Corsair's Survivor GT: The HiLux of thumb drives


— 4:38 PM on June 4, 2007

You don't see us reviewing USB flash drives here at TR because, well, they tend to be pretty boring. There is little doubt that so-called thumb drives have become wildly popular. They're everywhere, and it's probably only a matter of time before gigabytes worth are buried in boxes of Cracker Jacks. Despite this near ubiquity, most flash drives offer little more than storage on a stick. That's about as interesting to cover as a group of identical graphics cards based on the same reference design. Ahem.

Of course, just because most USB flash drives are painfully uninteresting doesn't mean that there aren't a few gems out there. Take Corsair's new Flash Survivor GT, for example. This drive is available in 8GB and 4GB flavors that sell for $140 and $60 online, which is a little pricey compared to other USB flash drives with similar capacities. However, the Survivor comes wrapped in a water-tight casing milled from 6061 aluminum, so it should be quite a bit more durable than similar drives with plastic fittings.


Durability is a big deal for flash drives not only because users are carrying them around more, but because they're carrying more around on them. Years ago, a damaged flash drive would sacrifice a few hundred megabytes at best, but with capacities pushing well into the gigabytes, you stand to lose a lot more if your flash drive is rendered inoperable by careless handling, abuse, or the dreaded washing machine.

An aircraft-grade aluminum housing may be a little overboard for a USB thumb drive, but it gives the Survivor GT a weighty, solid feel that's unmatched by any other flash drive I've handled. Textured rubber rings provide additional shock absorption, and Corsair says the casing's seal keeps moisture out all the way down to a depth of 200m. You know, in case you want to go diving with it.


On paper, then, the Flash Survivor GT looks like the Toyota HiLux of USB flash drives—virtually indestructible. But how would it fare against a series of torture tests designed to stress its durability? Remarkably well, in fact.

We kicked things off with some mild abuse that included throwing the Survivor around the Benchmarking Sweatshop and dropping it off a three-story roof onto pavement below, but it survived without so much as a scratch. Then came the dreaded washing machine, possibly the most common culprit in premature flash drive death. Not even heavy agitation could pierce the Survivor's seal, and a spin cycle didn't faze the drive, either. Since we favor automation, we also tossed the Survivor into the dishwasher, from which it emerged sparkling clean and perfectly functional.

Clearly, the Survivor was up for serious abuse, so I headed to a local university campus to introduce the drive to an outdoor pool's high diving platform. This particular pool is right next to the campus bar, which means it's frequented by intoxicated students who jump the fence, and then the high diving platform, often without clothes. Being a more mature adult, I hopped the fence to throw a USB flash drive off the high diving platform—fully-clothed of course. So much for my wild yearsand so much for high diving having any impact on the Survivor. After fishing the drive from the bottom of the pool, it worked like a charm. Even submerging the Survivor in a pint of water for 36 hours failed to thwart the casing's seal.


Next up for the Survivor was a stint strapped to the down tube of my mountain bike, where it sat in the direct path of dirt, dust, gravel, and the occasional tree. In two rides, the Survivor suffered a few scratches and the odd ding, but these were nothing more than cosmetic blemishes; the drive continued to work flawlessly, preserving the integrity of nearly eight gigabytes of test data.

For one final challenge, we ran over the Survivor with a car. Well, a two-door Honda Civic, to be exact. The Survivor laughed at this feeble attempt to destroy it, suffering only a few scuffs in the process. Check out a video of the carnage—or lack thereof—here.

We could have gone on, but after a week of near constant abuse, we're satisfied that the Survivor GT can survive any reasonable challenge that the real world might present a USB flash drive—not that the Survivor is completely indestructible. We think a few well-placed wallops with a sledgehammer would probably crush the device, and a blowtorch should easily melt the drive's internal circuitry. High-powered firearms would probably rip right through the aluminum casing, too, but I live in Canada, and we're armed only with excessive politeness. To which the Survivor proved impervious, as well.


Corsair bundles the Flash Survivor with TrueCrypt 4.3 encryption software that should keep your data safe from prying eyes. A USB extension cable is also included along with a set of Corsair dog tags that are a little, well silly. Ten years of warranty coverage easily makes up for the dog tags, though, as do the drive's relatively speedy 23.8MB/s read and 21.6MB/s write speeds in HD Tach's sustained transfer rate tests.

So while it may not be the cheapest USB flash drive on the market, the Survivor GT's ability to withstand all manner of torture is certainly far from boring. This is easily the most durable USB flash drive we've ever seen.

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