Whatever you call these trendy storage solutions – USB drives, flash drives, thumbsticks or jump drives – you know they’re an ideal way to transfer files from one device to another.
These keychain accessories have been around for years, of course, but the latest models are capable of holding a lot more of your digital stuff than just a few years ago. For example, it’s not unusual to pick up a 64 gigabyte (GB) thumbdrive, yet many of us were carrying around a 64 megabyte (MB) drive not too long ago.
Yes, that’s a thousand times more capacity in just a few short years.
While the core functionality remains the same among all of these USB drives, often you can find ones that offer something extra, a unique feature or two that makes it stand out from the pack.
The following is a look at seven such models.
SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive
An ideal smartphone or tablet accessory, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drivelooks like any old USB thumbdrive, but it has a trick up its sleeve: it emits a Wi-Fi signal, allowing multiple devices to stream content at the same time.
And no, you don’t need an Internet connection for this pocket-sized wireless flash drive and media streamer to operate – therefore it’s ideal to keep kids entertained on long car rides as they can each watch, listen to or read what they like, on their own device, simultaneously. While the drive can accept up to 8 simultaneous users, be aware only 3 people can stream video at the same time.
A 32GB microSD card is included, but you can swap it out for one with more memory. A 16GB ($48.99) and 64GB version ($79.95) is also available.
SurfEasy Private Browser
There are many different ways to protect your privacy during web browsing sessions, but what if you use a public PC, too?
SurfEasy Private Browser ($64.96 one-time fee) is a tiny USB key that fits into a credit card-shaped case to be kept in your wallet. When you plug it into a PC or Mac -- be it your own computer or a public or communal one -- it instantly launches its own password-protected browser and you're good to go (no proxy or network settings to configure).
Your browsing session is handled through SurfEasy's fast and secure private proxy network. Your IP address will be masked throughout the session.
The company also has a new downloadable product called SurfEasy VPN that can protect computers, smartphones and tablets.
Lexar JumpDrive P10 USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Does speed matter to you?
If so, Lexar’s JumpDrive P10 ($219.90 for 128GB) is one of the fastest USB flash drives available – with speeds up to 24 times faster than a USB 2.0 drive.
Specifically, the new 128GB capacity drive delivers read speeds up to 265 megabytes per second (MB/s) and write speeds up to 245MB/s for uber quick transfer of massive presentations and multimedia files on a computer with USB 3.0 support.
It’s also durable, as the JumpDrive P10 features a sleek metal alloy base and high-gloss mirror finish – and helps protect your data with its retractable connector operated with a convenient thumb slide.
Other capacities are also available: 16GB ($38.50), 32GB and 64GB.
Philips GoGEAR SoundDot MP3 player
When is a flash drive more than a flash drive? When it’s also a MP3 player.
Available for only $22 and in multiple colours, the Philips GoGEARSoundDot is a clip-on flash drive with 2GB of storage to hold a bunch of files – and if you choose to drag and drop MP3 or other audio tracks onto the tiny device when it’s plugged into a computer, you can also insert headphones (included), press play and listen to your favorite tunes. If you don’t want to use Explorer (PCs) or Finder/Folders (Macs) to manually copy tracks, install the bundled Philips Songbird software for automatic song synchronization (PC only).
The GoGear lasts up to 6 hours between charges. Plug the device into your computer’s USB port and you can get a quick charge, too: a 6-minute charge yields about 60 minutes of play.
An LED light and short beeps tell you if your player is on or off, if it is on shuffle mode or not, and if you’re running low on power.
Mimobot Flash Drives
Why should your USB thumbdrive look like everyone else’s? Carry all your files on a pocket-sized Mimobot Flash Drive that looks like famous people, such as Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley or Bruce Lee.
There’s also Star Wars characters to choose from, including Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, Darth Vader, Yoda and Boba Fett, as well as comic book heroes and villains. Collect them all!
Simply pull off the heads of these 2.5-inch tall characters to expose the USB connector.
From a company called Mimoco, prices start at about $14.99 to $19.99 for 4GB of memory, depending on the character.
ThinkGeek USB Hidden Flash Drive Watch
Carry around your top-secret files in a place no one would suspect: your wrist.
The aptly-named ThinkGeek USB Hidden Flash Drive Watch ($49.99 for 8GB) discretely hides the USB connector behind the face, ready for use wherever life takes you. When you need to copy files to and from a laptop, desktop or tablet with USB support, just pop the tiny flash drive out of the watch and plug it in.
Your files may be digital, but the face on this time piece is not; the analog display has luminescent hands to see the time in dimly-lit environments.
While it's been out for a few years, not too many people know about the Clickfree Traveler -- but they should.
The fact this USB flash drive is in the shape of a credit card – ideal for keeping in your wallet -- isn’t the only thing that makes it unique.
When plugged into a PC, this 32GB flash drive ($59.99) automatically finds and back-ups all your important files, such as documents, photos, emails, contacts and bookmarks. As the name suggests, no clicking is required.
This metal drive can also be used to repopulate a new PC with your favourite files.