The software SanDisk installs on the Cruzer Micro is of particular value and sets the drive apart from similar USB devices that have no preinstalled applications. Called U3, it's a platform for installing and running applications directly from your USB flash memory device. Plugging the Cruzer Micro into a Windows-based PC automatically places the U3 Launchpad in the Taskbar. When its icon is clicked, the Launchpad (which looks very similar to the Windows XP Start Menu) pops up, offering a list of available preinstalled programs, including a U3 tutorial, Skype, an antivirus application, and CruzerSync for automatically synchronizing and encrypting files. CruzerSync also syncs Outlook e-mail and settings, in addition to Web browser bookmarks. In addition to all the preinstalled applications, the Launchpad also provides a link to an online ecosystem of downloadable applications, such as the Firefox Web browser, the Trillian multiprotocol instant-messaging client, and theOpenOffice.org productivity suite. Though you can create "portable" versions of most of these applications yourself, U3 makes setup a much simpler, faster process. U3 makes it remarkably easy to take not only your documents but also your settings and applications with you without needing a laptop. SanDisk reserves about half the Cruzer Micro's storage for the U3 system and applications; however, the Launchpad includes an uninstaller for those who want a simple USB mass storage device.
The Cruzer Micro supports most recent versions of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems, but the U3 software works on Windows only. SanDisk makes absolutely no performance claims about the Cruzer Micro, and for good reason: it's shockingly slow. Our casual test (we averaged the time it took to copy 886.15MB of documents, spreadsheets, music, and movies to the key three times) showed an actual write speed of just 2.2MB per second, or about five times slower than the Crucial Gizmo Overdrive.
As of August 2006, the Cruzer Micro comes in capacities of 512MB to 4GB. Our 2GB version can be found online for roughly $65, making it roughly 3.3 cents per megabyte, which is an excellent price; the Crucial Gizmo Overdrive is roughly 5 cents per megabyte.