The primary purpose of a USB flash drive is to make it easier to transfer files on the go, and PhotoFast's i-FlashDrive HD takes that concept to another level. It's the only USB drive of its kind that features an integrated Lightning dock connector, which means you won't have to search for Wi-Fi or a USB stick and an adapter to transfer photos from your iPhone or iPad to a PC. But is the convenience worth the $170 price?
The PhotoFast i-FlashDrive sports a sleek design with a white, glossy plastic body. It features the same shiny white exterior that's become the staple of Apple's accessories and chargers. On one end you'll find a USB 2.0 plug and on the other is a removable Lightning dock connector compatible with Apple's iPhone 5, iPad 3 and iPad 4. The 9-pin connector acts as a cap that comes off to reveal the 30-pin dock connector for previous generation Apple products.
Measuring 2 x 1 x 0.3 inches and weighing only 0.6 ounces, the PhotoFast i-Flash Drive fits into the palm of your hand with ease.
After plugging the PhotoFast i-Flash Drive into your iPhone or iPad, it prompts you to download its accompanying app. After the installation, you can begin transferring and managing files immediately.
PhotoFast's utility app is smooth, intuitive and organized, resembling the interface you would find in an iOS Settings menu. When opening the app you're greeted with four options: You can choose to back up your contacts, view files on your iOS device, add files to the flash drive, or use the cloud to interact with your Dropbox account.
However, we found the Dropbox integration to be sluggish and buggy when we tried to connect our account. Pressing the "Dropbox" button directs users to a screen where they are asked to enter their email address and password, but the app froze on multiple occasions when we tried to do this.
The PhotoFast app makes it easy to create folders and port photos from your device. A "+" symbol at the bottom of the screen launches a sub-menu of actions. Clicking the "From Library" option automatically breaks down your photo gallery into three neat options: Camera Roll, Instagram and My Photo Stream. After choosing a photo, the app lets you customize the image quality and photo size before transferring it to the drive. The i-Flash Drive took no time to copy a 1.09 MB photo at the highest image quality from our iPhone 5.
The "From Clipboard" option will create a new file in the Local Storage category and paste any text you've copied from a Web browser or the iPhone's Notes application. The drive also offers an option to record voice memos, and you can also choose to back up or restore your contacts through the "Contact Backup" option on the Home screen.
Moving and copying files to different sections of the device was a breeze. The top of the screen contains Home and Edit options, and the edit button allows you to delete, move, copy or email any file.
You can also choose to password protect your files by pressing the lock icon at the bottom of the screen. After pressing the button, you can select files to lock and create a password to access them.
While the i-FlashDrive app supports MP3 music files, there's no way to retrieve music from your iPhone or iPad. You can, however, copy music from your desktop or laptop to the flash drive. The app also features an integrated music player that will play back songs; it sports an interface similar to iOS' native music player.
Although the PhotoFast i-Flash Drive impressed us with its user-friendly app, it performs slowly compared to USB 3.0 drives. During our LAPTOP File Transfer test, it took 18 minutes and 9 seconds to copy a 5GB folder of multimedia files from our notebook to the PhotoFast i-Flash Drive, equaling a rate of 4.7 MBps. This is far slower than other flash drives such as the Patriot Supersonic, which performed the same task in 2 minutes and 4 seconds (41.3 MBps).
The PhotoFast i-Flash Drive copied files to our notebook much quicker, executing the task in 5 minutes and 4 seconds (16.7 MBps). However, this is still slower than the Patriot's speedy Memory Supersonic (93.1 MBps).
Not only does the PhotoFast i-Flash Drive perform slowly when transferring files, but it's also pricier than standard USB 3.0 drives. The device comes in four configurations: 8GB for $99, 16GB for $150 ($170 with the Lightning tip), 32GB for $200 (Lightning tip included) and 64GB for $329 (Lightning tip included).
By comparison, the 32GB Patriot Supersonic USB 3.0 stick costs just $39 on Newegg, and Apple sells a Lightning to USB Camera Adapter for $29 on its site.
The PhotoFast i-Flash Drive makes it fairly easy to transfer files to and from your iPhone or iPad and PC. With a standard thumb drive, you'll miss out on the intuitive and fluid user experience of managing files that PhotoFast's app offers. It's up to you to decide if this convenience is worth the high price tag and middling transfer speeds.