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LaCie XtremKey 64 GB review: stylish and very tough thumbdrive

Undersea depths of 200 metres and pressures from 10-ton vehicles are shrugged off by the XtremKey. Those are some of the claims made by LaCie for its latest designer dongle, a USB 3.0 thumbdrive available with either 32 or 64 GB of flash storage. See all storage device reviews.

As if its resilience wasn't enough, the use of fast USB 3.0 and better-than-average flash memory means the XtremKey can boast a read speed up to 230 MB/s.

The XtremKey is certainly one tough little objet d'art, a truncated metallic cone standing 75 mm high, and from 17 to 22 mm in diameter.

It's made from Mazak, a white-metal alloy of zinc, aluminium, magnesium and copper that has good strength and corrosion-resistance properties.

The outside is burnished brightly, with an attractive brushed finish that resembles wood grain.

As with many LaCie products, the French company has enlisted the help of an industrial designer to style the product – this time a Constance Guisset.

Form does come before function to great extent. The business end of the flash storage and its electronics are shrouded by the long metal sleeve, which screws into place at the broadest end. But if you're tempted to stand the drive upright on its fattest end, be aware that it carries a domed radius that make it wobble like a weeble on the desk, threatening to fall over any moment.

The fact that it can stay upright is testament to the extra weight at this end. But, with the flash stick within removed, it's also the opposite end to the USB connection. So most of the mass is on the opposite end to the USB connector. Good for keeping XtremKey upright; not so good for putting unnecessary strain on your laptop or desktop PC's USB port.

And getting the device unscrewed is needlessly difficult. When assembled there's almost no discernible join between innards and outer sleeve. And no palpable grip provided to actually let you unscrew the smooth metal – or conversely to tighten it fast, in order to ensure the rubber O ring inside is making a watertight seal.

A small lanyard hole is provided on the narrow end of the outer sleeve. But that's not where it's needed – for security, the fastening strap needs to be attached to the valuable part, the USB stick with all your data.

No lanyard cord is provided in the box although there is a metal ring to help you construct a keyring out of the unit.

LaCie offers one-year's free subscription to its Wuala online backup service, which afterwards currently costs €109 per year for 100 GB storage.

Also available for download is LaCie's suite of software for Windows and OS X, including backup and encryption utilities.

We couldn't test the endurance qualities such as water resistance. Do note too that LaCie's test methodology did not involve diving to 200 metres either; instead it bases its depth claim on its 20 ATM rating using a dry hypobaric chamber.

Temperatures to 200 ºC are listed, albeit only for 3 minutes. And there's also fire resistant, this time for just 30 seconds. Low temperatures to -30 ºC should be possible, for 24 hours anyway.

For large sequential file transfers, we found the XtremKey largely met with LaCie's listed performance. QuickBench in OS X showed a maximum read speed of around 210 MB/s, for all files above 1 MB in size. Write performance was slower at around 140 MB/s.

Small files transferred were much slower, random writes suffering especially, and averaging just 6.7 MB/s for files between 4 kB and 1 MB in size.

Measured performance in Windows with CrystalDiskMark was about the same – 218 MB/s sequential read and 143 MB/s write. Multi-threaded stacked data revealed low overall IOPS, around just 1400 IOPS. That's to be expected for a USB drive though, which doesn't benefit from the powerful multi-stream controller of a SATA SSD.

Compared to any attached USB 3.0 hard drive, the LaCie XtremKey will be a very quick performer, reading at around twice the maximum speed of the best portable hard disks.

View the original article here


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