By Andrew Liszewski
Given Moore’s Law, and the general pattern of technological advancement over the past 20 years, it’s inevitable that we’ll all be carrying around tiny flash drives capable of storing terabytes of data one day. But even with that in mind, I’m still impressed with Corsair’s latest Flash Survivor USB drive that packs a whopping 32GB into a relatively compact package. What also sets the Flash Survivor apart from other USB drives is its ultra rugged design. You may live your whole life without ever needing a waterproof flash drive that has a CNC-milled anodized aircraft-grade aluminum case, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
So if you happen to be in the market for a new flash drive, or just like looking at things made from machined aluminum (guilty) you can read my full review of the Corsair 32GB Flash Survivor after the jump.
The Flash Survivor comes in your standard ‘peg-friendly’ plastic blister pack that haven’t gotten any easier to open over the years. I find it kind of odd that one of the essential tools sitting on my desk full of electronics and other high-tech gadgets is a Gerber multi-tool who’s sole purpose is to slice its way into plastic packaging. Maybe some day flash drives will be sold in bulk where you can simply go to your local electronics store and fill a plastic bag with a scoop… Probably not.
Inside the packaging you’ll find the Flash Survivor drive, a handy USB extension cable and a Corsair branded dog tag and metal chain.
It seems that Corsair is really trying to push the idea that these flash drives are extremely rugged and durable. Just like G.I. Joe, or your other dog tag wearing heroes. But if wearing dog tags isn’t your thing, you can also connect the chain to the flash drive and wear that around your neck. In fact, that would definitely give you a lot more street cred.
The flash drive itself is as unique looking as they get, and it has that great cold feeling of real metal when you touch it. (Not some crappy silver paint job over a plastic housing.) And of course by ‘real metal’ I mean CNC-milled anodized aircraft-grade aluminum. While the housing probably isn’t thick enough to survive a nuclear blast, or even a few rounds from a handgun (I came close) it will most definitely survive being dropped, hammered and probably even run over. If you’re looking for a flash drive that’s going to outlast you, you’re not going to find a better solution than the Flash Survivor.
In fact the only complaint I have with the flash drive’s housing is the font they’ve used for ’32GB’ on the label. At first glance it actually looks like it says 52GB, which is what a few other people thought when I first showed it to them. Having to tell them it was actually only a 32GB drive just didn’t feel right.
On each end of the Flash Survivor is an angled end cap that features a hole for attaching a lanyard or even a keyring depending on how you want to carry it. I actually recommend connecting both ends together with something since it should prevent the drive and housing from ever becoming separated. You’ll also notice the rubber ring which appears on both ends of the drive and features a knurled finish. This helps serve as a shock
observer absorber should the flash drive ever land exactly horizontal to the ground, but more importantly I’ve found that it keeps the drive from making excess noise when you set it down on a desk. (Though it still has the tendency to roll away.)
Here you can see the other end of the flash drive which features the same rubber knurled ring that’s just a bit thinner. This is also the end where the flash drive separates from the metal housing, so this ring is stamped with a handy ‘open|close’ label so you know which way you’re supposed to turn to unscrew it.
As you unscrew the flash drive and begin to remove it from the metal housing you’ll find the EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) rubber seal. It’s this seal that makes the Flash Survivor water resistant to 200 meters. But keep in mind that it’s only waterproof when the metal housing is screwed tightly shut. Once the flash drive has been removed, and the USB connection is exposed, you’ll want to keep it clear of liquids like with any other piece of electronics. I’m sorry if there are any divers reading this who were hoping to use it to copy files while underwater.
While the Flash Survivor isn’t by any means the smallest flash drive on the market, I guess you have to make some trade-offs when you want to carry 32GB in an ultra rugged package. But I’ve been carrying the drive with me for a few weeks now and have never had a problem with its size. I just throw it in the bottom of my bag without having to worry about something happening to it. And by ‘something’ I mean ‘almost anything.’
But I do have one suggestion on how Corsair could improve the Flash Survivor. When the USB portion is removed from the housing it still has the endcap attached to it, and you can’t remove it. It’s not really a big problem, but there have been a few times where I thought it would be slightly more convenient to just hand someone the drive without the large metal cap stuck on one end.
Thankfully the other end of the flash drive where you find the actual USB connection is quite narrow. In fact I haven’t had a single problem with attaching it to any USB port, even when they’re already crowded with other connections. The overall length of the drive also ensures that the larger endcap is always far enough away from your PC’s USB port to not be a problem. But if it is, the included USB extension cable provides an instant and easy solution to the problem. As long as you remember to always carry it with you.
To the left of the Corsair logo you’ll find a single blue LED that provides visual feedback when the drive is being accessed. It’s easy to see and particularly easy to catch out of the corner of your eye since it’s so bright. Sadly this single photo required about 35 other shots before I managed to successfully capture one with the LED illuminated. (Thanks to the rapid blinking.)
Not that anyone has any reason to doubt Corsair’s claims, but here’s a shot of the drive’s properties taken under Windows XP. While I’m not going to undermine the fact that 32GB is pretty large for a flash drive these days, it’s amazing how quickly that can get used up. As you can see I have just over 7.6GB left and I’ve only been using the drive for a couple of weeks now. It makes me wonder if storage capacities will ever leap well ahead of what we need?
I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the Flash Survivor has pretty decent transfer speeds. The HdTach test I did showed a Random access time of 2.1 seconds and an average read speed of 17.2MB per second. The Max Burst speed was just a bit higher at 18.5MB per second. While it’s not the fastest flash drive on the market, it doesn’t claim to be either. And since the majority of the flash drives I use on a regular basis were free giveaways (ie. cheap and slow) it’s not surprising that the Flash Survivor is considerably faster than all of them. Just keep in mind that filling a 32GB flash drive, no matter what speed it is, will obviously take a lot longer than filling a 2GB one.
But if speed is a higher priority for you than capacity, Corsair also has a ‘GT’ version of the Flash Survivor that provides “fast data transfer using performance IC-paired memory and controllers”. Unfortunately it’s only available in an 8GB version at the moment, but like I said, the standard version of the Flash Survivor should be more than fast enough for most users.
Finally, while the drive itself can protect your data from physical harm or damage, it also includes a handy piece of software for securing the actual files it’s carrying. TrueCrypt provides on-the-fly disk encryption and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with it. While the software is open source and free (meaning it’s not really a value-added edition to the Flash Survivor) it provides an extremely powerful and convenient way to encrypt any files on the drive, or your PC.
At the moment I only use the encryption features in WinRAR to protect my confidential files, but to be honest it’s not the most convenient solution. TrueCrypt on the other hand allows your encrypted folders to be mounted as an actual drive on your system, which makes adding to and copying from them very easy. In addition it features an impressive list of different encryption schemes and techniques which will easily satisfy even the most paranoid of users. Since a lot of people rely on USB flash drives to transport sensitive documents, it just makes sense to add some level of security given how easily they can be lost.
There’s no question that the Corsair Flash Survivor delivers on all of its promises. The overall build quality and use of aircraft-grade aluminum makes the drive feel like it will survive whatever tortures or trials you put it through. While it might be overkill for the average commuter, if your job has you traveling to areas that are a bit more extreme than the subway or an office tower, you can rest easy knowing your files are extremely safe. Of course I have to point out that 32GB of flash storage in your pocket doesn’t come cheap at this point in time ($180-$200) but Corsair also sells versions of the Flash Survivor in 16GB, 8GB and 4GB capacities that are considerably more affordable.
+ 32GB of flash goodness in your pocket.
+ High quality build construction and materials.
+ Decent transfer speeds.
+ Extremely rugged and durable.
+ Waterproof to 200 meters when sealed shut.
- 32GB of flash memory doesn’t come cheap at this point in history.
- A bit on the bulky side when compared to other flash drives.
- Due to its capacity it’s not compatible with all devices that accept a USB flash drive. (Car stereos etc.)
If you have any questions about the Corsair Ultra Rugged Flash Survivor Drive you’d like answered, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to respond to them as best I can.