REVIEW: BlockMaster SafeStick SuperSonic Provides Blazing Speed and Hardware Data Encryption

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.

Check out eWEEK Labs' images of the SafeStick SuperSonic USB key in action here.

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 three days.

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.

Impressive Performance

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.