Review: USB 2.0 Clip Flash Drive

Hook your backup to your bag and forget it (June 15th, 2006)

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Product Manufacturer: Imation

Price: $29.99 - $119.99 US

The Good

  • Robust protective case. Hi-speed USB 2.0. Write-protect switch.

The Bad

  • Needs a plastic toothpick for write-protect switch. Doesnít play nice with all OS 9 machines. 4GB model would be nice.

If you're in the market for small and convenient portable storage, the Imation Clip Flash Drive may be your answer. It is simply a rubber casing that houses one of the smallest flash drives I've seen. The actual mechanism is only as big as my first thumb joint, which is about an inch long, plus the USB connector. It is tiny enough to lose anywhere, except for its casing, which is what makes this product so good.

Robust Colorful Case and Clip

The USB 2.0 Clip Flash Drive lives in a shock resistant tire-like rubber case that comes in orange, blue, or black. The actual USB port slips into a slot and the drive seats into the rubber, so there is no danger of it falling out. To remove it, you sort of peel the rubber back and slide the drive out using the indented end with a thumb grip. A solid metal carabineer sits in a large plastic reinforced hole on the other end, so the drive can be clipped to almost anything. I've had the little guy attached to my purse strap for a number of weeks, and it has suffered through a variety of abuse with aplomb. Airline security belts, a wayward foot, nor swinging assaults by grocery and computer bags has bothered this robust flash drive.

No instructions needed

A fourteen page User Manual ships installed on the flash drive, but it has little information for the Mac user. It deals primarily with how to use the included software to format, password protect, and create partitions on the disk for Windows users. Windows98 users have to install the driver software, but other operating systems do not need it. In Mac OS X, the drive just works, flawlessly. It is USB bus-powered and boasts speeds of 10MB/s for reads and 7MB/s for writes. Natively the disk is in the MS-DOS File System (FAT16) with a 980 MB capacity, but using Apple's Disk Utility I reformatted the teeny drive into one partition, which gave me 964.32 MB of usable space. The drive supports hi-speed USB 2.0 and 1.1.

A blue light lets you know its plugged in and working. Files open up as quickly as they would off any external USB hard drive, and it looks like an external hard drive on your desktop. A drag into the trash ejects the media, although it would have been nice if the light blinked or turned off to let me know the drive is no longer accessible. If you remove the drive while it is reading or writing, it can be damaged, so make sure you eject it before unplugging it.

Versatile Product

The drive is available in 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB capacities and has a 5-year limited warranty. I tested the 1GB model and found it large enough to store a day's work of photography, plus notes. My advice is to get the biggest unit you can afford, as bigger is always better.

It works in OS 9 too, so it is a good solution to transfer files from an old Mac to a new Mac. I did run into problems using it in OS 9 though, because you cannot format a disk in Mac OS X with OS 9 drivers unless your machine is bootable with OS 9. I actually had to use a different OS 9 bootable machine to reformat the drive to use it. The other problem lies with the power issue. According to Imation, "Typically all Flash Drives work well with ... a powered hub that supplies 500 mA." Therefore, if you do not have a powered USB port, you need to plug it into a powered hub to use it.

Undocumented Features

There is also a write-protect switch recessed into the side of the drive. Interestingly enough, they forgot to mention this on the site or in the manual. You push a tiny bar to the side to activate the switch. Malcolm in tech support assured me you can't damage the drive using a pin, but I recommend using a strong toothpick to move the switch. It is on when pushed toward the USB port. The only indication it is activated is a dialog that states the drive cannot be modified when you try to move a file.

I've been reluctant to use most flash drives because they have covers that are lost easily or flimsy cases. I think this is one of the better protected flash drives on the market and recommend it because of the protective case and its features.

by ilene hoffman, Reviews Editor


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