We rather liked the old SanDisk Cruzer Titanium memory stick, so when this new model appeared in the office at 15mm smaller yet with twice the capacity of our old 512MB unit, we leapt at the chance to test it. Literally. In fact we let the reviewer's 8-year-old son leap at the Cruzer Titanium with a variety of hammers, his bike, a rather large steel toe-capped boot and even (don’t tell his Mum) the family car.
You see, SanDisk make a rather astonishing claim about this particular memory stick: that of being "mechanically crush-proof to more than 2000lbs" to be precise. The Liquidmetal Technologies advanced titanium alloy casing is, pound for pound, stronger than steel and has high corrosion and wear resistance, apparently. So we thought we would put this "extreme ruggedness" to the appropriate test, which means forgetting all about mechanical crush-testing under laboratory conditions and instead letting an 8-year-old "smash happy" boy loose with it on the driveway.
Having ensured that the USB connector, the weak point in the whole device, was retracted safely into the casing, Billy first tried a simple re-booting test. That is, he jumped on it while wearing one of his Dads steel toe-capped work boots. Escaping pretty much unscathed, the retraction mechanism still worked and so did the drive itself when we stuck it back into the laptop.
Billy visited the garage and emerged asking if he could do the "ammerfor" test. What’s an ammerfor, I replied. "Hitting it with" was the childish response. First up was the relatively lightweight rubber mallet, which literally bounced off of the Cruzer leaving no damage at all. Undeterred, Billy returned to the garage and came back with the big guns: well, a sledgehammer. Dropping this on to the Cruzer from a height of 2 inches was unspectacular, so Billy tried again from 6 inches. This had the desired effect of making the retraction mechanism a little stiffer than it was before, but otherwise nada. The Cruzer was still happy to plug and play like new.
Next in line was the BMX test which, as you might have guessed, involved riding a BMX bicycle over the memory stick at varying speeds, and even the odd bunny hop directly onto it. Although everything still worked after this, the Cruzers titanium casing was starting to look a little worse for wear it has to be said. Which meant only one thing, the ultimate memory stick durability test: being driven over, repeatedly, by a car. But which one, that was the question. We decided against the 4x4 as that might be a little too rough and ready and heavy, and the sports coupe too light. In the end it had to be the family saloon, usually deployed for the school run and shopping trips.
Amazingly, despite ending up rather battle scarred, the device worked better than ever after the car test. The connector retraction action was back to normal, the car having evened out the earlier hammering damage, and it all fired up first time in the laptop.
Impressed? You betcha! Even the blue LED was still working fine.
Of course, there is more to a memory stick than the case and whether it can survive in the company of a mad boy for an afternoon. In the case of the Cruzer the other big selling point is the U3 platform support. This provides a secure launchpad that enables you to install portable apps directly on your memory stick and run them from it as well, on any PC, without leaving data behind when you are done. Everything from the Flash-based tutorial to the slick brushed metal look of the U3 launchpad is well done. SanDisk have even pre-populated it with a host of useful applications, although some will require registration and/or subscription to keep using beyond evaluation.
The Cruzer does no such thing when it comes to performance either, positively zipping along at read/write speeds of 15Mbps/9Mbps. It is small (7 x 19 x 58mm), light (21g), capacious (1GB as tested) and very, very rugged yet looks pretty enough, especially when the blue LED is glowing.
This is one USB2 stick you can take anywhere, and be pretty sure will still be working when you come back, even if that "anywhere" was a warzone...