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"360" seems to be the marketing buzz term of the moment. Microsoft coined it with the release of their Xbox 360 gaming console and it sort of just rolled on from there. Tacking it on the end of your product's name is a sure-fire way to move units and we guess in marketoid speak conveys an image of completeness, and enveloping protection. This is probably why Symantec chose it to launch their new Norton AntiVirus product, why Colgate picked it up for their toothbrush with tongue cleaner, and now Lexar has stuck it on their new JumpDrive -- hoping to milk it while it's still hip with the kids.
Ironically the Lexar is the only product in the above list to actually feature a genuine 360 aspect to its design, namely its ability to swivel in a full circle. The advantage of this is twofold, it saves you having to carry around a cap you'll put down and lose somewhere and it protects the USB port from damage, keeping it reasonably pocket lint free. There's also a small metal loop on the top, large enough to be attached to a lanyard or a set of keys.
Rotating it was initially a little difficult as it was stiff and hard to move, but a few days of use softened it up enough to be able to swing out quite easily with one hand. Unfortunately this also means that long-term use may cause the hinge to become so loose that the metal casing may no longer provide a secure home to keep your USB port safe.
As far as USB storage devices go, the Lexar is your run-of-the-mill 1GB flash memory drive, is PC and Mac compatible, and can be used to carry music, movies, documents and anything else you can fit on it.
The JumpDrive 360's real draw card is its bundled PowerToGo software application and interface. Running a familiar looking Windows XP start menu clone, even first time users should have no trouble getting used to the look and feel once they've plugged the device in. Since the drive piggybacks on installed system applications in a secured environment contained within the key, you can launch Internet Explorer or Outlook Express and take your mail with you from PC to PC. This is particularly handy for travellers whose only Internet access is through cyber cafes. Places that usually feature machines not best known for their security or privacy.
Because of its large storage space (a 2GB model is also available) you're able to use the device not only as a storage place for files, but to install whole applications. Putting custom apps on your USB drive requires you to download Argo Application Installer 2.0, a free 45 day trial piece of software, after which time you'll need to pony up US$19.95 (a 33 percent discount on the usual US$29.95 price) to be able to continue to add new apps. We weren't able to test it, but we imagine launching applications after the trial is over should be unchanged; you just lose the ability to install new ones until you purchase the full licence.
We're not huge fans of IE or Outlook Express, so we dropped the latest Firefox and Thunderbird builds on to take care of our Web browsing and e-mailing needs. Be warned, whether it has to do with their memory footprint or the fact they were running from the key rather than the host machine, both took considerably longer to load up and run. IE took just over six seconds to load from the host machine, but Firefox lagged well behind at 36 seconds from the key. Thunderbird was also less responsive, taking 38 seconds longer to load from the key than the 10 seconds Outlook Express took to start up locally.
Internet Explorer is obviously the intended browser of choice, as the options on the JumpDrive 360 allow you to copy your browser favourites directly to the key. Not all applications work with the Argo installer either, although the Web site does offer a list of known working software.
Lexar has made the storage side of the 360 completely transparent; telling you exactly how much room is remaining on your key via the UI dock -- never get a full disk error half way through a file transfer again.
The other big selling point of the 360 is SecureII, an app for creating encrypted vaults of files and folders. There's also a file shredder to permanently delete files you no longer need. There's no un-shred, so you'll want to be careful what you toss in -- it won't be coming back.
A quick search online saw street prices of between AU$30 and AU$45 while its big brother, the larger 2GB version, will set you back AU$45 to AU$60.
The Lexar JumpDrive 360 is more than your average USB memory key with its PowerToGo interface, self contained application suite and security features. It's also the ideal travel companion for those on the move who either don't want to lug a notebook with them, or frequently share multiple PCs.