how easy the drive is to use I wish I had bought one with a higher capacity.

    David Nevins


    All in all, it’s a great little gadget. Great for shuffling those 2.5
    MByte drivers around. The thing I use it for most is the driver for my USB Nic.

    I hate floppies. They break, I’m rough with
    them. They stink, period. So what I do instead is:

  • Put the driver for my USB Nic on my
    thumbdrive.

  • Plug in the USB thumbdrive (the only OS’s i use regularly is Win2K &
    WinXP, so i don’t fuss with the driver).

  • Wait for OS to find/configure it
  • Plug in the USB Network adapter and wait for it to prompt for a driver
  • Tell windows to search the thumbdrive for the driver, and
    voila, it finds it, and it works.

    The only real annoyance I have with it is that it is slow to access & transfer
    to and fro. 800 or 900 K/sec access just isn’t very fast. It’s OK, but
    I wish I had a USB 2.0 model. Then again, USB 2.0 isn’t a widespread standard
    yet, so i’d still have slow access on my laptop and on most computers in
    the land.

    Another, smaller annoyance I have is with the cap for
    the USB interface. You remove the cap covering the usb plug when you
    use the thumbdrive. Unfortunately, the cap isn’t tethered to the drive
    or the neckstrap or anything.

    Many times I’ve lost the cap, sat it down
    on the floor, or a messy desk, etc, and have trouble finding it. I
    might try to attach it to the small carrying strap or something to
    prevent this from happening.

    Matt Virus


    Page 3…

    Ed

    I got one when Microsoft gave them away at the Tablet PC launch. 16mb. I
    have a notebook without a floppy drive and several PCs at work and home.
    Mostly I used to email stuff to myself to transport between work and home
    but the thumb drive is fantastic for that purpose and I don’t bother with
    email anymore. Documents, source code (I’m a programmer), small databases.

    As promised, it just plugs into the USB slot and appears as a removable
    drive. Win2k machines take a minute or so to recognize it the first time but
    has not failed on any of the desktops or the notebook. You have to remember
    to turn it off (from the system tray) before removing it – just like a
    PCMCIA card.

    I used to burn CDs to transport stuff sometimes: this makes it less
    necessary.

    There is software to allow Win98 to recognize the TD but I haven’t used that
    yet. There is also a program already on the drive that apparently allows you
    to password protect the drive but I haven’t tried that either. Nor have I
    used the little switch on the drive that apparently makes it read-only. (Ed. note:
    See other comments on these features.)

    All-in-all, a great little gadget for folks with a need for it.

    Oh, my mother is a writer and will be taking a notebook off to the Elder
    Hostels during the summer. I anticipate giving her one to use as a backup
    device for the documents.

    dgk


    My name is Mike Stiffarm, and I have a Nexdisk 64MB USB Thumbdrive.

    I have just completed my BS in Information Systems at MSU-Billings and that little hard drive has been so useful, I am going to buy another. In many of my classes where I have had semester projects building Access databases or using Excel. I can now easily save my work and take it home to use on my home computer. Most of my database or spreadsheet projects are between 5MB – 30 MB in size, so there is no way I could save them onto Floppy “A”.

    Over a year ago, there were a lot of free online storage sites, but now they are all gone or they now have monthly charges.
    As a student I have limited funds and that doesn’t work. I can’t e-mail my projects from school to home, because I have a telephone modem and that would be too slow. So this little Nexdisk I have really works out great.

    It is small, and is so easy to hook up to the computers at school. Even though it is only USB 1.1 speed, it saves all my largest files very quickly.

    As this device is a hard drive I can make folders and sub folders, and move files around like a normal hard drive. CD-R’s can’t do that. I considered buying a USB external Zip drive, but those are physically bigger, and the Price for blank Zip disk is still very high (avg price = ($9.00 each).

    For those of you considering buying a USB Thumdrive, make sure you get a good brand with a good warranty. Some brands that I read about even though have good transfer speed numbers, were tested and performed very slowly. Even though these little devices don’t have any moving parts, and can theoretically save information for up to ten years, make sure you get one from a good company that will still be around in ten years. After-all what good is a warranty from a non-existant company?

    My nexdisk came with a 3 foot USB cable, and make sure that what ever brand of thumbdrive you buy has that cable included free. Sometimes that cable is required to plug your Thumdrive in, and you don’t want to have to buy one. Those 3 foot USB cables cost from $10.00 on up.

    The only negative thing I can say about my Thumbdrive is that it has a plastic cap that covers the USB end, and snaps on and off. I know some time in the future, that plastic will break and not be able to stay on. Hmmm, I will deal with that problem when it happens.

    All in all you can’t beat the price, and my 64MB nexdisk only cost me $49.00. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do, is very small and light weight. I have recomended this too my fellow classmates and to my instructors, everybody likes it.

    Mike Stiffarm


    Page 4…

    Ed

    You asked for reviews, here is mine:

    About 2 weeks ago, I purchased a 128MB Lexar Media Jumpdrive ($50 after rebates)
    It is about the size of a normal keychain, has a translucent plastic housing and matching USB connector cap.

    First off, I would like to rave about USB flash drives in general – when I first saw them on the marked, I fell in love. These things are the perfect replacement for floppy drives – they are small, have high storage capacities, and are relatively robust compared to other portable media. Most modern operating systems already have support for the USB Mass Storage controller. Format with FAT, and you have a nice cross-platform storage area that you can take with you.

    Newer motherboards support booting off USB devices as well, though I haven’t tried this.

    The sizes which USB drives are available in are perfect for modern media files. The 32MB size is good just for transferring large documents, presentations, etc. I prefer the 128MB size, because I can also fit in a bunch of utilities, such as PuTTY, WinZip, and Acrobat Reader.

    Almost all (actually, I have yet to find one which doesn’t) portable keychain drives use flash storage. Flash is nonvolatile, so you don’t need to worry about data corruption due to power loss. It is also solid state, so it is fairly resistant to shocks, bounces, and other hazards that pocket items encounter. Flash technically shouldn’t be affected by strong magnetic fields or heavy EM radiation, but I wouldn’t exactly leave it on top of the microwave. (Note: the plastic housing of the drive is NOT shielded.) Downside to flash is that there is a limited number of erase/write cycles – but it is generally upwards of 10000, and the only storage that gets that kind of use is swapfiles.

    Now, about the Lexar Media Jumpdrive itself:

    Good points:

    * Small – very small. About the size of most car keychains (you know – the remote door locks)
    * Keychain loop is attached to drive itself, not USB cap – this is actually one of those little things you never fully appreciate, but if anything ever pulled my keychain, I would rather lose the cap than lose the drive.

    Bad points:

    * Color – I don’t particularly care for the iMac-like translucent purple. I’m more of a matte black or dull silver hardware person myself. Other people think it looks good.

    * Keychain loop is delicate – or maybe I’m just rough, but mine broke in a week. I have been known to fall asleep with it in my pocket, so I’m probably rougher on it than average.

    Eh points:

    * Write-protect switch – It has one, however it is so small and inconvenient to access, I don’t know why they bothered. Frankly, I’ve never write protected a floppy, and I never plan to write-protect my USB drive.
    * Price – I paid $50 after rebate, which is about online price for an equivalent model. I wouldn’t exactly call it an impulse-buy item, however some of the cheaper 32MB and 64MB models may fall into that price range. They are most definately the perfect gift for the geek that almost has it all.
    * USB – It is USB 1.1, not 2.0. I didn’t do any benchmarks on it, but I did get the feeling that transfer speed was limited by the USB 1.1 interface. Still, it doesn’t take all that long to fill up 128MB.

    What is on my drive right now:

    2 mpeg videos of a research project I’ve been working on. Fun to show off.
    Soundtrack to “The Rock” (mp3)
    Backup copy of design project for a class
    Patch for Matlab – just downloaded it, and needed to put it on a different, non-networked computer.
    WinZip installer
    PuTTY
    Acrobat Reader 5.0 installer
    Winamp installer
    DiVX installer

    Conclusion:

    I think the Lexar Media Jumpdrive has a near perfect combination of price, capacity, and design. These drives are supposed to be portable, so for me, the smaller, the better. Speed is comfortable (not blazingly fast, but much better than floppy drives). USB Flash drives are exactly the upgrade needed to bring SneakerNet in line with modern technology.

    Vimal M. Bhalodia


    Page 5…

    Ed

    I’ve been using my IBM 8mb thumb-drive since last December. I loved it at first use and continue to enjoy its convenience.

    It is plug and play to any Microsoft OS newer than Windows 98, but drivers are available for older models. It easily transports on a key ring or neck strap and is perfect for carrying data files between PCs that are not networked.

    The big surprise was that most modern motherboards and BIOSes allow you to boot to the thumb drive. That means you can create a Start-up disk and add utilities to it without having to strip it down like you do with a 1.44 floppy. The boots and the executables run faster than on a floppy. It also alleviates the inconvenience of swapping floppies and slow program loads.

    My friends are always amazed at my little 007-ish gadget. I always look well equipped when I pull out as my little “little tool” kit to help my friends debug PC and OS issues. I’ve replaced it this Xmas with a 64Mb unit. I can load small but entire programs, movies, music and more on it and travel.

    Barstow


    The device I have been using is PQI origin, 32mb. Nothing to complain about
    – I have thrown it, sat on it, opened and dried it. My dog also chewed on it a bit
    It still works, though with a few toothmarks on the casing. Haven’t yet tried to boot Linux from it –
    supposedly does not work.

    Can’t think of any other PC item I have that is as well
    behaved as the thumbdrive. I’m thinking about buying another and bigger one.

    Matthew Barchok


    Page 6…

    Ed

    (Ed. note: This is really a combination pen drive/MP3 player, but since this might be a good combo choice for many, I included it.)

    I’ve got a Creative MuVo, 128MB. My thoughts:

    The good

    The first thing I noticed as I took it out of the box was how surprisingly
    sturdy the plastic felt. Sometimes, when you twist and feel around new
    electronics, they feel weak, and the seams may split slightly.

    Despite its tiny size though, the MuVo was solid. I’ve had it for almost 2
    months, dropped it more times than I care to admit, and it’s still in
    perfect condition. I could put it back in the box and sell it as new.
    So construction aside, as a USB drive, it retrieves data pretty quickly (38MB in 45 seconds on my
    machine). As a USB drive, it’s OK. But as an MP3 player that also stores
    data, it’s FANTASTIC.

    But better than that is that you need NO DRIVERS in Windows XP, for either
    transferring files to or from the drive, or listening to MP3s! True,
    that’s not Creative’s doing, USB connectivity is natively built into
    Windows XP. But it’s still damn nice to be able to use something out of
    the box, without laying a finger on instructions or an installation CD.

    The bad

    I read lots of reviews on the MuVo, and surprisingly not a single one of
    the online reviews mentioned the incredibly slow transfer time! Maximum PC
    magazine reviewed several USB drives a few months ago, and as soon as I saw
    the MuVo, I knew I had to have one, despite their alleged transfer time of
    over 36 minutes to fill up the 128MB capacity. Of course, the first thing
    I did when I got it was to toss on some MP3’s, some art, and some game
    patches before I headed over to a friend’s house. I filled up 121MB in
    under 16 minutes, and that includes the time spent browsing for which files
    to put on the drive! Choosing MP3s, browsing to patch directories,
    etc. Max PC was wrong about 36 minutes, but 16 minutes (actually more like
    13 of actual transfer time) is still an awful long time considering other
    USB drives take so much less time.

    The only other bad is the lack of true music playing features. It has the
    basic play, stop, skip track, FF, RW, pause, volume, and repeat (repeats
    single songs, or portions of a song that you designate with the same
    button). But besides that, there are… well… none. No EQ, no LCD, no
    “random.” It’s sort of like a teensy little Archos Jukebox, but with no
    video and ALOT less space. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. It’s a
    USB drive that also happens to play MP3’s. That’s how it should be taken.

    The Ugly

    Honestly, there really is no ugly. The drive with battery compartment
    attached looks great, it’s small and sleek. The drive itself is amazingly
    small for all that it does (it’s not any bigger than a normal USB drive,
    and it’s actually smaller than most!). The buttons are very well placed
    (it’s just about impossible to press something accidentally while the drive
    is bouncing around your pocket), and the battery life is great. By the
    way, you only need the battery compartment (the blue half) for listening to
    MP3s. You can still transfer any files to or from the drive without the
    battery. It’s solid state! Duh!

    There are some features I would have liked to have seen:

    1. An LCD. It’s kind of annoying trying to find a certain song.
    2. A larger headphone amplifier. The ear buds that come with it (or any
      earbuds for that matter) can get louder than your ears can stand, but of
      course they sound like crap. If you use quality headphones (which will
      invariably have much larger drivers) the volume cannot go too high. It’s
      still enough to drown out background noise, but you won’t be able to get
      your ears to bleed. Sorry kiddies.

    3. An integrated Email client (as is standard on many other drives).

    I don’t think security features belong on this particular drive. Having to
    put in a password on a computer to load it up with songs and data would be
    excruciatingly frustrating.

    Nick Pitchford


    Page 7…

    Ed

    Negative

    I have a USB thumb drive. I don’t use it.

    The problem is that when you plug it in, it rarely works perfectly. Usually, you have to install drivers and reboot for it to work. Even then, it generally must be plugged in before booting for it to work. And if you remove it, you can forget about it working again until you restart. In that time, I could have burned a CD.

    It works a lot better with Windows 2000 than with 98. I haven’t tried it with XP.

    Toomas Pruuden


    I got the first and second edition/release of these pens, and I’ll start with the first one

    First release:

    Pros: It’s a quality device with lifetime warrenty, You’re in good shape if you break/destroy it 🙂

    Cons: It’s a little too big, so if you use other ports close to the USB, like large PS/2 plugs etc, you may not be able too plug it directly in the USB-port. It has write protection on it, like the 3.5″ diskette. Here it’s a hassle, because you need to tug on the pen to switch it over from protect/un-protect
    No data encryption.

    Second release:

    Pros: They made it smaller (rounder), so you dosen’t have any problems plugging it into the USB ports (at least the vertical ones). It now has data encryption, and the design look is much more round and moderne

    Cons: It has the feel of being a simpler/cheaper device then the first generation, but it also has a lifetime warranty (though, I don’t think it would survive too being run over by my big heavy chair, like I did with the first gen). The removebable top is very bad: it’s loose, and might fall off. The belt carrying case is made of plastic, and dosen’t last long if you you keep grabbing it (like me).

    When you use data encryption, you need to click on an program in the driver folder, then write the password before the files are protected.

    (Name withheld on request)


    Thanks to all who contributed! We’re definitely going to do more of this.

    Ed

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *