At $400, the Lexar Echo MX backup drive is arguably the most expensive thumbdrive on the market. But there's good reason for its hefty price tag: it's also the first tiny little storage device with 128GB of storage space, offering 8GB more than the second-tiniest drive, the LaCie FastKey.
Unlike the FastKey, however, the Echo doesn't support USB 3.0, meaning slower performance, and it has a seemingly flimsy plastic case that's susceptible to scratches. It doesn't offer 256-bit AES encryption, just the 128-bit version, which is slightly less secure.
To make up for this, in addition to its smaller size and larger storage space, the Echo has a nice design, with a permanent storage meter that shows how much storage space has been used. If you want something that can back up a typical laptop's worth of documents and photos, the Echo is definitely a good choice, even at the price.
Design and features
|Drive type||Compact external USB portable drive|
|Connector options||USB 2.0|
|Size||2.6-inch long thumbdrive|
|Available capacities||32GB, 64GB, 128GB|
|Capacity of test unit||128GB|
|OSes supported||Windows and Mac OS X|
|Software included||Lexar Echo Backup for Mac and PC|
The Lexar Echo MX backup drive's shape is typical for a USB thumbdrive--measuring just 2.6 inches long and weighing merely .96 ounce--with one end being the USB head that goes into a USB port. Again, although it looks like one of those popular thumbdrives, which can hold somewhere between 2GB and 16GB of storage at most, this is the first we've seen that can hold up to 128GB of data, equivalent to about 15 high-definition movies at full 1080p resolution.
One part of the drive's housing is a sleeve cap that can slide back and forth to cover or reveal the USB head. The other part comes with something even more interesting: a permanent capacity meter that shows the level of storage space left. Although the meter only changes when the drive is plugged into a computer, it maintains the reading even when the drive is unplugged. This is similar to the electronic label of the WD My Passport Studio. At the other end, the drive has a little hook in case you want attach it to a key chain, which you should do to prevent it from going missing.
Overall we like the design of the Echo but found its housing a little flimsy, especially when the sleeve cap is in the closed position covering the USB head. The surface of the casing is also susceptible to scratches, not a good thing if you keep the drive with a bunch of keys. For a device that costs a substantial amount, we'd expect the drive to be made of a more durable material like aluminum.
The drive comes preformatted in the FAT32 file system. This means it will work with both Macs and PCs immediately. This also means, however, that the drive can't be used to store files larger than 4GB. This is just a limitation of FAT32. You can easily convert or reformat it into the NTFS (Windows) or HFS+ (Mac) file system to overcome this shortcoming. If you choose to reformat, make sure you back up the Lexar Echo Backup software the drive comes with.