OVER THE PAST couple of years, flash memory has gone from some fairly-standard formats to a very differentiated market. Here is a look at three non-standard but inexpensive versions that we use regularly.
Most of these devices have a twist, and all are no larger than ‘normal’, but manage to do everything their bigger brethren do. I personally use all of these devices regularly, and heartily recommend each one, my work day would be a little bit more annoying without them. None carries an appreciable premium over its vanilla counterparts, and you can shouldn’t have to pay more than $30 for one of these devices.
As you can see from the picture below, they are all about the size of a small coin and some are much smaller. In the order of most to least used, and clockwise from the top, they are the SuperTalent Pico A, Kingston Micro SDHC Mobility Multi Kit, and the OCZ Secure Digital Dual Memory Card.
Three memory sticks with a twist
Before we get into the soft and fuzzy bits, here are a few raw numbers. The flash sticks were all tested with SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP2 using the File Systems benchmark. All numbers are in MB/s, and two other drives, a Sandisk Cruzer Micro 1GB and a Pentax Photodrive 1GB were thrown in for comparison.
Card Performance with two extras for comparison
The SuperTalent Pico A is the one I use most, mainly because it is permanently affixed to my keychain. It is small enough to be totally unobtrusive, and unlike the unsheathed Pico C, it has a swiveling metal cover. If you buy from a quality vendor, most memory sticks tend to be fairly indestructible, but the cover never hurts.
The up side to the Pico A is the capacity, mine is an 8GB model, and having that much capacity can be a lifesaver day in and day out. You can copy almost anything to it and still have room left over. Running around trade shows, I find myself piling PDFs and press releases on it until I get bored, but I never run out of room. Clean the Pico off every once in a while, and you are good to go.
It is not perfect though, there are two down sides, one a minor quibble, the other a bit more serious. The serious gripe is the speed, or at least the speed related to the capacity. With a pretty slow write time, the slowest random writes of the three sticks, but one of the top sequential performers. If you are copying a large folder of files, this stick is painfully slow. Take the time to zip them beforehand, and writing is pretty fast, as is reading.
Picking a minor nit, we have hole size. Yeah, the little hole that the chain goes through is big enough for the chain, but a key ring won’t fit through it. While the chain isn’t the end of the world, I would prefer to have the Pico sitting unobtrusively between my keys. That said, it hasn’t stopped me from carrying it every day for the last year or so.
Moving right along, we have the Kingston Mobility Multi Kit, it is basically a MicroSDHC card with a bunch of adapters and a carrying case. The card itself is a vanilla MicroSD or SDHC card, and the adapters turn it into a MiniSD, SD or USB device.
I keep the kit in my travel bag, and use the card in my video camera. The adapters will allow it to fit in nearly anything I run in to, and the case keeps all those sub-postage stamp adapters in one place. The base card is fast enough to save 1080p video from the Sanyo Xacti HD1000, and that is about all I need from it. Sequential writes are really fast, random are very good, and read speeds approach 10MB/s. Not bad for a MicroSD card.
Last up, we have something that hasn’t been updated in a while, which is a pity becaus even with it’s relative age, it manages to keep up nicely. The OCZ Secure Digital Dual Memory Card comes in 1 and 2GB capacities, and for the still camera I use it in, that is plenty. The top pulls off to reveal a USB plug, but other than that, it is a simple SD card.
If your laptop doesn’t have an SD card reader, or you have the misfortune of owning a Sony laptop that sheds parts when it’s slots are not breaking spontaneously, the Dual is worth it’s weight in gold. The cover is very well designed, the bottom of it is the SD card itself, and most of the contact is from the sides. There is only a thin metal plate that covers the USB pins, so you lose little if any rigidity.
The most impressive part is that while the read speed is a little low, the write speed, especially the random write speed, is top notch. An 8 or 16GB Dual in SDHC would be a very nice addition to most devices. Toss in a hole for a chain, and it would be almost perfect.
In all, there is no real winner here, each device does something different. The similarities extend only to the USB port and the fact that they store files. Each one is worth having for a different reason, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them