Date: December 6, 2005
Author(s): Rob Williams
Thumb drive not providing you enough space for your needs? Corsair’s Voyager thumb drives are very well respected because they are fast and very durable. This one is no exception, except that it offers you a full 4GB of space! Let’s take a look at this spacious drive, and see how it stacks up to the competition.
Even though it’s a modest product, the thumb drive market is fierce. There’s so much competition, it’s hard to have an edge. Back in October, we took a look at the OCZ Rally 2GB drive, which was a bold move forward for them. It incorporated dual channel memory for super fast reads and writes. Without a doubt, that has been one of the most popular thumb drives as of late.
If you want pure speed, then the Rally is a very good choice. But what if you want extreme durability and a lot more space… say 4GB? That’s where Corsair comes in, and this drive still offers the same speed as the smaller models, despite the larger storage. It’s hard to believe that we are at this point already, because just not long ago, a 1GB thumb drive would cost you at least $300. Even at that time, the drives were very slow compared to the ones we have today.
Corsair is offering this 4GB thumb drive for a very competitive average price of $230US. This is approximately $29US per 512MB. If you were to buy 8 512MB versions of the drive, you would be looking at $304US. In the day where a 1GB cost over $300, if you wanted a bigger drive, you were not saving any money by buying one. Now, if you want bigger, you do save money per MB as we can see.
Who may need a thumb drive? For people who are always on the go, it’s almost a necessity. The ability to simply plug in a thumb drive to copy files to is much simpler than burning something to a blank CD… and it’s much smaller as well. Maybe people still rely on CD-R’s, but there’s no comparison with the speed. With a thumb drive, you have the ability to format, move files and edit files far easier than on a CD-Rom. One thing I personally hate, is working on someone’s computer and not having the right tools on hand. With a large thumb drive, I am able to keep everything on there that I need, such as anti-spyware and other diagnostic tools. This is my personal favorite thing to use the drive for, but there are really countless reasons that a thumb drive can be useful.
The size of the Voyager is of course very small. It’s larger than the OCZ Rally drive, but that is because the Voyager has a thick rubber chassis. The point for this is of course to add to the durability. If you accidentally happen to run this thing over with your car, it may have a better chance of surviving than some other drive on the market ;)
On one side of the drive is the Corsair logo, which is on the cap. Flash Voyager is written in yellow text on the same side. On the opposite side is the Corsair website address, just in case you may have forgotten it. The cap is easy to take off and to put back on, but it’s not loose enough to fall off during some travel. On the opposite end of the drive is a hole, so you can keep it on your keychain. Finally, there is a small plastic LED light which lights up when you plug it into your computer. It’s hard to see, but on this LED, it will state the size of the drive. Overall, this is a good looking thumb drive, that should prove extremely durable.
In order to test the drive, I first ‘break it in’, by copying a 4GB file to the drive, then formatting it. I will repeat the process twice, because I’m crazy like that. I format it by right clicking the drive in Explorer and using normal mode. The drives original file format is FAT, but once you format it will be FAT32, but will still operate the same. Once the drive was ‘broke in’, I used both SiSoftware SANDRA’s flash drive benchmark, in addition to HD Tach RW.
Different USB Thumb Drives have different speeds, this one being 19MB/s READ and 13MB/s WRITE. Since these are the advertised speeds, we hope to bench at those.
Let’s start off with SANDRA, which is one of the worlds leading benchmarking tools. The huge bonus with SANDRA is that it’s free, and offers numerous tools to stress your system.
I performed the SANDRA tests on my Dell Inspiron 2.8GHz P4 laptop, because it was quirky on my desktop. I’ll let the graph speak for itself.
My personal favorite storage benchmarking tool would be HD Tach. I personally find that SANDRA’s benchmark results can jump all over the place, but HD Tach’s results are always tight and don’t vary much. HD Tach also includes a Write test as well, which is important when testing such a drive.
According to HD Tach, the speeds are close to the what’s advertised on the package. The Extended Zones test even gave us a higher READ result, at 20.1MB/s. The highest we have been able to get the WRITE though, was 10.5MB/s, which is still 2.5MB/s slower than advertised. This may not seem like like much, but technically speaking, copying a 2GB file would take almost 20% longer to copy.
For our real world tests, I created archives in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB sizes. I copied the file one at a time to the drive, timing it with a stop watch. Once the file was copied, I then copied the file back from the thumb drive to a different hard drive than the one that had the originating file. To get an idea of the length of time it takes to copy numerous files, I copied the My Pictures folder to the clean drive, which contained just over 2GB worth of photos totaling 2,279 individual files.
Once again, the READ speeds kept right up, and even surpassed what Corsair said it could do. The WRITE speeds are still certainly not up to 13MB/s though. Overall, I’m happy with the speed, but I would have liked to see the WRITE actually stay at 13MB/s as advertised. It’s almost like the READ took MB’s from the WRITE, which is why it’s usually higher than 19MB/s :)
Included with the Voyager is a small CD which includes a driver and an application. The utility allows you to do a number of things, including formatting, setting a password and even setting a private partition. The password is only useful if you set a hidden partition, because you will be forced to enter a password to read and write to it. The first thing I did was set a simple password, and from that point forward, each time the drive is inserted you will be greeted with a password box even if there is no hidden partition.
I was interested in how the hidden partition worked, so I immediately set one to 1GB. It took about 7 minutes to partition the drive and format them.. not too bad. The formatting process takes longer through the Corsair utility than it does through Windows, which is probably for the better.
Once the process was finished, I took the drive out and then put it back in. When prompted for the password, I cancelled to see if I could still see the hidden partition. The software worked as planned, and I could not see the hidden drive. I also tested the security in Linux, and even still, only the main partition is visible. Needless to say, it’s a pretty secure partition when hidden, so you won’t have much worry of someone getting ahold of your data. The flash utility also guards against Brute-Forcing because after two invalid tries, the software shuts down.
After playing around with the program for almost an hour, I found it to be quite a useful tool, although not incredibly stable. There were a few times when the program halted, and forced a system reboot in order to re-open the program. Another downside is that you can’t use the utility in Mac OS or Linux, so in order to see the hidden drive, you need to be a Windows user.
It seemed like just yesterday that I was dealing with a 32MB thumb drive and here we are… already up to 4GB! In time, these things will only get larger, because there’s no sign of slowing down in other parts of the storage market. This is a great thumb drive overall, I can’t see why anyone would not be satisfied with it. The only two problems I had with the drive was the fact that I could not reach a 13MB/s WRITE, although it’s advertised as such. The other reason was the somewhat instable software, which I tested in three different Windows installations. If you use x64 as your primary OS, you do not need to worry about the software not working, because it does.
If you are in need of huge storage in your pocket, then this is a drive you will want to consider. The Voyager is no doubt one of the smallest solid state drives that offers this much memory, and it’s a very reasonable price as well. If you don’t require 4GB, then you should definitely consider one of the smaller Voyager models, or even the OCZ Rally if WRITE speed is very important to you. Overall, this is another quality product from Corsair that you will not be disappointed with.
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