Everyone needs more storage space. It's something that just happens. Today's digital content - including documents, digital photos, home made movies - is hungry for space. In general users worry about the main storage space on their computers, but some thought should be put into backup, performance, and extra space.
It's common to find USB memory keys around offices. These devices provide a quick way to store files and move those around. But they are not found in very large capacities and can't be used for backup just because of that.
There are external hard drives that power from USB ports and those are a good option in terms of backup, but are in general bulky and use cables - do I need to say more?
And there is a new generation of storage devices, called Solid State Drives. Although they use the same concept behid USB memory keys, that is to store data in flash memory, Solid State Drives are found in higher capacities and in general can be used as a hard disc drive replacement.
Lexar (and some other manufacturers now) introduced a line of hybrid Solid State Drive that can't quite be used as a HDD replacement because they lack the appropriate interfaces, but due to its high capacity it can be used as backup devices, or extra storage.
The Lexar ExpressCard SSD uses the new ExpressCard slot, a standard created that allows the use of USB and PCI Express applications, while being accessible through a small slot present in new laptops.
In terms of size, the Lexar ExpressCard SSD is smaller than a credit card and it fits perfectly on the slot, without any bumps - much safer than those USB memory keys that stick out from the USB ports.
My review unit came in the 16 GB (gigabytes) flavour, while there are 8 GB and 4 GB options. It's really simple to use: you open the packaging, insert the Lexar ExpressCard SSD into the slot, and wait for the OS to recognise it. It's that easy.
The Lexar ExpressCard SSD comes with a very complete backup application. It supports scheduling, mutliple PCs, automatic execution when the card is inserted and of course restore
If you are using Microsoft Windows Vista you will be able to use the new drive as a ReadyBoost device. ReadyBoost is a new feature on Windows Vista that uses the flash memory as an intermediary buffer to the paging file (plus some other tricks) increasing overall system performance. There are plenty of discussions about the ideal size of ReadyBoost on your memory key, but the current limit is 4 GB - and because the Lexar ExpressCard SSD is rather large you can actually use up to this amount.
Now if ReadyBoost actually improves performance is something that will depend on each system - different usage, main memory configuration, etc will impact on performance before and after ReadyBoost and it's not the subject of this review.
Back to the Lexar ExpressCard SSD, I used the program PerformanceTest 6.1 to test each of the storage devices on my laptop - an Acer Ferrari 5000 with 2 GB RAM, 2 GHz AMD Turion 64 bit dual core, running Windows Vista Service Pack 1 64 bit. These are the results below:
As you can see the Lexar ExpressCard SSD was the best of the external drives on Read activities, but it was the last when it came to Write actions. These are the speeds I recorded with PerformanceTest 6.1 (read/write MB/s):
It looks like the ExpressCard interface is pretty much similar to the USB 2.0 in terms of speed. I think you will find the following Disk Speed charts interesting. They are very different from the other drives that seem to keep the speed pretty much constant, while the Lexar ExpressCard SDD seems to fluctuate a lot more:
Overall I liked the Lexar ExpressCard SSD because of its much higher capacity - and because it will fit perfectly on a laptop, unlike those USB memory keys. I also liked the fact it can be used for ReadyBoost. But you can't quite use it to move files to a friend's laptop yet, because ExpressCard slots are not that common in the market.
And let's not forget the price. This 16 GB unit will currently cost you a cool US$300 directly from Lexar, but you can find it much cheaper from Amazon. And if you stop to think about it, a Lexar 2 GB USB memory key costs about US$60, which actually makes the Lexar ExpressCard SSD cheaper on a per gigabyte basis. The 8 GB is still cheaper on a per gigabyte price, and the 4 GB is equivalent to two 2 GB USB memory keys - so it's not that bad really.