by Brian Beeler, Ohio USA
By now most of us own a USB drive, if not several. A great way to move even large files about, USB drives have taken over as the favorite portable storage medium. They come in all different capacities but for the most part they don’t really offer much in the way of features. That is, until Swissbit put a 512MB USB drive inside a Victorinox Swiss Army knife.
I suppose now is the time to make the obligatory Swiss Army knife of USB storage devices statement, okay, that cliche is out of the way now. There’s so much more to the drive than the drive itself. Of course you’ll find a 512MB USB drive, that is removable, but there’s also a tiny ink pen, red LED light, nail file with screwdriver, scissors, a knife and even a USB extension cable. But that’s just on the red translucent outside; Swissbit has also included a great security application to protect critical data and even your computer if you want it to.
As a USB drive, the product is very competent. USB 2.0 compliant, it delivers speeds of up to 8MB/second read and 7MB/second write. For physical protection, the drive folds into the knife body, protected from inadvertent opening with a latch mechanism. Of course the first thing to spring to mind with a product like this is traveling, the TSA isn’t going to take too kindly to a knife, regardless of how important your data is. Don’t worry; Swissbit developed the drive so it could be detached from the body, a fantastic design.
With modern operating systems the drive will be recognized as a storage device with no need for drivers. Swissbit does include a CD with drivers though, should they be needed for Windows 98. Once the drive is plugged in and accepted by the operating system, it will show up just like other drives. A green light will indicate a good connection; a blinking light indicates data read/write. The on-board controller supports on the fly error correction and bad block management.
Each flips out smoothly from the body as you might expect. The knife and scissors should be taken seriously; both are sharp enough to draw blood should the user act in a careless manner. After using the unit for only a week, I actually found use for all three tools.
Swissbit has embedded a small red LED in one side of the body. The switch is actually somewhat hidden, it’s the Victorinox logo. Depressing the logo causes the light to turn on while pressure is maintained. Don’t worry about using it either; the battery is user replaceable should you wear it out.
Located on the opposite side of the light is a blue-ink ballpoint pen. Pushing the grey slider reveals the pen and locks it into place. While it’s not entirely comfortable to use the pen, it’s great in a pinch, which is the design. It could be mistaken for a stylus, so make sure you don’t go writing on your PDA screen with it. The cartridge is a standard size and can be replaced by the user.
Outside of all the fun hardware features, Swissbit has included SecureLOCK, which is designed to secure the data you copy onto the drive. Users can disregard the program and leave the entire drive unsecured, create a partition to secure the entire drive or create a secure partition for just a portion of the drive. If you create a secure and insecure partition, Windows will treat them as two separate drives. The only downside of the partition is that it wipes out all data on the drive, so make sure to back-up first. After setting up a secure partition, the password must be entered to access that portion of the drive. The password remains active the entire time the drive is plugged in, unless you log out using an icon in the system tray. For Windows users the drive can also be setup as a boot device to require a password to boot your machine. There is also a repair option, should the drive act out of the ordinary, bad sectors can be repaired.
Overall the drive works as it should, the software to secure the data is easy to use and effective and the casing provides physical security for the drive. All of that plus the other tools makes this a very good product. The model I’ve been working with is 512MB, but they come in other sizes, up to a soon to be released 1GB (with white LED). When you think about USB storage and go shopping for a drive, it’s easy to think they’re all the same, this review reminds us that is not the case and if you look past the regular, something better might be available.
- Physical and data security
- Extra tools
- Strong quality in the knife and memory module
- Combines two things many people carry already — memory and mini Swiss Army knife
- At $150 the drive is much more expensive than a standard USB drive
- Flight travelers have to remember to pack or leave the body behind
If you want storage that can bring more to the table, this is a great product. It’s small enough to fit nicely into a pocket, while giving users more tools and functions than any other USB storage product.
The SwissMemory drives may be purchased at the Swissbit web shop. The 512MB model retails for $149.