The Lexar Echo MX is one of the more innovative USB drives we've tested. The main reason: There is a small gauge that shows the capacity level, even when the 128GB device is not plugged in. An included backup program, free 2GB of online storage, and speedy operation make the pricey Echo MX ($500) an option worth considering for those who need a lot of capacity in a tiny package. Read on to find out how this drive performs.
Measuring just 2.6 inches long, the Echo MX is the smallest drive we tested, but we had to wonder about its construction. When the idea is to rely on this drive for backups, you want to make sure it holds up to abuse. Weighing 0.96 ounces, the MX's all-black plastic build felt a bit cheap compared to the Patriot Memory Supersonic and the Imation Defender F200, both of which have metal cases. A thin strip along the top that looks like an E Ink display fills up as you load the Echo MX with your files, which helps this drive stand out.
The Echo MX drive includes the same Dmailer backup program that comes with the SanDisk Ultra Backup USB drive. Setting up the drive took less than five minutes, since the software is so easy to install and configure. The software has 128-bit AES encryption and automatically backs up files.
There is one extra step with the Echo MX, since you have to create an account on the Dmailer service for online backups. While this OEM service has its own website (www.dmailer.com), you can't login directly from its website; you have to go through the backup app. That means you can't check your online backup from any computer unless you install Echo Backup first. The 2GB of online backup is free, but a more useful capacity of 30GB costs $35 per year.
Among the USB 2.0 thumb drives we tested, the Lexar Echo MX drive was one of the fastest. Copying 5GB of files (including a 2GB HD movie) to the drive took 6 minutes 8 seconds, a rate of 13.9 MBps. That's about 20 seconds slower than the Imation Defender F200 (14.8MBps) but more than two minutes faster than the SanDisk Ultra Backup (9.8 MBps).
Copying the files back to our laptop took 3 minutes 30 seconds, a rate of 24.4MBps, which beat out the SanDisk (18MBps) and the Imation (20.7MBps) by a fair margin. Still, it took the USB 3.0-enabled Patriot Memory Supersonic drive just 2:04 to write those files, and just 55 seconds to pull them off.
The main issue we had with the Lexar Echo MX was not the speed or software, but the price. The 128GB drive we tested costs $500--$3.90 per GB--but the 8GB version is also a bit expensive, at $45. (The Echo MX is also available in 16, 32, and 64GB capacities.) By comparison, the 64GB Patriot Memory Supersonic costs $210, which is just $3.30 per GB.
We like the Lexar Echo MX's read and write speeds, its intuitive backup software, and 2GB of online storage. However, for the amount of money the Echo MX costs, we wish it felt more durable. Still, its fuel gauge is a decided benefit to anyone who wants to know at a glance just how much free space they have.