Given the prevalence with which USB flash drives (or keys) have been introduced into the market, it’s becoming harder and harder for manufacturers to differentiate their products. Enter LaCie’s pun-tacular iamaKey flash drive. Is this a case of style over substance or are LaCie’s three new keys worthwhile purchases? Read on for our full review.
- Interface: USB2.0 (backward compatible with USB1.1)
- Capacity: 4 – 8GB
- Dimensions: 2.24 x 0.94 x 0.12 inches (LxWxH)
- ReadyBoost compatible: Yes
- System requirements: Windows 2000 or higher, Mac OS X v10.3.5 or higher, Linux
- Warranty: 2-year limited warranty
The 4GB version of the iamaKey, which is reviewed here, carries a suggested retail price of $17.99. The 8GB version runs $27.99.
Build and Design
The iamaKey is part of LaCie’s new three keys set of USB flash drives: the iamaKey, the itsaKey and the PassKey, all in varying amounts of storage.
Each flash drive (or key) was designed to fulfill a different role within the series. The iamaKey, which is the drive we’re taking a look at today, is the most stylish of the three. At just over a tenth of an inch thick, it’s also the thinnest. The itsaKey, with its large, wedge-shaped body, is thicker and sturdier and built to take a little more damage while keeping your data secure. The passKey, which is the thickest of the three with its rounded top, contains no storage of its own. Instead, it has a slot at the top of the rectangular shaft which reads micro-SD cards. The itsaKey runs $14.99/$23.99 for the 4GB/8GB versions while the passKey will cost $9.99.
The iamaKey, and presumably the rest of the series, has a pretty hefty feel. It’s made of solid metal, with two halves joined together. The bottom piece serves as support with extra bracing around the end that gets inserted into the USB port, while the top half adds protection and covers the flash memory itself (with the exception of the contact points).
You can see the extra support here, where part of the metal body actually frames the USB port with bracings on either side. LaCie is obviously taking into account the fact that with key-shaped designs people will be putting these flash drives onto their key rings, which can weigh substantial amounts. Filled with keys, key rings, doodads and other gewgaws, a loaded up iamaKey could spell diasaster for your poor little USB port. Despite how sturdy the key feels, I’d recommend keeping it on a carabiner-style key chain just to completely remove the possibility of irrevocably damaging your computer’s USB ports. If you only have one or two keys on the keychain, however, you’ll probably be fine.
LaCie claims that the iamaKey and related brethren are solid, tough devices designed to stand up to the rigors of carrying them around on your typical keychain. I’ve had the iamaKey on mine for a little over a week, and by and large, it’s held up well. Our press copy of the iamaKey also included a blank rectangular keychain (seen behind the iamaKey) but I don’t believe this is included in the retail box.
I don’t think this keychain suffered any particularly stressful or harsh environments, so it’s unfortunate that the raised design and logo are already rubbing off on each side. Aside from the paint coming off of the flash key, however, the main body is in fine condition with the drive itself completely unaffected. Speaking of the flash drive portion of the key, LaCie includes a small, clear plastic covering that snaps over the gold contacts on the bottom of the key. It’s not attached in any way to the key itself aside from where it snaps on, so it’s going to be easy to lose. I’ve already misplaced the one that came with this key, so be sure you don’t lose track of where you set it when you plug the drive into your computer.
LaCie touts its “Gold SIP technology” as one of the key factors in making the iamaKey both water- and scratch-resistant, and it seems to be working. While I didn’t dip the iamaKey in any buckets of water, the connector itself seemed to be largely free from scratches or damage. Certainly the drive was still functional.
When it all comes down to it, a flash drive might be the nicest looking option out there, but still be relegated unimportant thanks to lackluster transfer speeds. LaCie claims that the iamaKey supports read speeds of up to 30MB/s and write speeds of up to 10MB/s. We tested the iamaKey against several other flash drives to see how it stacked up. Clockwise from the upper left, the results are the iamaKey 4GB, an A-data 32GB flash drive, the SuperTalent Pico D 8GB key and the Kingston DT400 4GB drive.
HD Tune results:
ATTO performance results:
The iamaKey looks to hold its own against the other drives, with read speeds peaking around 27-28MB/s and write speeds pushing up over 16 megabytes per second. Before you get too excited at the results shown, they are artificial benchmarks that directly access the drive in order to conduct their tests, which colors the final numbers in favor of performance. That being said, we also copied sets of files to the iamaKey in order to get a feel for more of a real-world performance.
Writing to the flash drive, we saw speeds averaging between 9.5 and 10MB/s depending on file type and size, while read speeds hovered around 25 and 26MB/s. In other words, performance was right in line with what LaCie claims.
When LaCie first sent me the iamaKey press shots, I thought the whole thing was a little silly. Yes, it’s a key-shaped flash drive, we get it. In conducting the tests and writing this review, however, I’ve come to be pretty impressed with its combination of features and performance. It’s a pretty tough little USB drive that can stand up to damage caused by recklessly tossing keys in your bag or pocket, or even across the room.
In terms of value for your dollar, there are definitely alternatives: NewEgg shows some 4GB USB for only $9.99. Most of them aren’t as thin or cool looking, however, and I’ve yet to find a USB drive that drops onto your keychain as easily as the iamaKey. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to flash your gadgets, the iamaKey is a great option; when hanging between your door and car keys, you can barely tell that it’s any different. Throw in respectable performance and a rugged build, and the iamaKey becomes a nice choice for anyone, flashy gadgets or not.
The iamaKey, itsaKey and passKey are all available on LaCie’s online store as well as selected internet retailers.
- Unique and thin key-shaped design
- Water- and scratch-resistant
- Solid build
- Paint rubs off quickly
- Easy-to-lose cap covers USB contacts
- Lots of keys may cause strain to USB ports