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A few weeks ago I looked at the Jadetec Pen Drive which claimed to be the fastest USB memory key around. That claim turned out to be unfounded when the following week I looked at the Adtec Data Stick which proved to be smaller, lighter and faster. Now however, I have the 256MB Apacer Handy Steno HT203 in front of me, and this too claims to be the fastest USB memory key in the world, but in this case Apacer isn’t exaggerating.
The Handy Steno isn’t the smallest memory key I’ve ever seen, but it still looks a lot better than the Jadetec Pen Drive. Finished in a deep red colour, the Handy Steno looks quite stylish despite its larger form factor. The braided steel loop can be used to hook the device on your key ring, but also serves a dual purpose. The steel cable is attached to the lid, so there’s no way that you can lose it when the device is plugged into a PC. It’s definitely a good idea to keep the lid attached, but I have to say that it’s not the most elegant of solutions. When in use, the cable and the lid both find themselves awkwardly pressed against the case of your PC. Personally I prefer designs where the USB connector either folds out or part of the casing slides back to reveal it.
Although the Handy Steno will plug directly into a USB port, it also ships with a cradle, much like the Jadetec Pen Drive. The cradle is finished in the same translucent red as the Handy Steno with silver detailing on the side, and it looks good, particularly when the Handy Steno is sitting in it. The cradle is a handy addition for your main PC, especially if your machine is on the floor and the USB ports are hard to access. Unfortunately, there’s no extension cable in the box, which is good to have if your notebook has USB ports close together. You do get a driver disk in the box, in case you happen to be running Windows 98.
But Apacer isn’t selling the Handy Steno on what’s in the box, or on how it looks – the marketing message here is raw speed. Using the same tests that I performed on the Adtec Data Stick, the Handy Steno turned in some truly stunning results. Writing a 100MB Excel file to the Handy Steno took 11 seconds, compared with 17 seconds on the Adtec Data Stick. Writing 105MB of MP3 files took 15 seconds on the Handy Steno and 21 seconds on the Adtec Data Stick. But bundling the two tests together and writing 205MB of mixed files saw the Handy Steno race ahead of the Adtec with scores of 26 seconds and 37 seconds respectively.