by Gerald Edgecomb
USB flash drives are a dime a dozen these days. Size and speed are the only things that really separate one from another. Lexar is trying to separate themselves further by including Ceedo’s PowerToGo software on all of their Mercury and Lightning JumpDrives. PowerToGo enables you to take your desktop with you, no matter where you go. I will go into more detail later, but first I want to look at the Mercury as a flash drive. The Mercury retails for $69.99 USD, but can be found for under $40.00 USD if you shop around.
The Mercury has a very simple design. The only big difference here is the meter located on the front, which shows the amount of used space. It is a nice feature and comes in handy more often than I thought it would have. Other than that, the Mercury is fairly pedestrian, which is fine. This is not a beauty contest.
A meter on the Lexar Mercury displays how much storage has been used (view large image)
(view large image)
I was very surprised by the speed of the Mercury. Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant surprise. I tested it against an older basic Lexar JumpDrive I had lying around with a group of folders that totaled about 148MB. When reading from the drives the Mercury moved the files to its storage at a rate of 8.7 MB/s compared to the JumpDrive’s 8.2 MB/s. However, when writing to the notebook hard drive the Mercury transferred files at a dismal 3.2 MB/s, while the older JumpDrive moved the files at a faster 4.3 MB/s, resulting in a 13 second difference to move 148MB from the flash drive to the notebook hard drive. In Lexar’s defense, the Mercury is not listed as one of their speed rated drives, but it is only one of two drives they recommend to use with PowerToGo, which relies on speed somewhat. I was expecting better performance.
PowerToGo and Secure II
The Mercury comes bundled with PowerToGo and Secure II software. For those that have purchased a Mercury or Lightning JumpDrive, and it did not come with PowerToGo, you can download it free at Lexar’s site. PowerToGo allows you to take your favorite applications with you. For instance, a student using a computer at the library can plug in their Mercury JumpDrive and with PowerToGo, can use their favorite chat program. The best part is that PowerToGo installs nothing on the host computer. It is fully contained within the USB drive. The software allows you to install programs from a pre-approved list, including Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype, and many others. If there is a program not on the list, you can add InstallAnything for $24.95 USD. I tested PowerToGo on two machines, my older Pentium 4 desktop and my wife’s Inspiron 6000d. Overall performance is good, until you open several programs at once, then it starts to slow. The good news, I was able to install Firefox, Skype, and their arcade game pack without any issues. I even was able to update the pre-approved Firefox 1.5 to 2.0. PowerToGo would be great for the student using school computers or employees using a corporate computer, assuming they are allowed to use USB. Unfortunately, PowerToGo is aWindows only application (my primary machine is a MacBook Pro).
Secure II was also included on the drive. Secure II creates encrypted vaults and “shreds” files to make sure they are completely deleted. It worked well on my Windows machine, but I was unable to mount encrypted vaults on OS X, even after updating to the latest version.
It is nice that Lexar includes these for free with the Mercury. However, neither program would make me want to buy the Mercury over a cheaper, faster competitor. Secure II has many free open-source alternatives, and those who need application portability probably already have it, or will need to upgrade to the InstallAnything add-on, upping the price another $24.95 USD.
FireFox running on PowerToGo from the Lexar Mercury Flash Drive (view large image)
PowerToGo Start Menu (view large image)
A look at Skype installing on PowerToGo (view large image)
Given the poor write performance of the Mercury JumpDrive, I cannot recommend it over a cheaper, faster USB thumbdrive based solely on the included software. If performance and price were the same, then the Mercury would likely be my choice. I simply wish Lexar had paid a bit more attention to its write speed and not as much to a couple of programs the majority of customers do not need or want.
- Free space meter
- Included software useful for some
- Acceptable read speed
- Poor write speed