Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Sandisk Cruzer Micro
- Awesome functionality, Extremely original
- Some functions don’t operate in Firefox
The best USB key available at the moment we think. The U3 technology makes this a clear winner for anyone who uses multiple PCs.
Price$ 59.95 (AUD)
It's hard to write a review of a USB thumb drive. It looks like a stick of gum; you can put your documents on it; boom, review done. So when SanDisk's Cruzer Micro came into the office, sporting their brand new U3 technology, we were looking forward to having something more to write.
SanDisk did not let us down. U3 technology is basically a small navigation framework stored on the drive itself. When you plug it in you get a U3 icon that appears in your taskbar, and through this you can access all of SanDisk's new features. The popup resembles the Windows XP Startbar, allowing you to select different programs you have installed on the drive and launch them quickly. Rather than just copying the files across and loading them onto the machine like you would do with a regular flash drive, you actually use the menu system to install software onto the drive, and when you plug it in you access it just like it was installed on the machine itself. This is perfect for business users who need to access email and other databases from a variety of machines, but it has application across a broad spectrum of consumers, everything from storing a finely tuned copy of Mozilla Firefox for portable use to carrying around games complete with your personal configuration. The options are limitless.
The system isn't perfect yet, as not all software is supported, but SanDisk provides a list of available content which can be accessed and downloaded through the menu. In the coming months the list should be expanded to encompass a broader range of programs.
We found the Cruzer's operation to be quick and seamless. We noticed no real functional difference between our hard disk based software and that installed on the flash drive. Our review unit was only 512MB, but all the sizes are available right up to 4GB, which is enough to store several applications.
Now for the part we loved; password management. This is the other big feature of U3, and something we think makes the entire purchase of the device worthwhile, even if you don't need a USB key. The Cruzer micro acts as a password database. When you first use it, you create a master password and then as you move around websites entering your details, it stores them, encrypted on the device. Every time you visit that site in the future with the drive plugged in, it automatically fills in the required fields (assuming you enter the master password to log into the drive when you begin your session). We spent a few minutes visiting all our major sites and entering our details and everything was set. For people who move around a lot, the ability to visit a massive number of sites from multiple computers is a big bonus.
It doesn't just stop at passwords however. Ever get tired of having three pages of sign-up forms just so you can read a specific message board? The Cruzer Micro will store all your data and automatically fill in these forms for you at the click of a button. Genius! This is something every internet user can and should use.
There is also a rather nifty option to generate a disposable email address, to further ease the pain of signup processes. This address acts like a real email, except it routes all traffic through SanDisk's servers to your real email account. It allows you to be less concerned with spam and other email nasties; if you get sick of receiving mail from the disposable address, simply remove it and you're in the clear.
The only downside to all this fancy technology is it only operates in Internet Explorer. We spent a good half an hour struggling to get it running in Mozilla Firefox before we came to this realisation. We're hoping they will fix it in a future iteration but for the moment we are strongly considering a move back to IE just to take advantage of this.
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