- Review Price: £86.00
Unlike most portable USB devices that are based on flash memory, the new Mega Cache 15 from MSI features a tiny 1in hard drive with an impressive 1.5GB capacity. According to MSI, that’s enough storage space to hold the data from 1,066 floppy disks or 500 mp3 songs. If you regularly need to transfer files between computers in different locations then this new USB 2.0 mobile storage device from MSI could be just what you’re looking for.
Surprisingly, it seems that one advantage MSI has gained from using the latest in miniature hard drive technology is that its new drive is considerably cheaper than the equivalent solid state storage devices from other manufacturers. At just over £85 including VAT, the Mega Cache 15 looks like an absolute bargain. In fact, at that price you’d be hard pushed to find even a 1GB USB flash memory module. With that in mind, I was interested to find out if MSI had cut any corners to achieve such a low price point.
Well to start off with, if MSI has compromised on anything it certainly isn’t with the design or the build quality. The first thing you notice about the Mega Cache 15 is its stylish appearance, thanks mainly to the brushed aluminium case and the cleverly designed fold out USB connector, which is hidden from view when not in use. Although the plastic covered USB connector feels sturdy enough during normal use, my only slight criticism would be that the grey finish doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the metallic look. One obvious advantage though with this fold out design is that there’s no protective lid to worry about losing, as so often happens with the more common ‘key ring’ style mobile storage devices.
Although slightly larger than most flash memory based designs, the MSI drive is still small and light enough to be discretely stowed away in a jacket pocket, briefcase or handbag. However, I’m sure many owners of the Mega Cache 15 might actually want to flaunt their new ‘toy’ to their friends or work colleagues rather than keep it out of sight.
Styling aside, it’s not too difficult to understand the appeal of mobile USB storage devices like the Mega Cache 15. Just plug your portable drive into the USB port of a computer, wait for the new drive letter to appear in Windows Explorer and then copy over the files you want to take with you. It’s as simple as that. And as with most removable USB drives, the Mega Cache 15 can be used straight out of the box since it uses the mass storage drivers that are already included with Windows ME, 2000, and XP. Likewise, Mac owners running OS 8.6 and above shouldn’t have any problems either. However, if you’re running Windows 98/SE you’ll need to install the supplied USB driver before the device will be recognised.
Along the top of the unit is a small write-protect switch that you can use if you’re worried about deleting any important files by mistake. There’s also a blue LED that lights up when the hard disk is being accessed and a small eyelet which is presumably designed to accommodate a neck or hand strap, although neither is supplied in the box. MSI does however provide you with a handy 50cm extension cable for those awkward or hard to reach USB ports, as well as a rather basic looking storage pouch which should provide superficial protection from the usual bumps and knocks encountered in everyday use.
Anyway, that’s enough about the design and features for the time being – how well does this little MSI drive actually perform? Although the times we recorded in our own ‘real world’ file transfer tests worked out to be slightly lower than the maximum 5.5MB/sec transfer rate quoted by MSI, both the read and write speeds were very acceptable considering the size of the unit and certainly comparable to the performance of solid state flash memory keys.
As far as bundled software goes the Mega Cache 15 comes preloaded with Secure Lock, a utility that runs off the drive itself and lets you create a hidden password protected area for any sensitive data. You also get Flash Mail, which allows you to send and receive emails from any PC that has an Internet connection (provided you have Administrator privileges) and FD BackUp, which installs and runs on the host machine and lets you back up and synchronise your mobile data to your PC or vice-versa.
If you’re thinking about buying your first mobile storage device, or are about to upgrade your current flash memory drive for something with more storage space, then this new 1.5GB drive from MSI comes highly recommended. One thing’s for sure though, the Mega Cache 15 is yet another nail in the coffin of the humble floppy disk.
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