Review: 7 secure USB drives

Should you trust these flash drives to safeguard your data?

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Winners and runners-up

Each of the drives we reviewed has its strong and weak points. For example, Corsair's Survivor is, arguably, very secure -- but the password rules are challenging to follow. The Lexar JumpDrive Secure II offers three ways to protect data, but two of its methods were so awkward that the reviewer found them to be being more trouble than they were worth.

Although the Corsair Padlock is relatively slow, and certainly not the most secure of the bunch (because its security is based on hardware), its cross-platform capability can make a big difference if you're moving files among Windows, Linux, and Mac computers. We've run into problems with secure flash drives cooperating only among Windows machines, so if we needed cross-platform support, we'd have to lean toward the Padlock (and maybe bring along a second skinny vanilla latte to sip on while the files are being transferred).

The IronKey, while toward the high-end of the price ranges, is built like a fortress and its read/write speeds are superior to the others we tested. By comparison, the Corsair Survivor's performance numbers come close to IronKey's, and, along with the SanDisk Cruzer, it uses the least CPU cycles.

When it comes to practical tests, such as saving files to the drive, the Kingston was 2.5 times as fast as the Lexar -- and that, along with a simpler interface, can often be what truly matters.

Overall, however, the IronKey's numerous security features -- hardware-based encrytion, random password generator, two-factor authentication, secure Web browsing, and self-destruct mechanism -- along with its longer-life, single-level cell NAND memory, put it over the top as the highest quality, most secure drive of the bunch.

Flash Drive Speed/CPU Utilization Comparison (Windows XP)

  Burst Speed (MB/sec) Average Read (MB/sec) CPU Utilization ( 2%)
Corsair Flash Padlock 15.9 15.4 5%
Corsair Survivor 25.1 23.6 4%
Imation Pivot Plus 16.7 16.1 8%
IronKey Secure 31.0 29.6 22%
Kingston DataTraveler Secure 20.2 13.2 10%
Lexar JumpDrive Secure II 15.9 15.5 7%
SanDisk Cruzer Professional 24.8 13.4 4%
Testing software: Simpli Software HD Tach

Price, Capacity and Security Comparisons

  Capacity tested Capacities available Price (MSRP model tested) Encryption type
Corsair Flash Padlock 1GB 1GB,2GB,4GB $29.99 None
Corsair Survivor GT 8GB 4GB,8GB,16GB,32GB $129.99 256-bit AES
Imation Pivot Plus 1GB 1GB,2GB,4GB,8GB $69.99 256-bit AES
IronKey Secure 4GB 1GB,2GB,4GB $149.99 128-bit AES
Kingston DataTraveler Secure 8GB 1GB,2GB,4GB,8GB $327.00 256-bit AES
Lexar JumpDrive Secure II 1GB


$29.99 256-bit AES
SanDisk Cruzer Professional 1GB 1GB,2GB,4GB $54.99 256-bit AES

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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