A few weeks with LaCie’s iamaKey thumb drive

USB thumb drives are everywhere. Heck, they’ve been everywhere for years. Never before have I see a new class of product become so ubiquitous so quickly.

The USB thumb drive’s rapid rise shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. We live in an increasingly digital world where even the average small-town Walmart shopper probably has numerous personal document files, a substantial MP3 collection, loads of digital photos, and at least a few pirated movies he or a friend grabbed off The BitTorrent. Folks want to be able to move this data around with ease, and for most, there’s no better way than with cheap, portable, and most importantly plug-and-play USB storage.

It doesn’t take much to convince someone that they need a thumb drive. It takes even less time to show them how to use one. Given today’s prices, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who can’t afford a drive with at least a few gigabytes of storage capacity.

So thumb drives have become a commodity. The market is flooded with models in every capacity, shape, and size from a growing list of manufacturers. Unfortunately, however, most of these drives are painfully generic, cheaply made, and entirely uninteresting. That’s why you rarely see them covered here at TR. Every so often, though, one catches our eye. Such was the case with LaCie’s appropriately-named iamaKey, which stealthily shoehorns 4 or 8GB of flash memory into something that looks right at home on a keychain.

If you want to have your thumb drive with you at all times, I can think of no better place to put it than your keychain. Really, what else are you less likely to leave the house without?

The iamaKey fits quite nicely onto any standard keychain, and while it’s a little bigger than the keys I have on mine, it’s smaller than a good many car keys. For reference, the iamaKey measures 57 x 24 x 3 mm (2.24″ x 0.94′ x 0.12″). LaCie doesn’t list the drive’s weight, but it feels only marginally heavier than my house key, which is practically weightless.

Of course, if you’re one of those folks who insists on carrying around a fist-sized mess of keys mixed with charms, souvenirs, and other accessories, the iamaKey’s diminutive proportions probably won’t be a big draw. I run a pretty lean collection of keys without any unnecessary trinkets, so the iamaKey fits right in.

Although LaCie is known for more striking designs, the iamaKey’s subtle styling perfectly suits the product. The drive is encased in a metal shell whose brushed finish should stand up well to the sort of abuse that has scuffed, scratched, and otherwise beaten up all the other keys on my keychain.

One component of the iamaKey that may not stand up as well to rough treatment is the drive’s USB interface. To maintain its slim profile, the drive’s contact points are exposed rather than encased in a male port like most USB devices. A small, plastic cap slides onto the end of the drive to shield these golden fingers from the jingle jangle of surrounding keys.

When I first saw the key cap, I figured it would fall off and be forever lost within days. Much to my surprise, however, it’s stubbornly stayed put for weeks. A couple of little nubs hold the cap in place, and they seem to do the trick. It would be nice if the cap were somehow integrated into the drive, though. Even if it doesn’t fall off accidentally, I can see losing the cap simply because it’s such a small piece of transparent plastic.

The iamaKey has lived on my keychain for a few weeks now, and it seems to be holding up pretty well. Granted, the painted-on graphics have largely worn off, scuffed away by the surrounding keys and the rigors of everyday pocket life. But the metal casing remains intact and shows no signs of wear or abuse.

To be sure that the iamaKey could withstand the worst my keychain has to offer, I threw it into the wash with a load of clothes. The drive emerged with even more of its graphics worn off, no doubt a result of all the clanging I heard during the tumble dry. That seems to be the extent of the damage, though. The key cap is still intact, the drive still works, and the rest of my keys are noticeably cleaner.

So how does the iamaKey fare when plugged into a PC? Quite well, actually. The drive isn’t oddly-partitioned or otherwise crippled with annoying CD emulation software that some folks might find difficult to remove. The iamaKey is reasonably quick, too. According to CrystalDiskMark’s sequential transfer rate tests, the drive reads at 34MB/s and writes at 12MB/s—a little faster than the read and write speeds claimed by LaCie. It’s certainly not the fastest thumb drive around, but the iamaKey should be speedy enough for most.

With a street price hovering around $25, the 4GB iamaKey isn’t quite as good a deal as the 8GB version, which sells for as little as $35. Both are considerably more expensive than run-of-the-mill flash drives with comparable capacities, though. That might turn off some folks, but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. In the last year, I’ve had two keychain-mounted thumb drives fracture their fragile, plastic bodies, in one case causing me to lose a drive entirely. For something I carry around on a daily basis, I’m willing to pay a little extra for solid construction and a clever design. LaCie’s iamaKey thumb drive offers both at a price that’s still easily affordable.

Comments closed
    • A_Pickle
    • 13 years ago

    That’s actually very cool. I wish I could actually put my thumb drive on my keychain, but I’m not allowed to bring writeable flash memory into my guard unit and then take it home again… so I’m almost certain that this lovely flash drive would be forced to meet the pulverizer… 😀

    • blubje
    • 13 years ago

    it’s probably not enough of one to get an ID from.

    • Kurotetsu
    • 13 years ago

    One step closer to Knightmare Frames….

    §[<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKtjIGxLRFM<]§ (You should see what I'm talking about right at the beginning of the clip)

    • Freon
    • 13 years ago

    Update: Yeah it is pretty sluggish. About 5-6 MB/sec write, haven’t tested read enough but I think it is around double that.

    Still not bad for the price. I really like the case design and greatly prefer it to a cap which can be easily lost.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 13 years ago

    I don’t see nothin’ wrong… just a little bump n’ grind, baby.

    • SGT Lindy
    • 13 years ago

    Genius RUNS from your family.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 13 years ago

    Reviews say that one is 30MB/s read and 20MB/s write. I really can’t find anything that’s just plain better. The Patriot Xporter Magnum is rated 210x, but it’s about 35MB/s read and15MB/s write, an even trade.

    I assume there’s some sort of bottleneck in the way flash is implemented with USB drives that I have no understanding of, as the capacities have exploded, but the speeds remain a near constant.

    If someone knows of something outright better, feel free to mention it.

    EDIT: I just noticed something funny. Look at how the USB speeds are rated completely differently on all of these, and that they stick around 30MB/s:

    §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2010150636%201421546318&name=USB%202.0%20%26%20eSATA&ActiveSearchResult=True<]§ So I guess it's a USB thing. What on earth does it take for USB 2.0 to actually get near 60MB/s?!?

    • Freon
    • 13 years ago

    There are definitely speed differences, but it seems like there isn’t a lot of good data on that, either via a standard nor reviews (though I personally have not looked that hard).

    Some of the more expensive thumb drives are named “hi-speed” or whatnot.

    i.e.
    §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820134898<]§ I know in the flash memory world (SD, etc) there are either Class rating or 100x, 200x, etc. ratings. My dad had good luck buying a SD card rated as "150x" and said it was signficantly faster than his previous card.

    • Freon
    • 13 years ago

    I would totally lose the cap in a month. Been there, done that. I really think a key feature for a USB keyfob is a cap (or being a retractable design) that can’t easily be separated from the fob itself.

    I have one of these showing up in the mail today:
    §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820609418<]§ Switchblade FTW. It's cheap, probably slow as crap but oh well.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 13 years ago

    That’s a good point, but I have to wonder if that is just in reference to the write speed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a USB thumb drive that goes much faster than 30MB/s read, but some have about 20MB/s write.

    I’d pay good money for one that could get close to full USB 2.0 speed. It’s a bit odd that nobody seems to be pushing faster ones.

    • Bauxite
    • 13 years ago

    Locks are for honest people.

    A good swift kick will open anything without a deadbolt, and a series of kicks or coaxing with a tire iron will do any other household lock.

    (I’ve locked myself out in a rather terrible situation before, where the *right now* was worth far more than spending half an hour repairing later with <$20 of hardware and waiting for paint to dry a few more)

    • d0g_p00p
    • 13 years ago

    How is it a high security risk? I can make a set of bump keys faster than trying to clone those keys and open every single door on his block before I found his house 😉

    edit: Damn Forge, you are fast.

    • Forge
    • 13 years ago

    Actually, it’s easier and faster to pick or bump the lock than to grind keys.

    Also, you need to know what the keys go to and where it is. Given that Geoff lives in Canuckistan, that keeps him safe from 99%+ of the people that read TR.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 13 years ago

    What’s really crazy is that they’ve already got them, and they’re even cheaper:

    §[<http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820609475<]§ The question is just how durable they are. Something that small is easy to just smash into even tinier pieces.

    • indeego
    • 13 years ago

    §[<https://techreport.com/r.x/2009_7_6_A_few_weeks_with_LaCies_iamaKey_thumb_drive/money.jpg<]§ wow you actually can see his fingerprint on there. hahahag{<.<}g

    • indeego
    • 13 years ago

    Wow that is crazyg{<.<}g

    • indeego
    • 13 years ago

    I’ve already enhanced, zoomed, and bumpedg{<.<}g

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 13 years ago
    • MadManOriginal
    • 13 years ago

    You’ve kind of got a point but let’s face it – anyone who is going to go through the effort of duplicating keys from an image on a website is going to do whatever it takes to do what they’re going to do anyway.

    • GTVic
    • 13 years ago

    It seems like all you ever see are reviews of average speed drives.

    Practically every USB thumb drive review says something to the effect that “it is not the fastest drive around”. But the reviews never mention the names of these “faster” drives. Would be nice to know if you could pay a little extra for some performance…

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 13 years ago

    I’m sure hoping USB thumb drives get another drop in price/increase in capacity by the end of the year. I could use a 16GB one of these, myself.

    It’s crazy to think that dual layer DVDs or any thumb drive people typically have on hand are no longer capable of holding some things I have been transferring on a regular basis. Those things are many times larger than entire hard drives on plenty of computers I used for years…

    • continuum
    • 13 years ago

    Actually, those are your keys. Check your pockets.

    • ludi
    • 13 years ago

    Those are entrapment keys, and anyone who duplicates them exactly will be quite sorry. Supposedly the garage key drops a trapdoor over a Bengali tiger pit. The housekey has been confirmed to trigger boiling oil and a crossbow. The car ignition key locks all of the doors, disables the seatbelt, floors the accellerator, and begins steering like a meth addict who is two hours overdue for a reload.

    Not sure about the other two but I overheard some scuttlebutt regarding “Broccolli and Brussels Sprouts Surprise” and “Turquoise Flames O’ Doom.”

    • eitje
    • 13 years ago

    Geoff – posting pictures of your keys online (in high fidelity, no less) is actually a pretty big security risk.

    • ludi
    • 13 years ago

    Might think about this. Although it seems like they could have made it a little more compact in the vertical direction.

    • brm001
    • 13 years ago

    No problems here on an Antec case (using the front port) or EEE 1000H at home and a Dell Latitude D620 at work (using the rear, vertically-aligned ports).

    • indeego
    • 13 years ago

    Just ran into the limitation on an 8 GB key the other day, amazing that I’m looking at 16G storage devices for ~$30-$40 here. g{

    • The Tech Report
    • 13 years ago

    Personally I’m on my third Gen Cruzer Titanium. All of them still work the USB connector is protected by retracting into the case. Not to mention it is on my key chain and is smaller then the keys. Since all my car keys have a built on fob. Factor in the only reason I upgraded was to increase capacity. Two of them have been through the wash one more then once.

    What is the compelling reason for the Lacie?

    • Skrying
    • 13 years ago

    Anyone have a problem with that connector? I’ve had one drive that used the exposed contacts method and it did not agree to well with the USB slots on some Dell desktop units. You had to angle the drive as you inserted it or else it would never register with the computer.

    • brm001
    • 13 years ago

    I’ve got the 8GB one and have had it for about two months. The key ring it’s on travels in a messenger bag most of the time, so it doesn’t get a lot of pressure put on it. I will say that it looks pretty good for its age–I expected it to get more scratches more quickly.

    It’s quite a nice drive, though write speeds are slow (5-6MB/s).

    • bdwilcox
    • 13 years ago

    Hey, doesn’t LaCie make a lot of hardware for the Mac market? Well, Macs suck! [/troll]

    • DrDillyBar
    • 13 years ago

    Making it shaped like a Key is a good idea. I wander around with 12GB’s on a daily basis myself. Pair of Rally2’s.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 13 years ago

    My keys are all clipped to a back belt loop. I tend to stuff my keys into my back pocket to reduce jingle-jangle. Unfortunately–even though I am quite svelt in stature–I have broken keys or clips before from putting too much pressure on the keys. I would be worried about breaking or bending this USB drive.

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