The Corsair Survivor series of USB drives has been round for quite some time, with their trademark aluminium casing to protect the device from being crushed or washed (the usual mode of death for USB drives!). This particular review concentrates on the 32GB version, which should be plenty of storage space for your important backups. There is a larger 64GB size available should you need it, along with plenty of smaller sizes.
Many USB drives are small, plastic products which may provide high-speed performance at a low cost, but ultimately many are let down by their susceptibility to being dropped, stood on or lost. If you are careful, this may not be a problem. However, if you want to carry important backup information you need to be sure that your drive is going to survive some moderate damage and that you can encrypt the data easily. This is where the Corsair Survivor fits in, as it is a ruggedized USB drive that is water resistant to 200m and fits in an anodized aluminium capsule to give it extra protection. Dropping this device on the ground and standing on it would barely scratch it, yet it could be enough to break most other products. Even dropping the Corsair Survivor in the pool wouldn’t damage it, as there are waterproof seals which are approved down to 200m.
Although the innards of the Survivor have changed over the years, the casing has been subject to many (often humorous!) tests, to see how it survives under severe conditions. After all this scrutiny, the case holds up well (withstanding being driven over by a car and boiled in water, amongst other things). In this price range, that is a pretty rugged device!
The Corsair Flash Survivor packaging includes a US Military style dog tag and a USB extension cable. Although the latter is quite useful, I can’t see many people using the dog tag as a serious lanyard.
More useful is the inclusion of the TrueCrypt open-source encryption software, as this allows you to securely store your files by encrypting them in one of several ways. The easiest (and recommended) way to store secure data on the drive is to create a fixed size TrueCrypt container file. This takes some time to create (depending on the size), but it allows you to enter a passkey and access the data as a new drive on any system with the TrueCrypt software installed. The more secure the passkey and method of encryption, the more secure your data. If you are carrying backups of your personal data, it would be wise to ensure you have encrypted it in case it falls in to the wrong hands. The downside to this method is that the data can only be read on a PC with the same software installed, so it is a good idea to install the setup files to a non-encrypted part of the USB drive. Windows, Linux and Mac are all supported operating systems, so compatibility should not be an issue. There are hardware encrypted drives available that bypass this software requirement, but they are prohibitively expensive for most users. You can download the TrueCrypt software and use it on any USB drive for free, but it makes sense to protect your data via encryption and via a ruggedized device.
[BREAK=Benchmarks and Conclusion]This particular Corsair Survivor has been carried around and used extensively for weeks, and there is a small but noticeable performance lag when compared to some high end flash drives. It would be fair to say that this device isn’t optimised for speed, but it is still quick enough to be used as a ReadyBoost device in Vista/Windows 7.
Benchmarks using the popular SiSoft Sandra tool showed that the Corsair Survivor 32GB drive was able to achieve a read speed of 28.97MB/s which is comparable to other devices in the same class. However, the write speed of 8.53MB/s falls short and is less than half that of some high speed devices.
The “operations per minute” of the drive was also benchmarked, which is another measure of performance for storage devices. In this test, the Corsair Survivor compares favourably to a selection of other USB drives (apart from its faster sibling, the Corsair Voyager):
The Corsair Flash Survivor range comes strongly recommended, primarily because it is only one of a handful of ruggedized USB storage devices and the price is very reasonable indeed. At the time of writing, the 32GB version costs around $80 which isn’t much more than basic plastic casing models. The read times are impressive, but writing data can be slower than other products – however the Corsair Survivor should not be purchased if you are looking for the fastest drive available.
If you are looking to make secure backups of your personal data, this is an ideal way to achieve a high level of protection (in terms of physical security and software encryption) for your information. The TrueCrypt software that comes bundled with the device is freely available over the internet and is constantly updated to improve the range of functions.