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SanDisk Cruzer micro & MP3 Companion Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £72.00

With USB memory keys coming down in price on an almost daily basis and capacities increasing equally as fast, one would hope that the old floppy drive will die gracefully soon. The SanDisk Cruzer micro is one of many USB memory keys and although it looks quite stylish, finished in see through plastic and metal, this alone is not a reason to buy it.


However, as the name implies, it is very small, in fact it is the smallest USB memory key we have seen to date measuring a mere 51 x 19 x 6mm (L x W x H). Yes, there are smaller devices out there, but they don’t look quite as cool as the Cruzer micro, nor do they, as far as I know, have a built in blue light that illuminates the rear of the Cruzer micro. It looks even cooler if you put the protective cap on the back, as this enhances the blue light further.


Call me a sucker for fancy blue lights if you like, but there are only so many features worth talking about when it comes to USB memory keys and SanDisk has really made the Cruzer micro as flash as possible. Apart from a protective cap, SanDisk also supplies a larger cap that covers more of the Cruzer micro, in case you’re worried about durability. You also get a key ring and a neck strap thrown in for good measure. There are no drivers supplied, but as these are only needed for Windows 98, SanDisk offers a driver download from its website as well as the CruzerLock security utility.


The CruzerLock utility doesn’t actually allow you to lock the Cruzer, but instead it allows you to password protect and encrypt files on the device. You can’t however encrypt folders, only files and the encryption is done through the CruzerLock file browser utility. The CruzerLock utility is not MAC compatible, even though the Cruzer micro will work on Macs, as long as you’re using OS 9.1 or later.


The Cruzer micro comes in capacities of 128, 256 and 512MB, which will set you back £18.58, £29.52 and £69.96 respectively. The review unit SanDisk sent was the 256MB version and the price is very reasonable considering its build quality and small physical dimensions.


But what is really cool with the Cruzer micro is that you can purchase the optional Cruzer micro MP3 companion, which is, as the name implies an MP3 player. It has a slot in its side where you plug in the Cruzer micro – this is used for storing the music instead of built in flash memory or a traditional memory card. Although it is only meant to work with the Cruzer micro, it does actually work with the Cruzer mini as well, but as the mini is much larger than the micro, it protrudes further and spoils the overall look of the device.


I did of course try other makes of USB memory key, although SanDisk advises that the slot in the Cruzer micro MP3 companion has been tailored to fit the Cruzer micro – but as I had another small USB memory key at hand I thought I’d give it a go. Unfortunately this didn’t work, as the Cruzer micro MP3 companion is programmed to recognise only Cruzer devices.

If you prefer WMA over MP3, then you’ll be glad to know that the Cruzer micro MP3 companion will play WMA as well as MP3, but unfortunately there is no support for OGG files. In terms of usability it couldn’t be much more simplistic, as it only has three buttons. On the front, next to the display is a play/pause button and on the side is a volume up/down button as well as a jog wheel.


To power on the device, you press and hold the play/pause button for about 3-4 seconds until the SanDisk logo appears on the display. As long as you have your Cruzer micro plugged in, the MP3 companion will start playing the tracks that it finds as soon as it has powered on.


The menu system is access by depressing the jog dial and it’s from here that you adjust all the settings of the MP3 companion. The first menu option takes you to a choice of play modes, with a range of shuffle and repeat options. The next menu option is the equalizer, which has a range of presets as well as a manual option, so top marks here. Next up is the option to select which folder to play, which is handy if you have sorted your music in folders.


The settings menu enables you to change the screen contrast and brightness, the language – although it only supports English and French, as well as setting the idle shutdown time. The information submenu shows the current firmware version and how much memory you have free. There is also an option for changing the orientation of the LCD, and finally a factory reset option.


The two final menus allow you to delete files and enable the key-lock. All pretty basic stuff, but all the features you need are there.


The sound quality of the MP3 companion is first rate and comparable to much more expensive MP3 players. The only downside I could find is that the MP3 companion had issues playing back high quality MP3 files – music encoded at over 320Kbit caused the player to lock up. This also happened when I played some VBR encoded MP3 files. The problems with certain file encodes is an issue, but it’s not uncommon with MP3 players.


One design flaw is the battery cover, which is only attached to the MP3 companion by a tiny sliver of plastic – this could break off if you’re not careful when replacing the battery. Supplied with the MP3 companion is a set of mediocre headphones, again something that is pretty common with portable audio devices. There’s also a belt clip that’s easy to attach, although I’d rather carry the device in my pocket. Measuring 59 x 49 x 22mm (L x W x H) it is very pocket friendly and compact.


The manual is very basic but covers all you need to know in three pages. SanDisk claims up to nine hours of continuous use on one AAA battery, and having used it for a while now, I wouldn’t dispute that.


But the real icing on the cake is that the Cruzer micro MP3 companion will only set you back £42.89 which makes it an attractive alternative to a regular MP3 player as you get the functionality of a USB memory key as well. In fact you can pick up a 256MB Cruzer micro stick and MP3 companion for less than most 256MB MP3 players, and you get the advantage of carrying multiple memory keys with different music with you.


”’Verdict”’


The Cruzer micro is a small, affordable, pocket friendly USB memory key, although it could do with some faster write speeds. Add the Cruzer micro MP3 companion though, and you’ve got yourself a very affordable MP3 player with removable memory. Neither product is outstanding on its own, but as a combination you can’t really go wrong.

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