SanDisk Cruzer Contour USB Flash Drive Review
The humble USB flash drive has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings, where 64MB back then was considered to be extravagant. How times have changed, and here we have what is probably one of the last great USB flash drives of this generation – the SanDisk Cruzer Contour, that runs off the U3 platform, enabling you to bring about your own desktop programs wherever you go without the need to install them all over again on a new computer. I will approach this review from the layman’s point of view, and hope it will help you arrive at a purchase decision at the end of the day (or not!). Specifications and features are available at the end of the jump, along with more pictures.
If there is one thing that you cannot deny about the SanDisk Cruzer Contour, it is it’s looks that are absolutely top notch. While most of the other USB flash drives these days are made out of cheap plastic that are extremely fragile (I find that they tend to crack all too easily, but perhaps that could be due to my rather rough and tumble nature), the Cruzer Contour comes in an elegant, black glossy design backed with a metal posterior. It feels extremely smooth to the touch, and was designed in such a way that there is no need for a cap to protect the USB connector. In fact, the USB connector is nestled within the Cruzer Contour, revealing itself only when you slide it out, while sliding it the opposite manner will send the USB connector retreating back into its shell just like a tortoise. Those with larger hands (and long fingers) will find it hard to perform the sliding motion with their thumb (as I did), although when I passed the Cruzer Contour over to my friend who has a much smaller hand, she managed to slide it either way without a cinch.
With all the sliding that goes on, it is no surprise that the SanDisk Cruzer Contour is a prime candidate for attracting fingerprints. Sure, you won’t really bother about it after a while, but neat freaks will probably wipe it against a soft cloth every time they use the Cruzer Contour! SanDisk is so kind as to provide a leather case that fits the Cruzer Contour inside snugly for added protection against scratches, since most people these days carry their keys along with a USB flash drive in tow. I did find the case too snug for its own good at times though, and that is but a minor gripe (call me petty). The leather case also doubles up as a keychain, so you can make sure that your keys and data are always with you no matter where you go. It is interesting to note that the word “Cruzer” is illuminated in a soothing blue glow when plugged in, lending a touch of class not found in other USB flash drives.
Plugging the Cruzer Contour in required a few seconds for the computer to detect and load the U3 platform. Once loaded, accessing the programs were a cinch from my desktop. All I had to do was click on the Cruzer logo that functioned as the Windows Start button equivalent, and I gained access to the entire range of programs available. Needless to say, I modified some settings straight away, ensuring that nobody could access the Cruzer Contour when plugged in unless the correct password was entered. My passwords stored are backed by AES hardware encryption which is a notch above software-based security on other USB flash drives. My advice would be: don’t store mission critical information on a USB flash drive unless you really have no choice. That way, you won’t lose too many nights of sleep in case you accidentally misplace it. Take note that U3 functionality is only supported on Windows 2000, XP, and Vista platforms, so you won’t be able to use the whole host of programs on the U3 platform on a Mac, which is a pity.
I did not have the courage to put the Cruzer Contour through the washing machine stress test though. Who in their right mind would risk such an expensive device being ruined for the sake of testing? I did have the Cruzer Contour go through some data transfer tests in order to verify the speeds that were stated in the press release. The results were not disappointing, as they came close to the given numbers (25MB/sec and 18MB/sec read and write speeds respectively) at 24.5MB/sec read and 19MB/sec write speeds.
While the 4GB capacity was enough for my needs, most people who always feel that they need as much space as possible can always fork out more for the 8GB model. Performance wise, I wouldn’t expect it to be vastly different from the other, but whatever the end result is, the Cruzer Contour makes for a very sexy USB flash drive that suits both business professionals and college students alike. You can pick up the 4GB and 8GB models that retail for $99.99 and $189.99 respectively. It is currently available in US and Asia, with the Cruzer Contour making its European debut sometime this month. This makes a great closing chapter in the history of U3 after it was announced that Microsoft and SanDisk will be working on a new kind of platform. Hopefully future USB flash drives will not do away with such attention to aesthetics when the spiritual successor of the U3 platform makes an appearance.
Stylish Black Glossy Finish
Unique slider USB connector eliminates the threat of lost caps
Lifetime Limited Warranty
High Performance: 25MB/sec read, 18MB/sec write speeds
Hi-speed USB 2.0 for fast data transfer
Enhanced for Windows ReadyBoost, improves system performance on Windows Vista
U3 Smart enabled. Carry and launch your personal applications and settings on virtually any PC
Capacities: 4GB and 8GB
Includes the following U3-compatible PC programs:
– SanDisk CruzerSync – desktop synchronization tool
– Protecteer SingupShield Passwords (password manager)
– Big Gish Games (Sudoku, and Mahjong Towers Eternity)
– Trial version of an anti-virus software
Distinctive Blue LED
USB Mass Storage Class Device
Compatible with Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Mac OS X v10.1.2+
Certified Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Mac OS X