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Portable storage for the paranoid: We test two secure USB drives on keypad vs. software security

Jon L. Jacobi | March 20, 2015
Encrypted storage on a stick is expensive, so consider security method as well before you buy. We test examples of each approach.

By using a combination of the unlock/lock buttons and the keypad you can define admin and user passwords, reset the drive, and obviously--enter PIN codes (or 7 to 16 digits) to access the data partition. It's fairly simple, but this time you do need to read the instructions first.

Note: There's one downside to using long PINs: They can be hard to remember. The keyboard is alphanumeric, so you can spell rudimentary words--and you know, of course, not to use anything easily obtainable like your phone number or social security number. Also, it's possible to spot wear and debris patterns on keys. The Aegis Secure Key minimizes these vulnerabilities, but they do exist.

Performance
The Aegis Secure Key 3.0 is a lot faster than its USB 2.0 ancestor, but the 4000 G2 proved faster still. CrystalDiskMark's 4MB and my own 20GB large file copy tests saw upwards of 230MB/s with the 4000 G2 compared to the Aegis's 122MB/s. The latter is a more common result, so props to the 4000 G2. I used the 32GB units for my reviews.

But CrystalDiskMark also rated the 4000 G2 as being ten times slower writing 4K files than the Aegis Secure Key 3.0 at a miniscule 3MB/s. I'm guessing oddities or a trade-off in the encryption algorithm. In my real-world 20GB file and folder test, the 4000 G2 was quite slow during the small text file portions, but when it hit slightly larger files it took off and still bested the Aegis Secure Key 3.0 170MB/s to 108MB/s reading, and 33.8MB/s to 32.8MB/s writing. Both drives were formatted with the NTFS file system.

The Kingston is available in smaller capacities starting at 4GB, while the Secure Key 3.0 starts at 30GB, so the Kingston is playing to a wider audience. However, while the 32GB version of the 4000 G2 is slightly cheaper than the 32GB Secure Key 3.0, at 64GB the 4000 G2 is far more expensive. Note that the Kingston drives are available at very steep discounts, while the Aegis Secure Key 3.0, available only from Apricorn, is not. See the price list below.

Capacity

Aegis Secure Key 3.0

Kingston 4000 G2

4GB

not available

$53

8GB

not available

$68

16GB

not available

$113

32GB

$199 (30GB)

$186

64GB

$229 (60GB)

$337

120GB

$269

not available

240GB

$369

not available

     

Conclusion
The Aegis Secure Key 3.0 is the more convenient, versatile product. You can use it with any device and once you're used to using the keypad, it allows quicker access to your data than any app-accessed drive.

 

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