The USB 3.0 d is a marvelous piece of engineering. It is phenomenally fast and decently secure. The only caveat is that encryption relies on ECB for security.
August 2010 Anthony Garland
Even by just looking at the Super Talent SuperCrypt you know its big. To be precise it is 3.74″ x 1.34″ x 0.6″ (95mm x 34mm x 15.4mm). To put this in perspective this drive is slightly “taller” than a 2.5″ hard drive, is almost as deep as a 3.5″ hard drive but is luckily a lot thinner than either. The very first thing I though of when seeing this shiny metallic beast was it was an over sized “zippo” lighter. This probably is because it uses a shiny “metallic silver” plastic for its body that is very striking looking, yet does have a similar shape to that of an old fashioned cigarette lighter.
The reason Super Talent made the SuperCrypt, “super sized” (and the RAIDDrive which share the same size chassis) is simple: this is not your typical flash drive. This bad boy is a true SATA solid state drive with a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 bridge chip tacked on to make it work over USB rather than SATA. This is also the secret to its power and its enhanced performance. The other reason for the added girth is the fact that this bad boy also has built in hardware AES encryption / decryption abilities. This combined with its super performance is what makes this a SuperCrypt flash drive.
While it is a big looking drive, it does not weigh nearly as much as you would think it should. I wouldn’t call it “light” let alone use words like “flimsy” as it does have a good robust feel to it, but it is not as heavy as a brick either. This certainly is a good thing as while it is as large as brick no one in their right minds would want to carry around a brick in their pants pocket no matter how fast a brick it was. Considering ultra portability is the whole reason the flash drive niche exists this is certainly a good thing.
Unlike the Super Talent Express USB 3.0 flash drive I looked at recently, the Super Talent 32GB SuperCrypt does not have a built in lanyard at the rear of its casing. This is to be expected as while Super Talent claims this drive is “ultra portable” I have to wonder what they are using as their comparison. After all, it is ultra portable compared to a 2.5″ Solid State drive, and it certainly is ultra portable compared to a 3.5″ hard drive, but much like the SuperCrypt, I wouldn’t want any of these hanging around our neck.
The rear of the Super Talent 32GB SuperCrypt USB 3.0 flash drive does have one nice feature worth mentioning. Much like most flash drives, this wee beastie has a integrated LED which glows when attached and blinks rapidly while being accessed; however unlike many, this drive’s LED glows a nice subdued blue when attached to a USB 3.0 port and red when attached to a USB 2.0 port. With a simple glance, you instantly know what kind of speed you are going to get out it.
One of the biggest selling features of the Super Talent 32GB SuperCrypt USB 3.0 flash drive is its built in hardware 128-bit AES encryption. AES is one of the better encryption schemes out there and the 10 pass 128-bit version is very, very strong. Having this built into the hardware and not software of the SuperCrypt is a great feature but does come with a few caveats. Before I get to these caveats if you are not precisely clear on what AES is and why it is so good (from both a security and performance point of view) here is a long graphical based explanation for it (that even has “TL;DR” versions built in.).
The first of these caveats is that unless you buy the PRO version, the SuperCrypt USB 3.0 flash drive uses ECB or Electronic Code Block mode which is the equivalent of using a bank vault with 3 feet thick walls and 2 foot thick front door and sticking a hundred dollar lock on it. It will keep most people out and even some criminals but ECB really does negate a lot of the power of AES and if is going to be a weak link. It is literally one of the simples forms of modern encryption techniques you can use. This is not a good thing. Please don’t get me wrong it still will be pretty difficult to break but it is for this reason I personally consider the SuperCrypt not acceptable for ultra sensitive records. This also explains the lack of FIPS higher level certification for this model. If you are storing company secrets on a flash drive (which is insane to begin with) splurge and get the Pro version which doesn’t only use 256bit AES but uses XTS mode and not ECB.
The other caveat is that no matter how good your encryption is, if you don’t use a strong password your are taking off that hundred dollar lock from your vault and sticking a ten dollar bicycle lock on instead. It will keep honest people out, but that is about it. This is not the fault of Super Talent, rather it is inherent with all encryption based programs.
The third caveat is if you do pick a hard password, that is impossible to guess… for all that is holy do not forget it or your cool Super Talent 32GB SuperCrypt turns into an expansive paper weight and / or conversation piece as you WILL be locked out until you remember it.
With these caveats in mind, let’s take a look at the software which comes with this bad boy. As with the Super Talent Express, the SuperCrypt has a small ROM chip built in with an auto run feature. This small 6MB’ish ROM has one program on it, namely the encryption/decryption software. In its default state, the SuperCrypt is setup with no password. If you want to take advantage of all the power this powerhouse packs, you need to set a good strong password. When this is accomplished every time you plug in the drive you will need to access the software program or your system will not even see a drive attached. It will however, see the ROM “drive” so even if you have auto run disabled you still can use this bad boy.
Another nice feature is you can turn off the password protection and do a secure erase of it, without destroying your data. This is nice as if you decide at a later date that you really don’t need all that encryption power, you won’t have to spend any time reloading your precious data. This is a very sweet bonus. All in all, this software is certainly basic in its approach, but it is very straight forward and you don’t need to be a crypto-analyst to use this beast.
The last thing worth mentioning is unlike the Super Talent 32GB Express Drive I reviewed recently the SuperCrypt does not come preloaded with the enhanced drivers. You need to literally go to Super Talent’s website and download them manually. Super Talent helpfully includes a piece of paper to remind you of this and where you need to go, but this is an oversight and really, really is potential negative compared to the cheaper Express Drive which has that an impressive program built in. This drive needs those custom drivers to give you all its power, yet because you need to manually do it on every system you use the SuperCrypt on this flash drive can’t really be considered a “plug and play” device like the Express Drive is.
This drive may technically be classified as a flash drive because of its USB interface but pretty it acts more like a SATA based Solid State Drive. Bloody impressive is the only way to describe these results.
Impact of the Custom Drivers
To see exactly how big a performance boost the custom Super Talent driver’s gives the 32GB SuperCrypt USB 3.0 flash drive, I also reran my favorite synthetic benchmark Crystal DiskMark without the software running. To accomplish this I simply uninstalled the drivers, turned auto run off, disconnected the drive and then reattached the drive before running CDM. This is what I found out.
While the difference is not night and day there is a significant boost in performance when you use the custom ST drivers. While it does take a couple minutes to setup (as you have to chose multiple drivers during the setup) Super Talent does have a nice and simple PDF on their website that will walk you through the process. Honestly, with such a significant difference in speed (especially on reads), this just reinforces my opinion that Super Talent dropped the ball by not doing what they did with the Express Drive and having an auto load program do all this work for you.
Honestly, the reason some of these numbers are not even better is because my solid state drive was the bottleneck. Yes, this beast is so fast in real world scenarios that an internally attached SATA drive is going to be the slowest part of your setup. Good this thing is just perfect for installing Windows 7 via USB. With speeds like this a OS installation will not be limited by your DVD drive… but by your freaking “OS drive”. Can you say fast?
This drive certainly is big and easily qualifies as “over sized” in my books. I truly don’t know how Super Talent can call it “ultra portable” as to my way of thinking ultra portable is my Flash Voyager Mini, which the Super Talent 32GB SuperCrypt simply dwarfs. Ok with that out of the way, I can honestly say after using this drive for a four days straight that it isn’t so large as to be annoying. I did prefer to store it in a “sports jacket” business jacket front pocket rather than in my suits pants pocket. Of course I also prefer this front vest pocket for my wallet so maybe I am just odd as I don’t like putting anything in my front pants pockets when in a suit.
With jeans I honestly didn’t find carrying the SuperCrypt USB 3.0 flash drive in my pants pocket any great annoyance. I simply stuck it next to my wallet and didn’t notice it digging in or in any shape or form making itself a bother. With that being said, unlike the Super Talent Express Drive, I always knew what pocket I had placed it in. All in all, I wouldn’t call this a “ultra portable” flash drive, but it is just as easy to carry around as my Corsair 32GB Voyager GTR, and was much faster to use. Heck, this drive is so fast I found myself reaching for the SuperCrypt rather than my external 2.5″ drives.
When it comes to blocking motherboard USB ports, the SuperCrypt flash drive is easily one of the worst offenders I have ever used. To put it bluntly, it is going to block both the port underneath it (if your case’s front IO panel is like most and groups the USB ports in groups of two) and may even block the adjacent side ports if the next cluster is near by. It is a big drive and none of this came as any surprise. Luckily, this drive is so fast that the chances of you needing to plug in a second storage device while using this beast is slim. By the same token the lack of USB extension cable, like the one Corsair includes with their Voyager GTR, is an oversight on Super Talent’s part. They know this is big drive and it is also an expensive drive, the least they could do is include a cheap three dollar cable to mitigate all this compatibility issues.
This is easily the first “flash drive” that is fast enough I could seriously consider using it as a boot drive; or at least a boot drive in a system that had USB 3.0. I could see myself setting it up as an ultra secure portable device for portable FireFox, Thunderbird or other MyRaid software that I could simply plugged in, used and then unplugged when done so as to not leave any tracks. You could do this without any real loss of performance as its read speed is simply awe inspiring and its write performance is nothing to sneeze at either. It literally is faster than a high end solid state drive at reads and just as good as many hard drives at writes. All crammed into a chassis that while large for a flash drive is pretty small for an external storage device. This drive is not a mere “flash drive” it is a Solid State Drive, just one that happens to use a USB 3.0 connector rather than your typical “disk” drive’s SATA port.
There really is only two quibbles I have with this drive. The first is it needs drivers that do not come preloaded on the device so you do have to spend more time setting it up then you do the Express Drive. The other minor annoyance is its reliance on ECB encryption scheme. Super Talent has paired one of the better encryptions out there with a really, really less than optimal implementation of it. It still will be strong enough to protect you against common e-thugs and the like but I don’t see many corporations switching over from IronKey products to this drive. That is a crying shame as this is a very, very good drive that has performance to spare.
If you are looking for a blazing fast drive, that while on the large side is still small enough to fit in a pocket, and want decent security on your data then the Super Talent SuperCrypt USB 3.0 flash drive should be on your short list. If you want even more protection or more speed then you will need to either step up to the USB 3.0 RAIDDrive for speed or the SuperCrypt Pro for real hardcore encryption protection.