Review: Lexar's 4GB JumpDrive Lightning USB drive excels

The product is ideal for my purpose: casual but effective security

After six weeks of everyday usage, I'm decidedly impressed with Lexar's JumpDrive Lightning USB drive. Back in October, I mentioned that I was in the process of evaluating the JumpDrive Lightning among others. But this one really stands out from the pack. It's fast and rugged, and its software-encrypted Vault is easy to use and accessible from both Mac and Windows. It offers better security than Corsair's Flash Padlock product I reviewed earlier, and it was literally more than 11 times faster than the Flash Padlock in my real-world tests. I like the idea of hardware-based security, but the Lightning's ease of use and incredible speed leave the Flash Padlock in the dust.

Shame on both me and Lexar, though, because I looked at the Lightning's product pages for multiplatform security support before I tested and selected the Flash Padlock. In fact, I looked at all the major USB drive products for the ability to support Windows, Mac and Linux, and also provide security across all three platforms. Very few offer that flexibility (in fact, the Flash Padlock is the only one I'm aware of that does all three OSes).

Initially, I crossed the Lexar off the list because its JumpDrive Lightning product page lists only Windows XP and Vista support; nowhere does it say it supports the Mac. It wasn't until I went back to Lexar a second time that I learned that the Lightning does support the Mac (though not Linux). I had to resort to contacting the company's live chat tech support to get that information. I never did receive a response to my inquiry through Lexar's public relations, though. Mind you, I'm not beating myself up too much about this since Lexar's support area doesn't list any downloadable software for the JumpDrive Lightning. The software is apparently only available on the USB stick itself, or behind closed doors somewhere on the Lexar Web site, once you've registered your purchased product. It's almost like they're intentionally hiding the Mac support.

That is, though, the sum total of my criticism about the Lexar JumpDrive Lightning. The product is ideal for my purpose: casual but effective security for a user-selectable portion of the disk, fast performance, enough gigabytes so that I'm not pressed all the time for storage space. At about $75, including delivery, this drive costs a bit more than some others, but it makes up for it with its smart design (including built-in keychain loop), the ability to store its cap on the other end when its in use (so you don't lose the cap) and incredible performance.

The JumpDrive Lightning's superior performance is noticeable in everyday operation as compared to some of its competition. To quantify the difference, I set up a collection of 13,500 files collectively displacing 1GB. I timed the process of copying that set of files from my testbed Windows XP PC to each of the four USB drives in turn: The Lexar 4GB JumpDrive Lightning, the Corsair 2GB Flash Padlock, the IronKey 4GB Secure Flash Drive and the Kingston 4GB DataTraveler Secure. The Lexar and Kingston devices were speedy, while the Corsair and IronKey USB drives were markedly slower:

Product: 1GB Data-Transfer Time (mins:secs)

  • Lexar 4GB JumpDrive Lightning 5:38
  • Kingston 4GB DataTraveler Secure 6:07
  • IronKey 4GB Secure Flash Drive 46:08
  • Corsair 2GB Flash Padlock 58:46
  • You'll be hearing more about the IronKey from me in the near future. This product may not be that fast, but it's an incredibly cool device with serious security. It's the best USB drive I've seen for security-conscious corporations. So don't cross that one off your list. Currently, though, it only supports Windows XP and Vista, so it's not ideal for me.

    The Kingston product is interesting because it's nearly as fast as the Lexar product and has similar security. Like most USB devices, Windows, Mac and Linux can mount them. But the Kingston device only offers encryption security software for Windows. So you won't be able to access the encrypted space from the Mac or Linux.

    With its multiplatform security support, fast data-transfer rates and smart design, the Lexar 4GB JumpDrive Lightning is ideal for a Windows or Mac user's needs.

    Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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