Hardware / Storage Devices

32Gb USB Flash drive on sale, 64Gb soon too

Flash drives keep on getting bigger and bigger. It's a far cry from the early days, where a 64Mb card could set you back $500. Today, 1Gb of flash memory sells for well under $100 while 2Gb flash sizes are now becoming common and don't cost that much more. So, now that a 32Gb model is on sale, just how much will that cost!?

Get ready for this: you'll need to shell out $1499 at Tiger Direct, and that's in US dollars, for the Kanguru 32Gb Flash Max Drive – without shipping!

Kanguru? Well, a quick visit to the company's main website, in the about us section, and we soon discover the history behind the name.

 

Company Founder and President Donald Brown simply wanted a new name back in 1992 which conveyed the idea a mobile storage product ‘hopping' from one location to another. He decided to play on the word ‘kangaroo' and change the ending to ‘guru' to demonstrate the company's expertise. A stylised kangaroo image completed the logo, which looks like a stretched out and speedier version of the Qantas ‘flying kangaroo'.

So the KanguruDisk was born. Back then, the first KanguruDisk was a whopping 20Mb in size. While that's tiny by today's standards, it was huge in 1993. CD-Burners were still expensive to purchase, as were blank CDs, 3.5” floppy disks were ultra common, Iomega's Zip drive was still one year away, and USB sockets existed only in the minds and labs of motherboard designers, if at all. Even Windows 95 was but a twinkle in Bill Gates' eye.

 

How times have changed, and continue to change fast. Kanguru's website lists this drive as being available in a 64Gb size, but only the price of the 32Gb and smaller models is available online. 64Gb drives were predicted to arrive soon, and while there is no price, at least they have been announced and are clearly on the way. Imagine your 5G iPod with 64Gb of flash memory inside... it would be even lighter and wouldn't make a sound.

Sadly you'll probably have to imagine it costing something like $3000+, so while Steve Jobs might be able to commission one just because he can, we'll all just have to wait a little bit longer.

The price will be expensive enough that only a few people will really have the inclination to splash thousands of dollars on a drive that will start dropping in price in no time, especially as everyone else starts releasing their version.

Interestingly, doubling the cost of the 32Gb model might not end up being enough money to pay for a 64Gb model. This is because it's cheaper to buy two 16Gb Kanguru Flash Max drives at $629.99 each for a total of $1259.98 than it is to buy one $1499 32Gb flash drive. Some will prefer to have two physical units however – others will want just the one.

The Kanguru Flash Max line comes with security software that even allows password protection of different partitions on the drive. But a range of features found on competing USB drives (at smaller sizes) show what we can expect from other manufacturers when they release their versions.

We'll see faster read/write speeds, biometric and other security features, the U3 system to run programs on any PC direct from the USB stick itself, leaving no trace on the host computer, USB caps that are hard or impossible to lose, and all of the other variations and more that we see in the flash memory market today.

So, how soon before 128Gb, 256Gb, 512Gb and one terabyte of flash on a stick or memory card? Maybe not until 2010. But at the pace of today's change, you just never know. We could have multiple terabytes of data to hand on flash drives, while hard drives are definitely moving in a much bigger direction, too.

Quite possibly by Christmas 2008, we'll see flash drives in computers really start to replace hard drives in larger numbers, but that might be optimistic. For now, hard drive manufacturers like Samsung and Seagate are making moves to include at least 1Gb of flash memory in a range of new hard drives so that they deliver information to you faster than ever, using the 1Gb as a cache area for often-accessed files.

Windows Vista users who plug a USB flash drive into their computers today can already take advantage of a similar feature called ‘ReadyBoost', giving Vista users excellent reason to buy a high-speed memory card that matches the size of RAM on their computers and leaving it permanently plugged into their computers. Notebook users might find using the memory card socket with a suitable sized card preferable to having a USB stick permanently plugged in, which would also be permanently sticking out.

Samsung and Fujitsu are also shipping very selected models of notebook computer with flash hard drives already. But at their recommended retail prices, they're much more expensive than their hard drive brethren, as you can tell from the price of the 16 and 32Gb USB sticks alone.

You do get longer battery life by using a flash drive, but flash drives also have a problem with read/write cycles. Depending on the drive, they can stop working (i.e. no reading or writing) from 10,000 to 100,000 cycles - it all really depends on the quality of memory used in the manufacture of the USB stick. So it's good to discover that Kanguru's Flash Max Drive has a much more impressive read/write figure - the first time I've seen it so high...

So, while some people are discovering their well used memory cards and flash drives no longer work, flash manufacturers are working on ways to mitigate this problem in the future, and Kanguru have some impressive stats to back up the lifespan of the Flash Max Drive range.

Kanguru quotes a much higher 1,000,000 times read/write cycle using top grade flash memory (known as NAND), while the quote data retention life is 10 years. Read speeds are quoted at 9mb per second, white write speeds are 5mb per second. Other, smaller USB flash drives do have much faster read/write speeds, but not the pure size of 32Gb.

Having faster speeds on this kind of drive would definitely be an advantage, but it would come at a cost that would see this drive even more expensive than it is. Time, larger capacities and simple economics will the price come down soon enough.

To end, we can't leave without a quick update on hard drive technology. As earlier alluded, hard drives manufacturers are not only embracing flash memory, they're also working hard to create huge hard drives for the near future to compete with all these advances in flash technology.

Within the 2009 timeframe (possibly stretching in 2010), Seagate expects to be able to introduce:

- 40GB sizes for 1-inch consumer electronics drives (currently at 8Gb commercially), with 1-inch drives used in phones, small mp3/media players, GPS maps that could hold all the mapping data for the entire plane, future versions of the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS

- 275GB for 1.8inch consumer electronics drives currently used in iPods, other mp3/video players and other consumer electronics devices that don't need to be as small as 1-inch hard drives allow.

- 500GB for 2.5-inch notebook drives, more than double the size of 200Gb 2.5” hard drives only recently announced by Toshiba. Futjistu promises their 200Gb hard drives will arrive in 2007, I'm sure Seagate has plans to introduce them in 2007 as well. We now know they expect 500Gb for 2009.

- Nearly 2.5TB for 3.5-inch desktop and enterprise class drives – the largest single hard drive today is from Seagate and is 'only' 750Gb in comparison, massive though 750Gb is today.

At 2.5TB capacity, a hard drive would be capable of storing 41,650 hours of music, 800,000 digital photographs, 4,000 hours of digital video or 1,250 video games.

The war between flash and hard drives is in full swing, with multi-terabyte sizes at consumer prices on the way in three or four years, with today's devices available at what are in today's terms, incredibly big sizes. And we've more data, documents, photos, videos, music files and more stuff than ever to store in the age of broadband and digital media.

If only we could similarly quicken the pace of advanced battery technologies so they would power our notebooks for a week and our mobile phones for a month or longer before needing a recharge...

Autor: Alex Zaharov-Reutt
Source: iT Wire
Date: Monday, 23 October 2006

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