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(Pocket-lint) - You probably haven’t heard of Netac, which is surprising because they actually invented the USB flash memory stick way back in 1999 and hold patents in both China and the USA, with EU patents pending.

Indeed, Netac is suing both Sony in China and PNY in the US for breach of that patent. None of which has stopped Netac from producing what is, frankly, the most incredible USB memory stick to pass through our hands here at Pocket-lint.

Yes it sounds geeky, but none the less pass through our hands it did, until we secured it around our neck using the supplied snake-chain necklace.

You see this is one small piece of computing kit, weighing in at just 13g and measuring a miniscule 5.5 x 13.5 x 53mm. The thickness of the body of the thing is only slightly greater than the USB connector itself, dammit! Which makes it the smallest USB memory stick to come complete with built-in security that actually does leave you feeling sure your data is safe.

As yes, let’s get straight to that security shall we? When you stick the stick into a host computer you will automatically see two drives showing, one a "normal" external drive that can be accessed at will. The other is the secure drive, and here your data is only accessible if you enter the correct password.

You can configure how the storage space is divided between the two, and have it all as one big secure drive if you like. You can also configure the retry limit on the password to gain that access, but you had better make sure you can remember it. The big difference between this small drive and others claiming secure data protection is that the Netac device has its 128-bit AES encryption hardwired within and not by way of a third party software shim.

You see when Netac say secure, they mean it. Oh boy do they mean it! Forget your password, hit the retry limit (which is a whopping 255 times by default to prevent early lockout for new purchasers playing around with it), and you can forget your data. The only way of accessing the secure drive under such circumstances is to have the drive unlocked using Netac’s password reset and formatting software. The only problem being that this is only available to Netac’s research and development team, who developed it in-house. So not only will you have to send the drive away for unlocking, the process will securely erase all your data in the process.

If all that were not enough, your data is also secured against corruption using the patented Ultra-Stable Technology system which prevents damage if the drive is unplugged or powered off during transfer. Apparently. We have no idea how this works and Netac weren’t telling us either. But we did whip the stick in and out a few times during data transfer and our data wasn’t scrambled, so perhaps it does actually work.

OK, so it isn’t as small as the Sony Micro Vault Tiny USB which weighs just 1.5g and is only 30mm long. But as well as being a lot more secure, the Netac is also a lot sturdier.

The Sony is plastic all the way, has no connector cap and no lanyard fixing point. The Netac is metal bodied, and sexily so in a black and silver livery, with a matching metal connector cap, and that metal snake-chain lanyard. There is no noticeable flex in the body, and it withstood our patented "Get Davey To Stand On It" test.


For the first time ever we actually got a hot flush about a USB memory stick, and for good reason. The Netac ticks all the boxes: small, sexy, secure and cheap. Just don’t forget your password...

Writing by Davey Winder. Originally published on 1 September 2006.