Somewhere around the house I still have my first-ever flash drive, a PNY model with a whopping 256-megabyte capacity. If I remember that far back, it set me back something like sixteen bucks. The last time I went to a trade show, I picked up two or three giveaway drives, the smallest of which held two gigabytes. My, how they’ve grown – and at the same time, they've gotten smaller!
I must have a couple dozen of these things now, but I keep on buying them to move large files around and store short-term. Most recently, I bought a SanDisk Cruzer Edge 8 GB version – it cost me something like eight bucks. I’m not convinced it was worth it, though.
SanDisk puts the drive in a large blister pack so it’s hard to steal, but it’s also harder to feel. After extracting it from the clamshell, I found an ultra-lightweight drive in a two-color plastic case. It’s less than 2” long and about 3/4" wide. It weighs in at five grams, about a sixth of an ounce.
The design is interesting: a male USB plug slides out of the plastic case so you can insert it into the port. Where most USB plugs are metal rectangles, this is a simple metal tray with the four contacts exposed in the bottom. The tray is protected when closed – to plug the drive in, you push it out with your thumb. You also have to hold the drive open with your thumb while plugging it in or the tray will slide back into the case. The tray looks and feels extremely flimsy. There’s also a little hole on the end of the case so you can hang it on a lanyard or keychain.
Though not particularly expensive, SanDisk gave the Cruzer Edge reasonably fast read-write speed. SanDisk doesn’t provide official specs, but a freeware utility (CheckFlash) says my 8GB drive writes at 12.5 - 12.9 MBps and reads at 23.4 - 23.8 MBps. This is when plugged into a USB 2.0 port (running Windows 7). That’s pretty good compared to my freebies, which write at less than 4 MBps. A couple of more expensive drives read at more than 30 MBps and write at up to 20 MBps. Note that other Edge drivesmay have slower write speed, especially the 4 GB size. A Cruzer Edge is compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 1, but does not use USB 3.0 speeds. The Edge is available in capacities from 2 to 32-GB capacity and many color combinations (mine is pink and white).
The claimed 8 gigabyte size is actually 8 billion bytes, or around 7.5GB. About one-half megabyte is eaten up by files giving you access to SanDisk’s password-protected "vault" and SecureAccess software, plus and a couple of GB free cloud space with YuuWaa. Files in the vault can only be opened by computers with a downloaded executable, and you have to register for both the vault software and the cloud service.
The SanDisk Cruzer Edge is a reasonably fast flash drive in a moderately-priced package compared to others with the same capacity. Unfortunately, it has a flimsy, inconvenient design that’s hard to manipulate because of the all-plastic case and the thumb slider. I would never expect this to stand up to daily use.