(Pocket-lint) - SanDisk actually sent us two new USB thumb drives in the well established Cruzer range to review, the other one being the Enterprise which is less Star Trek and more The Apprentice. By which we mean it is aimed squarely at the large corporations which require the additional functionality such as mandatory policy enforcement, central management and regulatory compliance. Pocket-lint, on the other hand, is aimed squarely not at the large corporations with such demands. So we are reviewing the Cruzer Professional instead.

Now don't feel hard done by, because this device also delivers the same kind of strong security and state-of-the-art speed of its bigger brother. Which means as well as getting the standard password protection for your files, you also get hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption. Which is a good thing because it removes the weakness of most consumer thumb drives which rely on software security measures that are at risk of compromise from malware on the host PC from which that software must be run.

Oh, we also mentioned state-of-the-art speed didn't we? Well that comes into play in two rather different ways. The first, as you might expect, is the speed of data transfer to and from the device itself. In the case of the Cruzer Professional this is a none too shabby 24Mbps read and 20Mbps write. Although those figures probably mean Jack to you, start using one of these sticks and you soon appreciate that it actually means less time hanging around for your thumb drive to catch up with what you are doing. Which is nice. The second speed related boost comes from the fact that these drives are enhanced for Windows Vista ReadyBoost, which is nicer. Obviously only of any real use to users of the Vista OS, none the less capable thumb drives are few and far between still so it's always nice to stumble across one. What it gets you is improved performance of the host PC, running Vista, by making use of the flash memory space available on your thumb drive as a disk caching device. Cool huh?

But, to be frank, it is the security aspect that floated our boat as it is good enough to sink those of pretty much any pirate out there. Nothing is 100% safe in this world, but hardware based 256bit AES is as close as you are likely to come this side of the secret service. In fact, a secret service is pretty much what the Cruzer Professional delivers courtesy of the configurable Privacy Zones the device provides. These will automatically erase all the data within them if the wrong password is entered ten times in a row. The Cruzer Professional does not have the same "phone home" trick as the Enterprise model though, which is a shame. This lets it log into the management network console when it is plugged into the Internet after being lost or stolen and be sent a command to terminate the drive issued automatically. How cool is that? We will tell you. Ice cold, matey!

Apart from being a bit on the big and ugly side compared to some thumb drives on the market, there really isn't a lot to be said against the Cruzer Professional. We would be a little happier if it came in the same titanium casing as some of the earlier Cruzer range (or even the metal casing of the somewhat bulkier but just as secure Stealth MXP) rather than the less than confidence inspiring, and supremely boring, silver grey plastic livery. But if beauty is on the inside, then this is one good looking thumb drive…


If you truly value your privacy, the security of your data and happen to be a Windows Vista user then this is a very tempting package indeed at this price.

Writing by Davey Winder.