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Author Archives: Ian Chiu

Super Talent Express RC8 Reviewed – Verdict: SandForce Meets USB 3.0

By Paul McCollum

Super Talent has been picking up the slack in an otherwise quiet flash drive market. Once upon a time, we were handed almost weekly upgrades in both size and speed. Now it is almost exclusively Super Talent that thrills those of us who still seek the fastest and biggest flash drive. And they are lapping the competition yet again by releasing the Super Talent Express RC8 flash drive. Only slightly larger than a common flash drive, the RC8 comes in capacities up to 100 GB. The increased speed and storage gives your portable drive more abilities. You can use it to synchronize libraries of files like music, videos, ISOs and VMDKs. The software options to assist in moving your files from home, school and work are quite mature now and easy to use.

Their fastest drive to date, this slim portable packs the premium desktop class SandForce controller. This controller is the source of power for almost all of the fastest desktop SSD drives. Super Talent has a flotilla of flash drives that far outpace almost every drive on the market. Each of them manages to crank more speed out of mediocre MLC NAND using multi-channel controllers (mini RAID) and buffer memory. The RC8 is an upgraded version of their RAM Cache drive which allows the USB 3.0 bus to offload large chunks of small and large files quickly letting the drive shuttle the data to the MLC compressed or slightly after the fact. This results in greatly improved transfer rates over drives without a middle tier controller helping out. Real world and comparative results have been posted in a review at Everything USB.

[ Everything USB - Super Talent Express RC8 Flash Drive Review ]

Altec Lansing Orbit Reviewed. Verdict: Nifty USB Speakers with a New Twist

By Paul McCollum

Altec Lansing, a name almost synonymous with speakers, has unveiled yet another compact pair of USB speakers, the Orbit. A perfect companion for netbooks, trying to eke every extra cubic inch of space to make the tiniest device, these speakers pack a whole lot of oomph into what is still a very compact package. They are exclusively USB powered and sourced. You won’t be able to use these with anything but a computer due to the singular USB input. They are meant to travel conveniently alongside your laptop and unpacked only when needed for fuller sound or more immersive movies.

A simple twist separates the two speakers and reveals the cabling needed for connectivity. Even though the USB cords can be tucked into special compartments in between jam sessions, Orbit would be even better if the cables were retractable. Initial opinions show that they might exceed the normally limited volume found in USB powered speakers. There’s a complete review at Everything USB that talks about exactly how much thump you can get from these and whether they deserve to carry the Altec Lansing label.

[ Altec Lansing Orbit USB Speakers @ Everything USB ]

Lexar Dual-slot USB 3.0 Card Reader Reviewed. Verdict: USB Finally Catches Up to Faster CF Cards

By Paul McCollum

Anyone who has kept up with the megapixel boom in digital cameras knows the frustrating drawback of higher and higher resolution images: file size. Any recent DSLR camera is churning out images up to and over 10MB per picture and that’s ignoring video files. Filling up a 16GB memory card, which is almost the standard these days, wouldn’t take more than a few shooting sessions. Finally getting around to removing said pictures from their digital film canister could take hours. Flash memory has been bumped in speed a bit to be able to store high definition video and images but USB 2.0 card readers max out pretty quickly.

Lexar, a friend to digital photographers, has a new card reader that takes the leap to USB 3.0. Besides being fast, it has a compact and dust proof design that should make it easy to carry with your digital cameras. Newer, faster memory and this spry little reader gives you a fighting chance that you’ll be able to get all your one year old’s birthday pictures off your camera before he hits the terrible two’s. The jump from 40MB/s to 500MB/s sounds great but how does it actually fare when dealing with your average memory card. Performance, transfer rates and time are tested and graphed in a review posted at Everything USB.

[ Lexar Dual-slot USB 3.0 Card Reader @ Everything USB ]

Kingston HyperX Max Reviewed. Verdict: SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Marries SSD

By Paul McCollum

USB drives have become almost as much of a mainstay in the pockets of computer users as their car keys. While flash drives are more convenient they don’t offer the flexibility that comes along with an external drive for speed and capacity. Kingston’s latest release bridges the gap between pocket-able flash drive and performance drive speed and size. Its HyperX Max USB 3.0 SSD boasts some of the highest drive speeds available in a portable drive and is smaller than almost every other external class drive.

The latest generation USB 3.0 bridge coupled with a top of the line SSD controller (backed with 128MB RAM) paves way for massive data transfers. The 128GB capacity should be more than enough room for business and personal file storage without the space management issues of generally smaller thumb drives. The backward compatible USB 3.0 mini-connector will allow you to use it on older computers not yet blessed with SuperSpeed ports. In terms of real-world scenarios, nothing really comes close with its 200MB/s read and 164MB/s write speed. Unfortunately, almost nothing rivals the Kingston when it comes to price. The HyperX Max costs about $300 for the 128GB when you can get a speedy 90MB/s 1TB portable drive for under $100. It’s really up to you to decide whether or not the Kingston is cost effective. Check out full review at Everything USB to find details of how well the HyperX Max USB 3.0 SSD compared amongst a large sampling of other drives.

[Kingston HyperX USB 3.0 SSD @ Everything USB]

Diamond VStream Wireless Video Streamer Reviewed. Verdict: Hassle-free 1080p HD Streaming

By Paul McCollum

One of the few things we are missing, here in the future, (besides our rocket skates) is high quality wireless video. Audio compression has made great advances but video is lagging, literally. Several companies have released products in the past few years but all have been plagued with connection problems or bandwidth issues. Diamond’s new Wireless USB variant, VStream Wireless HD Video Streamer, may finally have all the components to deliver high definition video without wires or the headaches.

The VStream consists of a compact receiver for connecting to an HDMI input on your TV and an even more compact USB dongle to plug into your PC. The slim Certified Wireless USB transmitter sends compressed data over Ultrawideband to the remote unit to bypass any Wi-Fi traffic. The same dongle can also flex up to 90 degrees to best angle to the receiver. Since Windows recognizes VStream as another DisplayLink’s USB monitor, you won’t run into any problems streaming NetFlix, Hulu and YouTube to your HDTV. DisplayLink driver, however, isn’t HDCP compliant so Blu-ray and iTunes movies won’t work with VStream. In terms of picture quality, there’s some bit-grate degradation at 1080p, but you will have to be comparing the wired HDMI and VStream to really see the difference. For sale at roughly $108, it is definitely competitive in the space. Detailed video quality and wireless range data is available at Everything USB.

[Diamond VStream Wireless Video Streamer Review @ Everything USB]

ioSafe Rugged Portable Reviewed. Verdict: The Only USB 3.0 Drive That Can Survive A Shotgun Blast

By Paul McCollum

ioSafe has made a name for itself by creating hard drives that can withstand all manner of natural disasters. By survive, it means that once you extract the internal disk from the charred or flooded rubble, all your data should still be there, even if your house or office isn’t. It’s the personal computing version of an airplane’s ‘black box’. Until lately, these indestructible vaults were meant to be nailed down or chained in place with security cables. The extra material required to insulate the drive from water and fire adds a great deal of bulk.

ioSafe’s Rugged Portable drive is meant to be a more travel-friendly version of the ioSafe SoloPRO. It is much closer to the same size as standard external hard drives, but it can easily fit into a laptop bag or carried in one hand from place to place. Being a much smaller drive, ioSafe did have to trim off some of the protective features, yet the drive still managed to survive in all three durability tests: water immersion; fire; and blunt force (basically, shooting the drive with a shotgun). The Rugged Portable also came out on top in the real-world performance test, thanks to the 2.5″ Seagate 7200-rpm drive and USB 3.0. Read a detailed review at Everything USB to find out if all these features and performance warrant the high cost per gigabyte.

[ ioSafe Rugged Portable Drive Review @ Everything USB ]

Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball Reviewed. Verdict: Perfect Balance Between Ergonomics and Precision

By Paul McCollum

Building a better mouse trap may be a phrase nearly lost to time, but building a better mouse has never been more timely. Spending 8 to 12 hours per day at a computer, you really start to develop an appreciation for the tiniest changes in your controls. Logitech, who has made a name for itself subtly tweaking and perfecting the mouse, has made more radical changes in its line of trackballs. Their latest, the M570 Trackball, has moved the almost comfortably placed trackball out from under our fingers. The bright blue, gumball-sized sphere is now exclusively controlled by your thumb.

With the ball out of the way, the rest of the M570 looks like a perfectly comfortable mouse with four conveniently placed buttons and a scroll wheel. Ergonomics aside, the trackball is exclusively made for right handed users and there’s inherently a steep learning curve, especially for first time users. Additionally, the trackball also comes with Unifying receiver so you can easily share the wireless USB dongle with other compliant input devices, such as the Logitech K800 keyboard. Although much better for your wrists, how hard will it be to switch to using your thumbs to ‘mouse’ around? Does the more natural feel of the rest of trackball make up for having to retrain your clumsy thumb? You can decide for yourself after checking out the review at Everything USB.

[ Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball Review @ Everything USB ]

LaCie FastKey Reviewed. Verdict: Speed Certainly Does Come at a Price

By Paul McCollum

Following Kingston, PQI and Super Talent, LaCie has also jumped onto the USB 3.0 bandwagon with its FastKey. Bearing a strong resemblance to the IronKey drive, the $499 FastKey USB 3.0 flash drive keeps with the company’s tradition of devices that are easy on the eyes (and pricey). A smooth metallic exterior and a slim form factor make the FastKey a nice conversation starter. The cap and body are lightweight and metallic, giving the feel of a smaller drive. However, the above average width may cause problems blocking adjacent USB ports.

While the FastKey is slightly larger than most flash drives, it packs a whopping 120GB of storage. With this amount of storage, speed is a necessity. What good is 120GB of space if it takes an hour to fill it up? For FastKey’s real world performance, you can expect a read rate of 125MB/s and write of 85MB/s, provided you have a fast internal drive to match the speed. So, it will take about 16 minutes or so to copy everything from this thumbdrive to your PC.

Not all flash drives are built the same, even those as bold to call themselves an Express or Blaze are deceptively slow. When selecting a flash drive, pay close attention to the actual speed rating of the memory as opposed to the version of USB that they support. Full details on how well the LaCie FastKey lives up to its name can be found at Everything USB.

[ LaCie FastKey Review @ Everything USB ]

Seagate GoFlex 1.5TB Portable Drive Reviewed. Verdict: Perfect Match of Size and Speed

By Paul McCollum

Portable hard drives have been an indispensable tool for data backup on the go. Seagate has stayed in the forefront of this market for a number of years and the company has recently outfitted their drives with the GoFlex interchangeable interface adapter to make their drives future-proof. The latest 2.5″ GoFlex model has 1.5TB storage, and the choose-your-own connector drive now comes with the USB 3.0 adapter and includes a standard mini-USB 3.0 cable. Other connection kits including eSATA and Firewire 800 which can be purchased separately for maximum performance based on your available connections.

The 1.5TB FreeAgent GoFlex is vast and fast but gives up some of its svelte form to pack on the extra gigabytes. The extra bulk is only noticeable in comparison to other drives of the same ilk but under most circumstances, you will never notice the 0.25″ or so of extra thickness. Performance metrics put this drive well above USB 2.0 drives and significantly above previous USB 3.0 drives. Performance data and other details are all covered in an in depth review at Everything USB.

[ Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1.5TB Portable Drive Review @ Everything USB ]