Author Topic: SanDisk Cruzer  (Read 833 times)

Offline Neon

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SanDisk Cruzer
« on: Aug 10, 2003, 08:57 PM »
SanDisk Cruzer?

portable USB storage device with upgradable flash memory

It is the twilight of the age of floppy disks. Floppies are bulky and fragile, have low storage capacity, and they obligate purchase of a read drive that occupies a 3.5" drive bay. Flash memory has the advantages of smaller size per MB of storage, no moving parts, and fast access time - while still maintaining light weight, random access, and reasonable cost.

Features:
*portable, lightweight storage
*uses removable/upgradable Secure Digital or Multimedia memory card
*connects to computer and powered via USB 1.1
*individual file encryption with password protection included (Windows only)
*2 year warranty

Installation and Setup:
The retail package contains:
Cruzer with installed SD memory card (mine is 256 MB)
2" (not including male and female plugs at either end) USB extension cable
CD with Win98/98SE driver and CruzerLock security application
Quick Start guide
spandex travel pouch

It is compatible with Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP and Macintosh OS 9.1+/X v.10.1.2+ and Linux (kernel 2.4 and higher). On Windows 98, the Cruzer requires installation of the drivers supplied on the CD. Later versions of Windows will auto configure the device when it is first plugged in. Macintosh and Linux do not require drivers.

Usage:
The Cruzer is extremely easy to use. When the device is first plugged into a system running Windows, it is detected as new hardware and added to the registry as a USB mass storage device. Subsequently, when the device is plugged in, it is usable immediately. It shows up as a removable disk in Windows Explorer or Mac desktop. An icon appears in the Windows system tray that can be clicked to disconnect the device prior to physical removal from the USB port. On Linux Mandrake 9.0, it just gets easier - the Cruzer is mounted as /mnt/removable and is immediately accessible. Depending on the Linux distribution, it may be necessary to enable USB mass storage support, and add DOS FAT file system support.

The Cruzer stores data on a removable Secure Digital (SD) or multimedia card (MMC). In addition to erasure of old data to make room for new data as the card fills up, you can also buy additional memory cards and swap them. This feature sets the Cruzer apart from simple memory sticks. The tradeoffs are that the Cruzer is larger (2.69" x 1.75" x  0.69") than other memory sticks, and it is somewhat more expensive. SD and MMC cards from a camera or other device may be used with Cruzer, so that a separate card reader is unneccessary. In fact, at the time of this writing, the Cruzer with 256MB SD card is the same price as the SD card itself, so the Cruzer is essentially free. SD cards also have a write-protect tab.

The clever interface includes a 3 position slider on the front that exposes either the male USB connector plug, the SD card, or neither. The Cruzer has a LED that indicates when the USB port is providing power to the device. During file transfer, the LED blinks.
The 2" extender cable proves quite useful on recessed panels or when an adjacent USB port is occupied. On a system with front-facing USB ports or a notebook, this works well. The durability of this cable under heavy usage is questionable, but it shows no signs of fatigue so far - I will update if it fails. On systems with USB ports only in the back, a longer USB extender cable will be required. Such generic cables are available from online vendors for less than $5.

The CruzerLock security application for Windows offers 40-bit data encryption to provide an extra level of security, in case the unit is stolen. Although free and easy to use, it has some drawbacks. To encrypt a directory or entire card, each file must be selected individually. It then prompts whether to delete the unencrypted source file, rather than automatically deleting it after generating the encrypted file. Each file must be decrypted with its password to retrieve it for normal usage. This process is laborious and potentially confusing when working with a large number of files; not a convenient data security solution.

During 5 months of usage, I have experienced one recurring problem on a Windows 2000 SP3 machine that sometimes does not disconnect the Cruzer properly. This is worrisome because improper disconnection might cause data corruption. This is likely a Windows problem with USB storage devices, and no corruption has thus far occurred. Otherwise, Cruzer has been reliable and robust during regular usage. It has not been subjected to folding, spitting, high magnetic fields, plasma welding arcs, or microwaves - however, I feel pretty confident in proclaiming that it will outlast a floppy disk in most torture tests.

The travel pouch has a small keychain clip, and it adds a little padding that protects against scratches and allows Cruzer to sit in your pocket more comfortably than a floppy. Unfortunately, it has no provision to secure the USB extender cable, which must be carried separately.

Performance:
Data transfer is handled by USB 1.1. Although this is slower than the USB 2.0 specification, it suffices for routine small file transfer. To test the Cruzer's performance on large files, I timed some file transfers between Cruzer and hard drives. Two files on two test systems were measured, with the average of 3 time trials reported in the tables below.

Test System A:
EPoX 8KHA+ motherboard (Via KT266A)
AMD Athlon XP 2400+
512MB Crucial PC2100 DDR RAM
60GB IBM DeskStar 60GXP ATA100 / formatted NTFS
Windows 2000 SP4
File SizeTo CruzerFrom Cruzer
101,088 KB112 s = 900 KB/s105 s = 966 KB/s
10,008 KB11.8 s = 847 KB/s8.3 s = 1210 KB/s

Test System B:
Abit KT7-RAID motherboard (Via KT133)
AMD Duron 1000
256MB Kingston PC133 SDRAM
27GB Western Digital Expert 273BA ATA66 on Highpoint 370 / formatted ext3
Linux Mandrake 9.0
File SizeTo CruzerFrom Cruzer
101,088 KB145 s = 696 KB/s137 s = 736 KB/s
10,008 KB<2 s<2 s

The transfer rates of system B are 77% those of system A, which may be due to hard drive controller performance, hard drive performance, Linux FAT conversion vs. Windows FAT conversion, or cosmic rays from Neptune (I don't know why). I could not obtain accurate measurements for the 10 MB file on system B, because transfers completed in less than 2 seconds. It appears that Linux copied the file to system memory as soon as copy was selected, without waiting for the paste command. Thus, file transfers appeared to occur instantaneously.

I also ran the SiSoft Sandra File System Benchmark. Here are the results of the test. As you can see, the Cruzer scored a drive index of 827, and its read speeds were around 650-950 kB/s, which agrees favorably with the hand timed measurements. This easily surpasses floppy and zip drive speeds.

Documentation and Help:
The 13 page Quick Start guide contains basic installation and usage instructions, and a short list of FAQs. SanDisk maintains a support website that also contains a few FAQs.

Plusses:
removable and upgradable flash memory
support for multiple OSes
USB extension cable included

Minuses:
more expensive than simple memory sticks
short USB extension cable must be carried separately
CruzerLock too inconvenient

There are still some important uses for floppy disks, such as boot disks and BIOS updates. However, as it becomes more common for BIOSes to allow boot from USB, it will be possible for USB flash memory to take over these traditional floppy roles.

To conclude, I heartily recommend the SanDisk Cruzer to store and easily transfer data, images, video and music files between computers. It is particularly useful for: students who write papers at home with no access to a printer, businesspeople who make presentations on other people's computers away from the office, transfer of mp3's or Windows updates between a work PC and a home PC shackled with slow dial-up internet access, or transfer between a laptop and a desktop. The flexibility and expandability afforded by a removable memory card makes Cruzer unique. I give it 5/5.

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« Last Edit: Feb 02, 2004, 10:33 PM by Neon »
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