Let's get started with a staple of storage benchmarking, HD Tach. We tested with that application's full variable zone size setting.
At least in this synthetic test, the Flash Padlock 2 delivers strictly middle-of-the-pack performance. OCZ's Rally2 leads by a comfortable and consistent margin, but OCZ specifically advertises that product as "one of the fastest flash drives available," so we're not particularly surprised. The Flash Padlock 2 fares well compared to the 2GB drives, though.
To add to our synthetic testing, we busted out our stopwatch and timed the transfer of a 656MB directory containing 83 files, most of them MP3 songs, from our test system to the Flash Padlock 2.
Satisfyingly, this test echoes HD Tach's average write speed benchmark. The Rally2 comes out on top, the Flash Padlock 2 ends up not too far behind, and the 2GB OCZ and Kingston offerings take third and fourth places, respectively. (We tried timing file copies from those drives toward our test system, too, but the results weren't all that enlightening. All four drives took about four to five seconds, and manual stopwatch testing made it difficult to detect minute differences.)
If we can draw one conclusion from these tests, it's that the Flash Padlock 2's encryption hijinks don't translate into unusually slow file transfers. However, folks chiefly concerned with performance will find there are quicker USB thumb drives on the market.
We weren't finished with the Flash Padlock 2. Is that chubby rubber enclosure actually good for something, or does it just block off other USB ports for no reason? To find out, I threw the Flash Padlock 2 into the front pocket of my jeans. I then placed the jeans and some other laundry in the washing machine on a 90-minute cycle, at a temperature of 40°C (104°F).
The drive came out of the wash safe and soundand it remains fully functional over a month later. This Flash Padlock 2 has also gotten sat on, tossed around at the bottom of a loaded backpack during a transatlantic flight, and thrown multiple times onto a hard tile floor, all without suffering a scratch. Speaking of scratches, Corsair has neatly embossed the labels on the six surface buttons (as well as its logo, of course), so even if the white paint does get scratched off, the symbols will live on.
As far as we've seen, the Flash Padlock 2 delivers on its promises: the PIN locking and unlocking system works, the drive doesn't even register on a host system when locked, performance seems very acceptable, and the enclosure can take plenty of punishment. Sure, the button interface on the front could be a little more intuitive, and the rubber enclosure could probably do its job without blocking off adjacent USB ports. But those are fairly minor complaints. Corsair definitely looks to have a very solid product here.
This solidity comes at a price. Right now, the 8GB Flash Padlock 2 sells for $54.99 shipped at Newegg. That's quite a leap over even the company's own 8GB Flash Voyager drive, which the same e-tailer offers for just $24.99 with free shipping. With USB 3.0 thumb drives drawing close on the horizon, charging that much extra for a USB 2.0 product seems bold. (Reports say 16GB thumb drives with much quicker USB 3.0 connectivity should soon retail for less than $70 a piece.) Then again, none of the drives we tested came close to pushing the limits of a USB 2.0 interface, even in our burst read tests.
Regardless of the interface type, we'd ideally like to see higher transfer rates from the Padlock 2. A little more speed would mix well with the drive's other virtuesthe 10-year warranty, elaborate security features, and tough outer enclosureand make the price easier to swallow. Still, folks who regularly carry sensitive data, or who just don't want anyone else getting access to their personal files, may well find spending an extra $20 or so on the Flash Padlock 2 a no-brainer.