Pros: Fast at moving large files, excellent sync'ing and encryption software
Cons: No lanyard, detachable cap is easy to lose, slow at moving small files
The 512mb Lexar Jumpdrive Lightning USB flash memory drive is Lexars top of the line and top performing USB flash memory drive. The 512mb (really only 489mb) version is the smallest of the Jumpdrive Lightning drives available, with even faster 1gb and 2gb versions being available. At the time this review was written, list price for the drive is $60, only about $10 higher than Lexars standard drives. Although the Jumpdrive Lighting is a little larger than most flash drives, its also one of the most imposing, with a polished stainless exterior. (The stainless appearance is a little misleading, while the drive feels hefty and well made, tapping on drives housing results in a definite plastic sound.) The drives noteworthy specs and features include:
Sustained read speeds up to 18mb/sec
Sustained write speeds up to 12mb/sec
(The read and write speeds are about 3 times as fast as standard flash drives)
Stainless case with blue LED activity light
3 long X 7/8 wide x 7/16 thick
Preinstalled autolaunching dashboard software (full version included) which will
- synchronize files with your PC,
- encrypt files
- password protect files
The Lexar Jumpdrive is packaged in a blister pack (typically almost impossible to open), with no extras except a polishing cloth to help keep the polished case bright and shiny, and a set of instructions. Theres no driver cd and no lanyard, and the drive is only compatible with Win XP, Win 2000, and Mac OS X 10.2 or higher. The drive actually contains 513,000,000 bytes of storage space (489 mb) and about 20 mb of that space holds the utility software and help files included with the drive. The cap on this usb drive is a tight fit, though Ive read a couple of reviews for this model that reported the cap became loose with time, though no problems here after 6 weeks of use.
The speed at which you can save data to and read data from flash memory is highly dependent on the size of files being moved. The Lexar Jumpdrive is no different, reading and writing very small files is slow, and only with large files do you see the nameplate speeds touted by Lexar. To benchmark the read and write speeds for this drive, I used the Sisoft Sandra benchmark program (http://www.simplisoftware.com/) to measure read and write speeds. For comparison I also ran the tests on a generic Compusa brand 512mb USB flash drive.
Read and Write Speeds
File size . ..Compusa Drive ..Lexar Lightning
...Read .. .Write Read .Write
512b (0.5kb) ...254kb (0.25mb)/sec..15 kb/sec .......530 kb (0.5mb)/sec .7 kb/sec
32kb ..6.2 mb/sec ..0.33 mb/sec ...13.5 mb/sec .450 kb/sec
256kb .9.0 mb/sec ..2.1 mb/sec ..19.1 mb/sec ..2.9 mb/sec
2mb .9.6 mb/sec .3.2 mb/sec ...19.6 mb/sec .8 mb/sec
64mb . ..9.6 mb/sec .3.2 mb/sec ..19.5 mb/sec .10.7 mb/sec
With large files, these numbers compare reasonably favorably with Lexars advertised speeds for this drive, slightly less than the advertised maximum 12mb/sec write speed, and slightly faster than the advertised read speeds of 18 mb/sec. Real life performance matches the benchmark numbers measured by Sisoft Sandra. I was able to copy (write) 363 mb worth of mp3 files (2mb to 10 mb in size) in 45 seconds, a write speed of 8 mb/second, and I was able to copy (read) the same amount of files back to my PC in 24 seconds, for a read speed of 15 mb/second. Both speeds are about 3 times as fast as you would see with a typical flash drive, though you should note that you are only saving a few tens of seconds, not enough for most users to justify spending much extra for this drive, which is where the Lexar software comes in ..
When you insert the Jumpdrive Lightning into your USB port, one of the autolaunch options is to run the JumpDrive Dashboard, an 8mb Lexar utility which installs itself into your system tray when the Jumpdrive is in your USB port. The Dashboard has 4 menu choices:
File Synchronization allows you to navigate to files and directories on your hard drive and chose them for synchronization with your jumpdrive. After a directory is chosen, whenever you insert the jumpdrive in your usb port, that directory is sync'd between your PC and the JumpDrive. That means the newest version of the files in the selected directories are copied over the older versions of the same files, either from the jumpdrive to your PC, or from your PC to the jumpdrive. The dashboard determines which file is newest by looking at the time stamp of the file. By default, differences of less than 2 seconds are ignored, though you optionally ignore differences less than one hour (if you are worried about daylight savings time differences, for example). Ive set the syncing to occur automatically when I insert the flash drive into a usb port on my pc, but you can also change the settings to control syncing automatically. You can also apply filters to syncing, and either include files of certain types (jpgs for example), or exclude files of certain types (temp files, for example).
JumpDrive Setup allows you to split the JumpDrive into two separate drives. One is public, and can be accessed by anyone, and the other is private, password protected partition. Ive chosen not to split my drive, and left it setup with a single public partition.
File Encryption encrypts files with a 256 bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm. Ive tested this, and it works as described. Encryption of even very large files, 50mb or more, only takes a few seconds. Lexar warns that encrypted files on your computer can only be decrypted when the flash drive is inserted in the usb port and a password has been supplied. If you lose the flash drive, you wont be able to decrypt the files.
USB flash drives are a commodity item, you can buy them at drug stores, gas stations, just about anywhere. And for most applications, one model will work as well as another, you might as well buy on price. The relatively large size for this drive and lack of a lanyard wont earn any points with some shoppers, though the unique stainless appearance will certainly garner a few second looks. Drive performance lives up to the manufacturers claims, if you keep in mind that the quoted speeds only apply when you are working with large files. In most cases, read and write speeds will be about 2-3 times as fast as other standard usb drives. The software included on the drive is top notch, and in particular, the syncing software works well. If youre looking for a drive with great performance, or need a drive to shuttle changing files between locations, the JumpDrive Lightning is a great choice, especially if your willing to pay just a little bit more for the extra performance or the included software.