Storage is one thing you can never really have enough of; even at the upper edge of ridiculous if you have the room you will find a way to fill it. But while we have loads of devices that allow us to expand our internal and static external storage there is very little out in truly portable storage. Now I am not saying there are no USB drives that have large capacities. There are many of these floating around as well; but they are not something you can drop in your pocket and run with. No I am talking about fast and high-capacity devices that you could really take anywhere. I am talking about USB Keys, Thumb Drives or whatever you want to call them. While there are a ton of these out as well there really are very few large capacity drives that combine speed and security. Enter the Kingston Data Traveler DT-200. This line of USB keys starts at 32GB and goes all the way up to 128GB. Yes you hear right 128GB in a USB key.
Today we have the DT-200 64GB flavor in the lab and will be running it in ways that the original designers probably never thought of. Let’s see if the DT-200 can take the pressure.
The packaging the DT-200 arrived in was pretty simple and comparable to just about every other USB Key out. It is a cardboard hanging package that would look at home in a typical computer store or a big package store like Best Buy. The DT-200 is clearly visible through the plastic clamshell while the cardboard “tab” fills you in on the advantages of owning the DT-200.
The DT-200 in its packaging would survive most drops and kicks; you could probably even step on it without damage [although I would not recommend it]. This is not due to any special protection offered by the packaging but more due to the hardy nature of most flash drives. Simply put there is very little that you can damage in them.
Once you are done kicking the DT-200 around and have tore open the packaging you can split it into two parts. The first is the cardboard “tab” and the second is the plastic clamshell. Both of these can be safely dropped into a recycle bin [if available] and you can walk away feeling green inside. There is no chance of reusing the package.
Design and Construction
The Kingston DataTraveler 200 is, well let’s be honest here, it feels cheap. It is light and made of what feels like thin plastic. Kingston did try to make it feel more rubberized but on closer inspection it is nothing more that plastic. The thing that makes it feel so cheap, besides the weight is the fact that it rattles when you hold it.
The offending item that rattles is the slide that protects the USB plug. As you can see this slide, while aesthetically pleasing is only wraps around the entire key in a very small portion. When the slide is retracted it is solid and does not move around when it is extended [covering the USB Plug] it has much less contact with the rest of the housing. This is what unfortunately causes the rattle.
I handed the DT-200 around to a few people and then handed an older 4GB HyperX DataTraveler and they all had the same first impression. The DT-HyperX felt like it was of better quality than the newer [and larger] DT-200.
The DT 200 has one huge feature on its side and that is simply its large capacity. Having 32 to 128GB to throw things into is very handy. You also get a nice little encryption tool that I found to be very interesting but also had its limitations.
To start with the password protection tool is designed to create a hidden, secure [Password Protection] partition on the DT-200 that you can set to whatever size you like. This is nice especially with the extra space, for our testing I placed movies, RAW Digital images and even a complete Virtual Machine on the secure partition.
The Password Traveler tool is very easy to use you simply open the password traveler exe on the drive and you have the secure partition creation tool. Now a word before you use this, If you have any data on it when you create the new partition you will lose it so I would make sure that it is empty before proceeding.
To setup your partition you click on the format button, then use the slider to set the partition size for your Security Zone, enter a password [and confirm it], enter a hint if you want and then click format.
Here is one other limitation of this application; the PasswordTraveler application cannot format in NTFS. It can only format in Fat 32. This means that if you want to move large files [over 10GB] like a VM disk or something larger you are not going to be able to do this. Talking to Kingston they chose this to maintain compatibility; under Windows XP NTFS on a removable drive can cause errors on the drive if not safely removed. This problem does not exist in Windows Vista or Windows 7 but as XP is still the most prevalent Microsoft OS they chose to leave it as Fat 32. Kingston does not have any plans to include NTFS support until after XP support ends. We will tell you how to get around this in a little bit.
Now once you have created this new partition you will see that your new DT-200 shows up as smaller, the newly created partition is not visible at all, even in Disk Manager. This is a nice little feature that can [in some cases] even prevent someone from knowing that you are hiding anything at all. To get to your data you double click on the Password Traveler exe again and it will ask you for your password. Enter the password and you can now access the hidden safety partition. As you can see now your DT-200 shows up as the exact size of the safety zone partition.
Now for the draw backs. You cannot access files in the non-secure partition while you are in the secure partition and vice versa. You cannot access the secure partition from boot up. Due to the security in place that partition is not active and as such cannot be access from anything other than inside Windows.
This also means that commands like Convert and ChkDsk will not work if they need boot-time access.
As we told you above there is a way to get your DT-200 formatted NTFS. For most things it would be a simple use of the convert command. Sadly while the convert command works on the non-secure partition it will not work on the secure one. This is because the secure partition is not accessible during start up.
All is not lost though, you can get your DT-200 formatted NTFS; it just takes a few extra steps. Here is what you have to do. You need to create the safety zone partition and then log into it. From there you need to copy the Logout Password Traveler short cut to a safe location [like your desktop], open up my computer and right click on the DT-200 select format and chose NTFS. Once it is finished copy the logout shortcut back to the drive and you are done.
Now you have a secure NTFS partition that you can use.
For our testing I wanted to head outside the norm. For many USB keys simply checking to see how fast it transfers data is enough. But what do you do when you have 64 GB to play with. Well I wanted to see.
For testing I split the DT-200 into as close to equal halves as I could. I put various movie files on each and then placed a Mandriva 2008 Linux install on both.
My intention was not only to be able to tell you if the DT-200 is fast but could it be used to run an entire VM off of it. First we have the basic Data Tests.
We see how well the DT-200 can run under Sisoft Sandra and Everest.
I was impressed with the speed, it was actually faster than my Seagate FreeAgent | Go drive. Next we ran our full Mandriva VM for the day to see if it would have any problems.
This is the one that I was most interested in, I usually keep at least one Linux VM handy if I am in an insecure location and having the ability to toss one in from a USB key is great. I ran the Mandriva 2008 distro straight from the DT-200 using the Non-secure and Secure partitions. Both performed perfectly without and slowdowns or OS issues.Finally we watched several HD encoded MVK files without any issues at all.
Here is another great reason to have one of these. I packed the DT-200 with 12 hours of movies. These a watched from my MSI Wind Netbook while out camping. It kept the SDD on the Wind clean and free of clutter while allowing me to bring along some good entertainment along.
The Kingston DT-200 is not a cheap flash drive, at 32GB it will run you about $83 while the 64GB flavor we tested will put a $145 dent in your wallet. Both of these can be found in your basic e-tailers. For the massive 128GB drive you will have to go directly through Kingston and shell out about $500 plus shipping. This is not an inexpensive purchase, but if you need the space and portability you really can’t go wrong with it.
Kingston offers a full 5-year warranty on the DT-200. This is a great warranty for a flash drive and does show the level of confidence Kingston has in this product. RMA is easy to get setup if you need it by heading to their support page. Kingston also has very knowledgeable and helpful technical support. You can reach them through their different regional support numbers.
I found the DT-200 to be an excellent drive for my uses. I tend to get out and on the trail a couple of times per month. When I head out I take my Wind Netbook (with Windows 7) but there is limited space on the SSD I put in it. I usually bring an external HDD with me but I am always concerned that it will get damaged either through being dropped or moisture. With the DT-200 I do not have that concern. It also saves weight and space. This allows me to carry a little more without overloading.
Performance wise, the DT-200 performs very well and much better than my 500GB USB external drive. It also uses less USB ports and power. The price/performance mark is perfect me with the 64GB version. If you are really in the market for large and highly portable storage, combined with encryption you will find the DT-200 is a great product for you. If you are more of a go and stop user and have the space and power at each location you head to then the DT-200 might not be for you.