An average performer and small profile make this a great flash drive for people on the move and requiring large data storage. The 10 year limited warranty also warrants the slightly higher price giving you peace of mind.
Corsair's newest entry into the market of slim-line portable and rugged USB flash drives relies on some tried and tested Corsair designs and tries to innovate at the same time. As flash drives become cheaper and the market is saturated with competition, can they pull off a slim-line drive that provides both good value for money, performance and portability? Read on to find out if the new Flash Voyager mini with a rubberized case and a retractable USB connector is the winner.
As another year passes in the NAND flash industry it becomes harder to find truly innovative products that perform admirably and serve functionality to the average user. The miniature Flash Voyager Mini comes packaged in a hard plastic clam-shell that prevents excessive damage to the drive itself and firmly secures the flash drive since the drive dwarfs the packaging and may be easily lost in the frenzy of unwrapping a new tech toy.
If you've previously owned a Corsair product from the Voyager USB flash drive product line you'll be immediately familiar with the rubberized look and feel of this drive. The Corsair Flash Voyager colors of black and blue are back and are the only options for both 4GB and 8GB Mini variants. The Corsair Flash Voyager Mini features a retractable USB connector that allows the drive to be safely stored away when not in use and thus reduces any potential problems from static discharge while being transported. The mechanism for the retractable USB connector appears very durable and should not trigger without the users interaction. Since the slim USB connector does not have any shielding to protect it's exposed pins there is a increased risk when transporting the drive without the USB connector safely retracted into the flash drive case.
Evolution.... from the original Flash Voyager to the mini.
Considering the amount of USB port mounting variations that exist on today's market I am immensely surprised that there are no extras included. No bundled USB extension lead to attach the flash drive to your computer's recessed front-panel USB ports and no user guide to help coach those new to the era of NAND flash induced technology on how to effectively use this product. The drive comes pre-formatted with a FAT32 file allocation table which will suit most operating systems (Windows Vista, XP, 2000, ME, Linux 2.4 and later, Mac OS 9, X and later) and should function effortlessly across a variety of platforms straight out of the box. From the start you will have 7.51GB (8,070,799,360 bytes) available. No additional software is pre-installed on the drive.
A Corsair Flash Voyager Mini 4GB retails for approximately $20 (excl. taxes) which is quite a fair deal given the good design and decent warranty. The closest competitor I could find in my immediate vicinity is the Kingston Datatraveler Mini Slim 4GB which retails for approximately $22 (excl. taxes) but features no rugged design or retractable USB slim-line port and only a meager 2 year warranty. At the time of writing there was no online availability for the Corsair Flash Voyager Mini 8GB but given the performance and features I would estimate an MSRP of $50.
To test the real endurance of any modern day product, I tend to refer to my 18 month old daughter who enjoys leaving bite marks on anything and everything I touch as a sign of affection. As a responsible adult I supervised her interrogation of the Corsair Flash Voyager Mini and found that none of her usual tricks of sitting, drooling or scratching managed to leave long-term scruff marks on the drive case leaving me no choice but to award the highest of marks for physical endurance on my daughters behalf.
Other mechanical endurance tests included the dreaded 10 minute eraser test which includes rubbing a common house-hold pencil eraser against the product case continously for 10 minutes to ensure no paint or silk-screened labels come off. The drive case was resilient and tough enough not to be visually damaged. As an alternative to the usual drop-test I decided to throw the drive against a brick wall at full force to see if any parts would fall off, I can gladly report that no parts of the flash drive fell off.
Lastly, since the drive is also fairly well sealed I thought it would be worthwhile doing a submersion test but unfortunately the Corsair Flash Voyager Mini had enough from all my benchmark tests and only the NAND flash controller would enumerate/install in Windows Vista /Ubuntu leaving me with an inoperable flash drive.
The Corsair Flash Voyager Mini does support Windows ReadyBoost functionality for those of you looking to add some performance enhancement to your Microsoft Vista operating system experience.
Even though not a subject of performance it is also important to measure the compliance of USB devices to the USB-IF organisations specifications for which the USB-IF offers a free utility called USB Command Verifier which allows you to evaluate the devices inter-operability on USB host controllers that do comply to the USB-IF specification. A failure does not necessarily indicate a non-operable USB device but depending on the type of failure may represent a potential compatibility problem with the USB device being tested. Thankfully the Corsair Flash Voyager Mini passed both Chapter 9 and USB Mass Storage Class testing showing that this device is fully compliant with the USB specification.
For our performance testing we conducted testing on the Flash Voyager Mini 8GB with a variety of file systems (exFAT, FAT32, NTFS) with SiSoft Sandra XII SP2 Removable Storage benchmark on a Microsoft Vista 64-bit Service Pack 1 desktop system since the logic processor found on flash drives can often vary in performance given different file systems and different operating system platforms. As mentioned previously, the drive comes pre-formatted with a FAT32 file system which should give you an indication, depending on your usage, which file system suites you best.
Based on our testing the best performance all-around came from the default formatted FAT32 file table which is what we will be basing our review on. The SiSoft Sandra Removable Storage benchmark indicated that FAT32 read performance on files 256kB or larger is quite reasonable at approximately 9.98-29.87MB/s considering the small size of the drive and the use of MLC NAND flash. FAT32 write performance is definitely the biggest sore point on the Corsair Flash Voyager Mini as any write operations with files smaller than 64MB only write at 2.47-1.07MB/s. Even with file sizes ranging from 64MB to 256MB write speeds never quite reach the magical 10MB/s mark.
SiSoftware Sandra Benchmark
Device Index : 2561 ops/minute
Endurance Factor : 19.50
Results Interpretation : Higher index values are better.
Total Size : 7.52GB
Free Space : 7.52GB, 100%
Cluster Size : 4kB
Manufacturer : Corsair
Model : Voyager Mini
Version : 0.00
Serial Number :
Interface : USB
Removable Drive : Yes
Queueing On : No
Small and portable
Large drive capacity for such a small drive
Retractable USB port
10-year limited hardware warranty
Rather slow write speeds
Exposed USB pins prone to static damage
Can't fit into some recessed front panel USB ports
Wide body may take up more than one USB port
No USB extension lead included
No activity or status LED
No bundled software
While the Corsair Flash Voyager Mini may not revolutionize the USB flash drive market in terms of design or performance, it is a reliable large-capacity drive with a great 10 year warranty and a good feature-set that evolves the slim-line USB flash drive design with its retractable USB port. We recommended this product for anyone serious about moving large quantities of data discreetly from one location to another providing you don't lose the flash drive in your house of tech gadgets first.