Despite the "micro" moniker, the Cruzer Micro is only a hair shorter than the Cruzer Crossfire. That said, both of the SanDisk flash drives are tangibly smaller than Lexar's JumpDrive Lightning and Mercury -- an impressive feat, given that they all offer identical capacities.
The Micro is a well-designed device, doing away with the easy to lose, fragile cap that typically covers the USB connector. Instead, the connector retracts into the unit's body, which in our opinion is a great design decision.
Aesthetically, the Micro's look is a tad more professional than that of the Crossfire. It's mostly black, with white labelling and a matching black lanyard.
The Micro's standout feature is by far its support for U3. U3 is a software platform that transforms your USB key into a device that does much more than simply carrying data. With U3, you're able to store your favourite software applications (e-mail, web browser, word processor, music playback software, etc) -- including all software and Windows preferences -- and launch them directly from the drive, on any Windows 2000, XP or Vista machine. This is done without modifying any files on the host PC whatsoever, and once you remove the USB key from the machine, all of your data leaves with you.
U3 is bound to come in super-handy for those that use more than one computer on a regular basis, share a computer with other people or are using a machine without access to admin privileges. The last case is particularly poignant, as if you're on a machine but don't have admin access, you're unable to install any software whatsoever.
A full list of U3 applications can be found on the U3 Software Central Web site. Some are freeware, while others must be purchased after the trial period. There's quite an extensive list there, including Skype, Firefox, Thunderbird, Winamp, and a huge variety of games such as Party Poker. Once installed, the applications are accessed through the U3 dashboard, which uses the familiar design of the Windows start menu.
Another cool U3 feature is the ability to synchronise personal data (e.g. My Documents and browser favourites) and Outlook e-mail with your main machine, ready to take with you on your travels.
Prices of these drives has dropped dramatically since we first reviewed them, and the price of the 1GB is now less than half its original price of $100. This makes this drive an excellent buy.
Our performance tests involved recording read and write speeds using 32KB, 256KB, 2MB and 64MB files, which are typical of file sizes that are most often copied to flash drives. We recorded read/write speeds of 10075/646KBps, 15953/3371KBps, 16657/5393KB/sec and 16384/6554KB/sec respectively.
These results are quite impressive, with the Micro offering slightly slower read speeds than the Cruzer Crossfire, but faster write speeds. Both still pale in comparison to the more expensive Lexar JumpDrive Lightning, but beat out the Lexar JumpDrive Mercury quite comfortably.
Finally, even though U3 has applications running off the flash disk as opposed to the computer's hard disk, we didn't notice any tangible increase in latency.