Fortunately for journalists everywhere, there's more to mention about the Memina Rocket thumbdrive than the predictable rocket-in-your-pocket pun. This USB flash drive offers a well-conceived design with handy features, such as a connected, rotating cap and a keychain hole, that make the Memina Rocket hard to misplace. And the drive's abundant storage capacity (1GB, 2GB, or 4GB) can accommodate even giant movie files. Grab onto something solid before you read the forthcoming price for this package: $280 to $400 for the 4GB version (as of November 2005). That's a mountain of money to pay for any thumbdrive--especially one that lacks bundled password/data-encryption software. If you really have to have this device, try to find a good deal on one from an online reseller. If you can't deal with the price tag, check out the 4GB version of the SanDisk Cruzer Mini, which is sold online for as little as $220 and comes with encryption software.
Memina's engineers did an exceptionally good job with the Rocket drive's design. The 3.3-inch-long device has a gold-plated USB connector that withstood our modest attempts to bend it out of shape. The case surrounding the connector is made of silver plastics that seem durable enough, but at this drive's exorbitant price, we wish its case were made of ultrasolid materials, like the SanDisk Cruzer Titanium's. The connector is further protected by a cap that is permanently hinged to the bottom half of the drive. Rather than having to remove the cap completely and risk losing it, you simply rotate it 180 degrees to the right or the left, exposing the connector. The cap also offers a keychain hole to help you keep tabs on the drive, though the thought of hanging an expensive investment such as the Rocket on an eminently losable keychain makes us nervous. The drive doesn't ship with a lanyard strap or a carrying case, but it does include a long USB extension cable, which comes in handy for connecting the device to hard-to-reach USB ports on the back of your desktop.
In a surprising move, Memina doesn't bundle any of the standard thumbdrive software that can password-protect and encrypt the data stored on the Rocket drive. When we asked the company why, a Memina spokesperson responded that password/partitioning software for Windows (but no encryption software) is available from its Web site--but that doesn't help Mac or Linux users who'd like the drive to secure their data, too. Call us crazy, but when a thumbdrive costs close to $500, we expect it to include all of the extras.
Memina cites maximum read speeds of 30MB per second and write speeds of 24MB per second for the Rocket. In our anecdotal file-transfer tests, the drive lived up to these claims--but only when reading a single 30MB file and writing one 24MB file. The drive performed slower in other scenarios; for example, it took several minutes to write a 24MB file folder that included dozens of individual files. These results demonstrate a real-world truth about USB flash drives: performance will vary depending on the number and types of files you read and write. Memina also asserts that the drive's SLC (single-level cell) NAND memory lasts 10 times as long as standard flash memory. While we couldn't verify this claim, the newer NAND standard is widely considered to be superior to the older NOR standard.
The Rocket ships with a lifetime warranty, which is the best term we've seen in a thumbdrive. The company also offers toll-free tech support, though the phone lines are open only Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. Web support is virtually nonexistent, with Memina's support page simply directing users to send e-mail or call the company for help.