The SanDisk Extreme Contour packs several features that should appeal to business travelers: backup software, encryption, and the ability to run programs such as Firefox and OpenOffice directly from the device. While its price--$34.99 for 4GB--isn't the cheapest, its attractive, durable design and excellent write speeds make it one of the best USB flash drives around.
The Extreme Contour shuns the dull, plastic bodies that populate the USB flash drive space for one that is refreshingly eye-catching. The top of the drive features a piano-black finish that's so glossy you can see yourself in it, while the sides and bottom are made of flex-resistant metal, which adds a high-end aesthetic. Instead of using a cap that can be easily lost, SanDisk opted for an unique slide-out system: You first slide back the glossy black top to reveal the USB connector, and then push the connector forward until it locks into place. The Cruzer logo glows with a rich blue light when the drive is plugged into a USB port.
The Cruzer Contour offered excellent performance on our tests. Writing a 1GB file to the stick took just 1 minute and 10 seconds (or 14.6 MBps), which proved to be the second-fastest write speed we've seen in the USB flash drive space behind theKingston DataTraveler HyperX(15.0 MBps), and almost double the flash drive average. Read time was just 45 seconds, which translated into a slightly above-average score (22.7 MBps).
Preinstalled on the Cruzer Contour is the U3 platform, which allowed us to emulate a Windows environment and run applications directly from the drive. This allowed us to download and install Firefox, OpenOffice, and other programs that we use in our day-to-day activities from the SanDisk U3 Download Central in U3 Launchpad (a program manager that lets you download applications).
Programs that live on the device by default are McAfee Anti-virus, Dmailer Sync (which let us upload data with 256-bit AES encryption and syncing files), Skype, and a couple of puzzle games (Big Fish Games Sudoku and Mahjong Towers Eternity). The U3 applications proved exceptionally useful, as we were able to fire up our favorite services, with settings intact, whenever we popped the Extreme Contour into a Windows XP or Vista system (the drive only acts as a storage device within the Linux and Mac OS X operating systems).
Video Playback Online (and Off)
Included is the Veoh Web Player, which we launched directly from the flash drive. After creating a username and password, we were soon watching full episodes of 30 Rock, Doogie Howser, M.D., Scrubs, The Twilight Zone, and other favorites in Firefox. The movie selection, however, is severely lacking; outside of John Carpenter's classic The Thing, many of the flicks were forgettable B-movies (like The Toxic Avenger) or low-end black-and-white oldies (like The Mad Monster). But you can do all of this online now.
Using the Veoh Web Player, users can also download thousands of free videos directly to the Extreme Contour, but the selection may be unfamiliar to mainstream audiences. The bulk of it comes from Flow TV, Kush TV, Martial Arts TV, and other lesser-known channels, but material from larger content providers, like Lionsgate Studio, included mostly movie trailers and highlight clips only. We were able to download a 9-minute-and-15-second episode of Model.Live in just over 8 minutes, and play it offline. Being able to view these videos on any notebook is great, but the content itself is lacking.
Priced at $34.99 and featuring a lifetime warranty, the 4GB SanDisk Extreme Contour may have a far higher dollar-to-GB ratio than many other flash drives (typically, you can purchase an 8GB for the same price), but you get nearly best-in-class write speed and the ability to take several of your favorite applications (and settings) in tow as you move from PC to PC. In short, the SanDisk Extreme Contour is an excellent drive for road warriors.