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Corsair has indestructible Yule gadget

Second INQpression Corsair Flash Voyagers survive Theo's torture tests
Sat Dec 16 2006, 10:07
KEEPING YOUR DATA safe is pretty much the most important thing in this world of digital data. Being mobile with your data is even more important. Five years after coming to market in a form of Fujitsu-Siemens USB drives with eight and 16 megs of capacity, USB sticks have covered the market in all shapes and sizes. Christmas shopping lists by many magazines also show USB drives. However, not all drives are made the same.

After 24 hours, only hearts could melt those sticks

Corsair has used several designs of USB sticks, but the Flash Voyager's durable rubber has become a favourite among enthusiasts, regular-users and we have seen some executives from microprocessor industry using this same model. Competitors did came up with similar ideas, and I will remember A-DATA's soccer stick for as long as I live. Sadly, that stick died during our testing (see below), so sadly we couldn't include it in this review.
Only negative word about the design would be the cap design. While its pretty stiff at beginning, during time rubber eases up and its pretty easy to pull the stick from your pocket without protective cap. It would be ideal if the cap would be attached to the stick in some way, but you can't have it all.

In a vertical battle, winner is only the first attached one...

Also, bear in mind that you cannot put two devices on top of each other, as the picture demonstrates.

...but side by side works

However, you can see that there is no reason why you couldn't fit two "fattier" 8GB models next to another horizontally, but as you can see in the upper pic, even combining 1GB with 8GB would not make a vertical fit. But, it's pretty much a fat chance that you're going to use two identical sticks at the same time and require that vertical approach. If you however, do require a vertical option, with every stick comes lanyard and a 62.5 cm (around 25") extension cable.

Corsair, OCZ and A-DATA were the pioneers of dual-channel approach, which almost doubled the performance of first drives. Sadly, dual-channel IDE controller isn't something you'll find on every USB drive today, which is pretty much important if you decide to get a higher capacity stick.

We have compared Corsair FlashVoyager 8GB to 1GB model, which is reference point for my USB reviews. Our 1GB model isn't the original one, that came out two years ago. It's this years edition, thus offering faster performance than first from the series.
Letter of avoidance also needs to be sent out to those wanting to buy mini-hard drive sticks, which are often slower even than 4x DVD burners of yesteryear. I've used certain four-gig-metal-casing one, and I've grown grey hair over copying data onto it. 27 minutes for 4GB of data was pretty much unbearable, especially when compared to six minutes on Corsair Flash Voyager 8GB.

Anyway, we have tested the sticks using INQTest #2 machine, which is consisted out of following:

Intel Pentium EE955 3.46 GHz
Zalman CNPS7000-Cu
Intel D975XBX2 "Bad Axe 2"
2GB A-DATA Vitesta EE DDR2-1066
Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX 256MB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 250GB x2
Plextor PX-760A
Tagan EasyCon 580W PSU
Zboard WoW Edition
Logitech MX-510

Software-wise, we were running WinXP Professional SP2, Office 2007, ForceWare 93.71 and test suite containing HDtach The INQ Edition, HD Tune 2.62 and two real-world tests.


HD Tune 2.62

RealWorld #1 - 512MB of data (170 files: JPEG, MP3, TIFF, RTF, DOC, XLS)

RealWorld #2 - 512 MB rar file (burst copy)

HDtach went out to show us that random access was significantly improved over electronics that were used for devices Corsair manufactured in spring of 2006, which was manufacturing date of our 1GB model. However, seeing Average write spead cracking down the 20MB barrier (20.41MB/s) and cracking the 30MB/s (32.17MB/s )barrier pretty much confirms Corsair claims from the box (33MB/s read, 19MB/s write) are confirmed and this is pretty much the fastest USB stick this author has seen.
When it comes to HDTune performance, then numbers were lower than on HDtach, but still well above some numbers we have seen in the past. 1GB just cannot keep up with 8GB, which is a great improvement - in the past, higher capacity usually meant lower speed.

Theo goes nuts over data security
As you could see in a first look by our Fudo, eight gigs of data is enough for storing a complete extended edition of marvellous Lord of The Rings trilogy. But, is your data safe from real-world use?
After that blasted Western Digital "Put Your Life On It" 250GB drive dying with manufacturers fault (data was not recoverable even with microscope method), yours truly has severe doubts in longevity of data - thus I am now using both DVDs and BD mediums for backup.
Corsair claims that using industry-grade durable rubber will keep those four memory chips containing your precious data from a lot of situations where regular sticks could end up... dead. So, yours truly decided to develop a method of testing USB drives in situations that could happen to your USB stick. While I have doubts that some of these situations will ever actually happen to you, yours truly decided to put 150 Euro worth device to torture. 8GB drive was joined by thinner 1GB model, which will probably end up as X-mas sales favourite.

Method 1: Wash me up

Although this method was used several times during testing, we're putting it as numero uno, since it's pretty much certain that your USB drive could experience exactly this case scenario. We have washed these two drives in pocket of my jeans three times for 43min - full programme at 30, 60 and 90 degrees Celsius. Sticks survived all washings with zero issue, and performance was equal to one achieved after all benchmarks.

Method 2: Whoops, I cooked coffee with USB

Let's say it's an early Monday morning, you're half asleep from that party last night (and you have said to yourself million times: no parties on Sunday), and you cook yourself a nice hot cup of coffee. But a disaster strikes when your stick accidentally pops inside the coffee cup. We have placed these two sticks in a cup with boiling coffee and let it cool down to complete cold coffee - it took *only* 57 minutes to cool down, but we waited until it cooled down before removing the sticks from the cup.
Benchmarking however, was done while the sticks were in hot coffee, to simulate the panic reaction which usually ends with putting the stick inside the computer while still hot from the coffee (to see "does it work? Have I lost data..."). Testing was done by cleaning the cap and the upper part from the coffee and connecting the extension cable.

Method 3: Freeze me baby

After washing these Voyagers at 30degC, time for second test came. We have put them in the same, but cleaned coffee cup, put some ice cold water and tossed them in a freezer, at -18 degrees C. 24 hours later, we have removed the drives from the fridge, fight our way with the caps, connected the extension cable to the computer and run benchmarks. Again. As you can guess, both drives survived, although the memory chips were cooled to -18degC (there was pretty much no way rubber could save the temperature inside the rubber casing for 24 hours), both drives were recognized. Benchmarks were of course, ran again and we saw no performance difference to our default benchmarking.

Method 4: BMW X5 3.0d

This method was probably the most interesting one, in visual sense at least. I have already test like this with SanDisk's Cruzer Titanium and some sticks that did not live through the weight pressure test. Most notably the ones in plastic casing. To make this test fair, we have parked an X5 3.0d with front tyre exactly on the stick with full weight, and waited for 10 minutes to commence testing.
Due to the fact that my street is a blind one, but still has traffic, I could only do real world tests. And the drive passed with flying colours. This is also the only test not done on my test computer, but the results were pretty much the same (both Samsung and D975XBX2 use the same USB controller inside the SouthBridge chip).

Well, both sticks survived our torture test, with flying colours. I have to say I haven't expected that the sticks would work while chilled at -18degC, but they did.
Judging by performance set by 8GB model, I've decided to use this baby as a reference USB stick for the next year. Its going to be interesting to see the progress flash memory is making in this space, since performance has more than doubled compared to same time of last year. Are we seeing the dawn of time when USB stick will be faster to run than typical HDD? Only time will tell. ?


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