Small and light USB removable flash memory storage outperforms the competition and is well-controlled by centralized management software, but it sacrifices some ruggedness-although it is still pretty rugged.
BlockMaster, headquartered in Lund, Sweden,
has been making rugged and encrypted USB
removable storage for more than five years, and its take on the market is
slightly different from that of Lexar and IronKey, whose devices we've recently
reviewed. Weighing in at a svelte 9 grams, the SafeStick SuperSonic is much
smaller and lighter than the others. It's more of an armor-plated USB
key than a USB key immersed in a brick of
epoxy. The drive also ships with a very capable management console,
SafeConsole, which can be used to lock down every aspect of removable media
that I could think of.
The SafeStick SuperSonic took a beating during my testing. It impressively
survived most acts of torture, but overall was not as unflappable as the
IronKey and Lexar drives. Provided with three units, I placed one suspended
under a buoy in Barnegat Bay
for almost two winter months. I had to chip through the ice to get it, but once
I dried it off and allowed it to reach room temperature, it functioned
perfectly. And I did my usual throwing it off the roof of a four-story
building, spiking it down a flight of stairs, running it through the washing
machine and giving it a brief stint in the toaster oven-all of which it
survived with nary a scratch.
The SafeStick SuperSonic was lucky enough to join me on my vacation-I mean
field testing-in the Philippines
in January. It survived several days tied to a car's bumper in metro Manila,
a ferry ride during a tropical depression in Cebu, and
tied to the outside of my backpack during hikes up the Mayon and Pinatubo
volcanoes. It partied for 18 straight hours in honor of Santo Nino at
Ati-Atihan in Kalibo. And then it rested on the beach in Boracay for
When we returned home, I performed my favorite test-smashing it between two 20-pound
dumbbells. A few whacks and I was left with a very thin and unusable memory key
that reminded me of a penny placed on a railroad track and run over by a train.
Needless to say, it was rendered unusable.
The SafeStick SuperSonic will definitely take more abuse than a regular USB
key and is no slouch when it comes to durability, but the IronKey and Lexar
units are more solidly constructed. If you've got normal users, this is not an
issue. However, if you're equipping a team of U.S. Navy SEALS who might
actually need bulletproof USB removable
storage, then skip the SafeStick SuperSonic.
What the SafeStick SuperSonic lacks in durability, it more than makes up for
in performance. It performed extremely well in all performance tests, as is
expected because it uses SLC flash memory. Using the ATTO Disk Benchmark,
throughput maxed out at 25.5MB/s write and 33.1MB/s read using an 8,192KB/s
transfer size. Copying a 691MB file to the encrypted volume took 33.9 seconds
(20.4MB/s), and copying it back took 22.8 seconds (30.3MB/s). For reference, a
"normal" or "el cheapo" USB stick does
6.6MB/s write and 24.0MB/s read in ATTO and takes 3 minutes anda987MB file.
Matthew D. Sarrel, CISSP, is a network security,product development, and technical marketingconsultant based in New York City. He is also a gamereviewer and technical writer. To read his opinions on games please browse http://games.mattsarrel.com and for more general information on Matt, please see http://www.mattsarrel.com.