USB memory keys are wonderful inventions. Anything that can said to have finally given the floppy disc the big push into the history books where it belongs is alright in my book. Theyâ€™re just so handy. You just pop them into any USB slot on your computer and assuming itâ€™s running a decent operating system, itâ€™ll be recognised as a drive letter and you can just drag and drop your files onto it. You donâ€™t even have to reboot, though sometimes Windows will say it needs to anyway, even though it actually doesnâ€™t. Itâ€™s a bit odd that, and Iâ€™ve never quite worked it out, so weâ€™ll move swiftly on.
When they first appeared USB keys were expensive and limited in size. My first one ever was 16MB and the 256MB one I bought about three years ago cost me 50 quid. You can get a 1GB stick for that now and 2GB for as little as Â£70.
However, sometimes you just need more. With the lowest capacity of the two drives tested here, you've still got more storage than a DVD in your pocket and that's cool.
As Apple probably swallowed up the worldwide capacity of 4MB flash chips for its nano, the only way to go large is to use MicroDrives, essentially mini hard disks. These give you capacities of up to 8GB at a very affordable price.
They work in just the same way as USB flash drives, only theyâ€™re physically larger due to the size of the Compact Flash MicroDrive inside. It also makes them less robust due to the moving parts in the hard disk. However, unlike full size portable hard disks thereâ€™s no need for external power as it draws it all from the USB port.
Of the two we're looking at here the Sony looks the smarter but from the specs it loses out in that it employs a 5GB hard disk compared to the 8GB in the Iomega. Considering that theyâ€™re both available on the (virtual) street, for around the same price the Sony is at a disadvantage.
Both drives are formatted as FAT32 and the Windows Autoplay wizard runs when you insert them into a machine running Windows XP. The design of both drives is essentially the same with some minor differences. Thereâ€™s a housing for the MicroDrive with a USB 2.0 key that rotates up and out of housing at the top. This gives you plenty of clearance area so you shouldnâ€™t have a problem inserting either drive into any USB port.