Product Review: Page (1) of 2 - 10/05/04 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

DataTraveler Elite

Kingston's USB 2.0 flash drive could change the way you work By Frank Moldstad

Ten years ago, people used to speculate that one day storage media would be as small as a disposable lighter, with a capacity as big as a hard drive. Of course, back then disposable lighters were bigger and hard drive capacities were smaller, but you get the idea.

In subsequent years, a variety of portable storage devices has come and mostly gone. Among these are Bernoulli drives, Zip drives, DAT drives and removable hard drives. Affordable CD burners arrived in the nick of time for many people. But file sizes continued to grow. Enter the DVD burners, and just as HD Video and 5.1 audio begin to hit their stride, the high capacity Blu-Ray and HD-DV formats are lurking around the corner. But all the popular desktop storage devices have involved bulky hardware that uses relatively expensive blank media. And none of them are even remotely as small as a disposable lighter.

Meanwhile, two years ago USB flash drives were introduced with 64MB and then 128MB capacities. They were great for transporting Office documents, MP3 collections, and family photos. But their capacity was too small and they were too slow for serious digital media use. DVDs, CDs and removable hard drives continued to be the preferred media transports. But ever since the advent of USB 2.0, Flash drives have been steadily increasing in capacitiy and speed. And guess what? They're as small as a disposable lighter, and have the capacity of what was once considered a small hard drive. Right under our noses, USB Flash drives have become a viable option for graphics, audio and video data.

In this review, we'll take a look at one of the new breed, Kingstons 2GB USB 2.0 DataTraveler Elite Flash Drive (MSRP $288), which writes at speeds up to 14MB/sec. and reads at up to 24MB/sec. That's comparable to the write speed of an ordinary IDE drive port (up to 16.7MB/sec), and slightly faster than the read speed of an Ultra SCSI port (20MB/sec.).

The DataTraveler Elite's 24MB/sec read speed  is not quite up to the 27 MB/sec. playback rate for one second of full-size 30 fps/24-bit uncompressed video. But it's in the ballpark. I played a 424MB AVI video file at full-size (30fps/24-bit uncompressed) from the DataTraveler Elite with no dropped frames. A  less-demanding 40MB stereo wave audio file (16-bit/44.1k) also played back without a hitch. And if you're playing back DV signals at around 3.5MB/sec., there should be no problem at all.

So, in a pinch, the Data Traveler Elite can actually serve as a playback device, even though people usually would transfer its files to an NLE or DAW. 

The DataTraveler Elite drives are compatible with any recent Mac or PC, so no matter where you go, you'll probably be able to upload and download your data. Like all USB flash drives, they are relatively cost effective because there's no removable media to buy.

It's important to note that a USB 2.0 port is required to take advantage of the DataTraveler's top speeds. Like all USB 2.0 devices, it's backward-compatible with USB 1.1 ports, but at the poky USB 1.1 speed of 1.5 MB/sec. If your computer has only USB 1.1, you can upgrade inexpensively to USB 2.0. For example, CompUSA sells a five-port Belkin USB 2.0 PCI card for $35. 

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Related Keywords:DataTraveler Elite, Kingston, USB 2.0, flash drive, storage

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