I've seen flash drives perform better at both drop and crush testing, but Corsair's Flash Survivor GT 8GB flash drive has good all-around durability that kept my data safe after being shown no mercy.
Not completely content with rubber's above-average durability, Corsair decided to go all out with their latest thumb drive, the Flash Survivor GT 8GB. Forged from aircraft grade aluminum in the CNC mills of Mount Doom, California, this drive is designed to take a beating while providing transfer speeds unfathomable by mere I/O controllers. Read on as we brutally take the Flash Survivor to its limits in our in-depth review.
The Flash Survivor GT 8GB wastes no time in showing off the rugged look of the drive. From the stenciled SURVIVOR text and camouflage pattern of the box art, to the ball chain lanyard with a Corsair-emblazoned dog tag, it's clear that the Survivor is meant for more than just office work.
What actually protects the drive is the thick anodized 6061 type 2 aluminum tube, complete with two endcaps that fit inside the tube for structural support and the drive being permanently attached to the thinner of the two ends. At either end of the drive are two rubber collars for light shock protection, although they're actually better used as grips for unscrewing the drive from its tube. Also on either end are two ring holes, so it's up to you to determine if you want to attach the ball chain lanyard to the drive or the housing.
An EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) rubber seal, known for its resistance to high temperatures and tearing, is also in place at the edge of the screw threads to keep water out of the drive at depths up to 200 meters. After unscrewing the 8GB flash drive from the tube, you can see that it's quite thin, and won't block neighboring USB ports. A small blue LED will flash on the topside of unit to indicate drive activity.
Survivor GT Performance
Like the Flash Voyager GT before it, Corsair's Flash Survivor GT 8GB claims to offer read and write speeds up to 34MB/s and 28MB/s respectively. And also like the Flash Voyager GT, I couldn't hit the posted speeds. Those numbers are based upon the raw throughput of the drive, while Corsair's own internal findings for the Flash Voyager GT (with presumably the same internals as the Survivor GT) were actually 33MB/s and 23.4MB/s on a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo system with 2GB of memory and an ICH8 chipset.
I tested the Flash Survivor GT flash drive on three different systems, and each time hit a performance cap that was consistent with each system. While I'm unable to determine which group of components is acting as the bottleneck, these different-yet-consistent caps tell me that the bottleneck is definitely my own test machines and not the Flash Survivor, which ironically joys and saddens me at the same time. My fastest results (but not by much) were recorded on a Core 2 Duo system clocked at 3.01GHz with 2GB of RAM and an Intel ICH8 chipset. These are the numbers that I'll be reporting in the benchmarks below.
First up for the synthetic benchmarks is SiSoftware Sandra, which produced read and write speeds of 23.5MB/s and 20.3MB/s respectively during the larger 64 megabyte file test. For smaller 512 byte files, the Flash Survivor GT managed speeds of 2.5MB/s and .5MB/s respectively.
SiSoftware Sandra Benchmark
Combined Index : 11783 operation(s)/min
Endurance Factor : 20.5
512B Files Test : 16554 operation(s)/min
32kB Files Test : 11750 operation(s)/min
256kB Files Test : 4482 operation(s)/min
2MB Files Test : 620 operation(s)/min
64MB Files Test : 23 operation(s)/min
Results Interpretation : Higher index values are better.
Performance Test Status
Run ID : ALEX on Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 5:12:46 PM
Processor Affinity : No
System Timer : 3.6MHz
512B Files Test
Read Performance : 39102 operation(s)/min (2607 kB/sec, 17x)
Write Performance : 8335 operation(s)/min (556 kB/sec, 3x)
Delete Performance : 11024 operation(s)/min
File Fragments : 1.0
Combined Index : 16554 operation(s)/min
32kB Files Test
Read Performance : 20618 operation(s)/min (10996 kB/sec, 73x)
Write Performance : 6308 operation(s)/min (3364 kB/sec, 22x)
Delete Performance : 11840 operation(s)/min
File Fragments : 1.0
Combined Index : 11750 operation(s)/min
256kB Files Test
Read Performance : 5025 operation(s)/min (21440 kB/sec, 142x)
Write Performance : 3196 operation(s)/min (13636 kB/sec, 90x)
Delete Performance : 10135 operation(s)/min
File Fragments : 1.0
Combined Index : 4482 operation(s)/min
2MB Files Test
Read Performance : 699 operation(s)/min (23859 kB/sec, 159x)
Write Performance : 403 operation(s)/min (13756 kB/sec, 91x)
Delete Performance : 10127 operation(s)/min
File Fragments : 1.0
Combined Index : 620 operation(s)/min
64MB Files Test
Read Performance : 22 operation(s)/min (24030 kB/sec, 160x)
Write Performance : 19 operation(s)/min (20753 kB/sec, 138x)
Delete Performance : 1537 operation(s)/min
File Fragments : 1.0
Combined Index : 23 operation(s)/min
Endurance Test Status
Operating System Disk Cache Used : No
Use Overlapped I/O : No
Test File Size : 32MB
Block Size : 512 byte(s)
File Fragments : 1
Endurance Benchmark Breakdown
Repeated Sector ReWrite : 473 kB/s
Sequential Sector Write : 436 kB/s
Random Sector Write : 15 kB/s
Total Size : 7.7GB
Free Space : 7.7GB, 100%
Cluster Size : 4kB
Next we have Simpli Software's HDTach RW benchmarking utility, which accesses the drive at a low level to provide more accurate results. Here I was able to hit average read and write speeds of 24.3MB/s and 21.8MB/s, with a burst speed of 25MB/s. Random access time was a pleasantly low 0.6 milliseconds.
For real world performance, a 622MB CD image was moved to and from the flash drive using Microsoft Robocopy, a command-line utility that reports speed statistics at the end of the transfer. Copying the image from a defragmented hard drive to the Corsair Flash Survivor GT 8GB took a mere 31 seconds, averaging 20MB/s. Copying the file back to the hard drive was even faster at 27 seconds, averaging 22.8MB/s.
While I'm sure they exist, quite frankly I can't envision many jobs that would warrant the over-the-top protection offered by the Flash Survivor GT flash drive. After all, the older Flash Voyager has proven to be quite reliable, having been thrown many times from a roof, submerged in water, and taken for a cycle through the washer and dryer in our own reviews here at EverythingUSB. 3rd partyreviews also had the drive baked, frozen, boiled, and stomped on by LAN gamers to great success.
Still, after having lost the Flash Voyager GT to a tragic run-in with my car tire, I can only wonder if the $20-30 price difference between the Voyager GT and Survivor GT is worth it. After all, this is my invaluable data I'm talking about. And while no real durability statistics besides the new 200m submersion depth have been published, the drive does appear offer better resistance against the elements and crushing forces at a minimum. Okay, it's on to the fun part of my job now.
For the first test of endurance, I decided to test the drive's water resistance. Now unfortunately there aren't any pools 200 meters deep here in Columbus, so I had to settle for the 12-ft depth of my local swimming pool. Attached to a ball of yarn, the Flash Survivor GT 8GB was laid to rest at the bottom of the pool for a whole 20 minutes before being retrieved. Immediately unscrewing the drive, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not a drop of moisture penetrated the tube's housing.
For the second test, I decided to get on the garage roof and chuck down the Flash Voyager as hard as I could. The first time resulted in a few scrapes in the aluminum from the hard concrete below, but the drive was otherwise okay and still working. The second throw proved to be less encouraging, as the endcap that was supposed to be permanently attached to the tube actually flew off on impact. Luckily my friend was able to capture this moment on video.
If I had to guess why this cap came off, there are two reasons. First, both times when the Flash Survivor hit the concrete, it was hitting the endcap, and not the side of the tube where the rubber collars would somewhat dampen the shock. Second, the permanently affixed endcap is only attached to the inside of the tube by a 1mm thick collar, using glue no less.
Still, even after those nasty drops the drive was still able to be removed from the housing and connect to the computer. However, my appetite for destruction wasn't satisfied yet so I snapped the cap back on until it was flush with the tube by banging it against some bricks. Now placing it under my Honda Element (3500 pound curb weight), I backed over the drive multiple times. In the aftermath of the brutality, I found more scrapes and dings in the aluminum, I could no longer unscrew the drive using my bare hands, the cap came off again, and the exposed USB connector was slightly bent downwards now but still in perfect rectangular form.
Plugging the drive into a computer, I was amazed to see that it still worked, especially since the tire passed over the drive twice after the cap flew off. Two vice-grips later, the drive could be unscrewed from the housing again. This marks the second flash drive following the Cruzer Titanium to actually survive my deadly wheels, although I can't help but wonder how the drive would fare if it were dropped from a high-rise window. Were I to test this, I'd put more faith in the Voyager than the Survivor to be honest, since its rubber housing bounced through multiple high drops without a scratch when I tested it.
What's comforting however is that even after all the durability tests my data was still intact, so nothing was permanently lost. And the nice thing about the Flash Survivor GT's 10 year warranty is that Corsair will replace the unit under just about any circumstances so long as you have the remains of the drive, even if it has "somehow been split in two," according to a Corsair representative. Should the tube housing get lost, replacements can also be had for free by contacting their support team. The lesson to be learned from this is that the Survivor will most likely survive its encounter with fate, after which you can retrieve the data and have Corsair grant the Survivor a new lease on life.
Doesn't take up adjacent USB port
Generous 10-year warranty & support
Endcap attached to tube by 1mm collar and glue
Hard to unscrew first time
Still working after being submerged in 12' of chlorine water, chucked from a roof and backed over by my SUV multiple times, it's obvious the Corsair Flash Survivor GT 8GB lived up to its name. And while the tube housing may not have met my expectations with its flying endcap, it did protect my data, and Corsair's generous 10-year warranty will grant it a new lease on life. Throw in some of the fastest speeds I've ever seen on a thumb drive, and I highly recommend the Flash Survivor GT for those with active lifestyles.