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Who says a USB flash memory thumb drive can't look good as it stores and moves data between computers? Kanguru Solutions' Mini Drive goes beyond merely providing a place to stash data by shoehorning 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, or 1GB worth of flash chips into a stylish, handsome, and very mobile device. While it's a little bigger and heavier than the competition and lacks any sort of security, the Mini Drive moves data quickly.
The rounded, brushed-aluminum Mini Drive has functional good looks; it makes other thumb drives seem square and unattractive. As data moves into and out of the drive, a small LED flashes green. On the downside, with its 0.5-by-2.8-by-1.0-inch size and 0.6-ounce weight, the Mini Drive is bigger and heavier than the competition, although thumb drives are already so small, size differences are an almost trivial matter. Not only is it attractive and small enough to lose in a pocket, the Mini Drive is also nearly indestructible: it stood up to being dropped and tossed in the air. Though we didn't try driving a Mini Cooper over it, as we did with the ultradurable , the Mini Drive is rated by Kanguru to survive a 1,000-g shock.
In addition to the key itself, the package includes a cover, a neck strap, a 1-meter USB extension cable, and a mini CD that contains the unit's 10-page manual and drivers. Using Kanguru's Mini Drive with a Windows XP computer couldn't be easier: just plug it in to a free USB slot, and it will show up under the next available drive letter. It also works with other Windows releases, as well as Mac OS 8.6 and above and Linux systems, but you may need to load drivers, which are included on the mini CD. Based on the current USB 2.0 specification, it works just fine with a USB 1.1 computer, but it operates at USB 1.1's slower speeds. The 1GB Mini Drive that we reviewed was formatted with FAT32, yielding 999MB of usable space, plenty of room for hundreds of PowerPoint presentations, 16 hours of MP3 music, or half an hour of DVD video. You can reformat the drive using FAT16, FAT32, or Mac OS (standard and extended), but like many other flash keys, the Kanguru drive does not support NTFS formatting.
One thing the Mini Drive lacks is any sort of security, such as the fingerprint reader and the built-in encryption of the , which is rapidly becoming standard equipment for thumb/key dirives. If the Mini Drive is lost or stolen, the data is open to all. Kanguru's Mini Drive does, however, have a write-protect switch on the side to prevent inadvertently erasing data.
In a week of daily use, the Mini Drive consistently stored and doled out a variety of file types, such as word processing files, spreadsheets, and various multimedia files. You can even use Kanguru's Mini Drive to run applications. On the downside, the drive runs hot, which may be a result of its aluminum skin. We suspect that other flash drives get as hot, but the metal casing transfers heat very efficiently (as opposed to plastic, which is the standard casing for most thumb drives), so unplugging the drive can be like playing hot potato. With an IBM ThinkPad R51, the drive was able to read and write data at 56Mbps and 38Mbps, respectively, well off the theoretical peak performance of 480Mbps that USB 2.0 promises, but four times faster than an IBM Memory Key.
The unit comes with a standard one-year warranty. Phone support is free, though you'll have to pay toll charges. The company's help desk is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., ET, or you can send e-mail. The Kanguru Mini Drive is priced on a par with similar thumb drives from SanDisk and Lexar.