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Seven USB Flash Drives In Tests

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PQI Card Drive U510

Dimensions of modern flash drives are often much smaller than those of their predecessors, but are they more convenient to carry? Not always. Pockets are not the best place -- they are always used for something else, and then a flash drive may easily slip out of it or you can break it, etc. Wear it on your neck? It does not always agree with clothes. Attach it to the latter? Ditto. Women have purses, so it's easier for them. But have you ever tried to grope for a flash drive in a purse filled with everything like lipstick, other cosmetics, etc?.

So the idea that came to minds of PQI engineers is really brilliant and simple! Is it possible to create a slim flash drive? Quite possible, because it's not a hard drive. Just have a look at tiny microSDHC cards -- they are only 1 mm thick. But they have relatively low capacity and high incremental cost. However, we don't need a flash drive small in all dimensions, it's thickness that matters. Length and width can be copied from a regular credit card. We all know how to carry them: they are so popular that all wallets have special compartments. And there is no need to implement an always ready USB plug -- it can be hidden in the enclosure. That's how PQI Card Drives appeared.

U510 and U510 Pro are typical representatives of this series. These flash drives are practically identical, they differ only in performance characteristics. Nothing is mentioned about U510 at all (although the booklet about all products runs that its data read rate is 15 MB/s). Pro version is much more serious: 25/17 MB/s for reading/writing and ReadyBoost support. Their exterior is identical -- 85 x 54 x 3 mm, 23 g, retractible USB plug on a flexible cable. The rest of the enclosure space can be used for flash memory chips, which gives us an imposing line of capacities: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 GB (we tested a 2 GB model). So, it's an excellent product. Besides, you can order an engraving on the aluminum enclosure of this flash drive, so it makes an excellent product.

The manufacturer also took care of additional functionality -- the bundle includes Ur-Smart. This program is practically a full counterpart of CoSoSys Carry it Easy Plus, described above. However, it's expectedly much less convenient, so we shall not describe it in full detail here. Just the key highlights.

The upper button on the garish window (you can even add a custom background in the central part of the window, although I don't understand why do it at all) is called Portable E-Mail Client. However, there is no e-mail client on the flash drive at all -- the program can use Outlook or Outlook Express installed on a computer with the mail base stored on the flash drive. The second button (Portable Document) opens the My Documents folder on the flash drive. The third button (Portable Security Document) provides an interface to a special folder, where files are archived and encrypted with AES 128 bit. Below is the My Browser button to surf the Web anonymously -- favorites, temp files, and other files are stored on a flash drive. Unfortunately, this program supports only Internet Explorer. The next button acts in the same way -- it allows to keep a database of web addresses with passwords on the flash drive. It's convenient if you visit such websites on a regular basis. In this case you have to remember only one password to access the database instead of many passwords to all these pages. But it works only with IE. And the last button, PC Lock, is used in many programs for flash drives: when you walk away from your computer, you can lock it from prying eyes, but use the flash drive as a key instead of a usual password.

How does a mail base, favorites, and documents get into a flash drive? You can do it with the Sync Center button. This Sync Center allows both one-way operations (copying data from a computer to the flash drive or back) and full synchronization. Alas, features of this program cannot compare with the utility from CoSoSys. For one, data synchronization is limited to one folder only -- this utility cannot collect data from different programs. For two, all synced data is stored on a flash drive openly -- you will have to encrypt files manually. For three, sync operations are performed manually -- there is no scheduler here.

So Ur-Smart can perform basic operations, but with certain inconveniences. But it would have been wrong to demand too much from this utility -- it's free, while Carry it Easy Plus costs just like a 4 GB flash drive, not very cheap. Even discounts cannot solve this problem completely. You cannot require too much from a free program.

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