Review: Kingston DataTraveler HyperX USB flash drive

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Flash drives have become so ubiquitous that people don’t really question them any more. I know I didn’t until I got this Kingston DT. I have a handful of thumbdrives of various sizes and qualities, and I just sort of accepted that there wasn’t much variation between them aside from build quality and capacity. I never asked myself what would happen if you put high-end components in the thing. Fortunately, Kingston did, and man, it’s awesome.

I don’t need to tell you much about this thing. It’s essentially the same as other sticks, it’s just way faster. To gauge the speed, I did some informal testing with a few big files and a stopwatch. I used a video file just over 500 megabytes (never you mind what kind of video) and measured copying speeds to and from several sticks. The Kingston drive annihilated my Cruzer and a freebie one I got at CES (thanks anyway, Lenovo). It’s important to note that the other drives are consumer-grade and this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison; it’s more to show you how the difference between the 10 dollar Wal-Mart brand and the high-grade gear. Check out the numbers:

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So there’s the performance, which is the real reason to go with this thing. And notice that’s for 500MB, so multiply your gains when you’re talking about transferring multiple gigs.

It’s solidly built, and the slider mechanism works ok, though it’s not as smooth as the Cruzer. I cut my thumb yesterday (knives are sharp!) so I was perhaps a little over-cautious in the pressure applied to the switch. It’s a little bigger than my biggest thumb drive, but still no bigger than, well, your thumb. It looks a little fatter than it really is; one side is grooved and actually fits nicely against my iPod’s cord in the adjacent slot.

Of course, there’s a catch. You may be getting twice the speed, but you’re paying more than twice the price. Now that I’ve seen what’s possible, I’m not sure I can go back to standard speed thumb drives, but I don’t know whether I could lay out 50 dollars for a two gig drive. It really is very noticeably faster, though, so if you find yourself waiting on file transfers for work or media trades or whatever, this might be a smart investment. These little things definitely do what Kingston advertises, but in the end the question is whether the cost is worth it to you.

Update: Keep an eye out for a comparison with SanDisk’s premium flash drive soon.

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