Editor's note: Due to testing issues, this product was retested and the editor's rating was changed to reflect the new information. (8/31/05)
When they're not in use, most USB flash drives coexist with the other junk inside of pockets and purses, so they should be tough enough to withstand some wear and tear. Unfortunately, the Memorex M-Flyer USB 2.0 TravelDrive's pretty, brushed-aluminum case is anything but tough. The drive showed decent performance in storing and deleting a variety of files, and a conveniently retractable USB connector and password-protection and data encryption software sweeten the deal.
The 3.2-inch-long Memorex M-Flyer USB 2.0 TravelDrive (which comes in 512MB, 1GB, and 2GB capacities) is a bit longer and bulkier than the average USB flash drive. Its metallic silver case looks resilient but feels surprisingly fragile in your palm. We noticed a couple of small dents and scratches in our brand-new test unit and accidentally inflicted a few more through mundane acts such as tapping it with a Sharpie pen. Though all thumbdrives needn't be as durable as the SanDisk Cruzer Titanium, their shells shouldn't cave in with slight contact from a foreign object. At least you can protect the USB connector by making it disappear inside the case when you press a button on top of the device; press on the end of the drive to make the connector pop out again. The M-Flyer doesn't offer an ultraconvenient keychain hole, but it does ship with a lanyard carrying strap and, for the pocket-protector set, a belt-clip case, which also serves as a protective buffer in purses and pockets. The package also includes a handy USB extension cable that could stand to be longer.
Following in the footsteps of some other flash-drive manufacturers, such as Powerhouse Technologies, Memorex bundles a couple of data-security applications with the M-Flyer TravelDrive. The Secure TD software allows you to designate part or all of the drive as a password-protected area. At setup, you can elect to save your password to your PC's hard drive as an encrypted file. If you ever forget the code, just e-mail your file to Memorex's tech support, which will decrypt the password and e-mail it to you. Though this is a somewhat arduous process, at least it spares you from reformatting the drive and losing all your data. The ZipGuard program works a lot like the free version of WinZip; it lets you create and unzip file archives and also provides an archive-encryption feature. But beware: you can open encrypted archives only on computers with ZipGuard installed. While the M-Flyer doesn't support the data-syncing apps offered by the Powerhouse Technologies Migo drive and others, it does work with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
Speedwise, the Memorex M-Flyer is a decent performer. It took 2 minutes, 30 seconds to copy a 400MB file folder of mixed file types (data files, photos, videos, and MP3s) from our PC to the M-Flyer, and it took 1 minute, 13 seconds to delete the same folder. Your mileage may vary, as the types of files and the size of the thumbdrive will affect your transfer speeds.
Whereas many USB flash drives ship with one-year warranties, Memorex offers a generous two-year warranty with the M-Flyer. Toll-free tech support is part of the deal, though the phone lines are open only Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. You can also e-mail Memorex for help via the company's support Web site, which includes a searchable FAQ database.