SMC EZ Connect 2.4 GHz 11 Mbps Wireless USB Flash Drive
February 04, 2004
You got your Wi-Fi adapter in my flash storage keychain-drive device -- no, you got your flash storage in my Wi-Fi. Actually, this unit is both in one package.
Pros: WLAN adapter and flash drive in a single compact device
Cons: Supports 802.11b only, limited storage
Just when you thought a wireless USB WLAN adapter couldn’t get more interesting, SMC has released its 11 Mbps Wireless USB Flash Drive (WUSB32).
I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the WUSB 32 is a USB flash drive that’s also a WLAN adapter, or a WLAN adapter that’s also a USB flash drive, but either way, it’s two useful functions in a single compact product.
Like most integrated multifunction products, the WUSB32 has some limitations, but they won’t be significant for many users. As the product’s name indicates, it’s a straight 802.11b device so it will only connect to 802.11g networks configured for mixed mode. Also, the unit’s 32 MB of storage will likely be sufficient for most workaday data needs like PowerPoint or Word docs, but it will fill up fast (or may not be large enough for even one file) if you’re dealing with fat audio or video.
The compact WUSB32’s is no larger than a typical flash drive, and the device’s USB connector is protected by a retractable cover. Should connecting directly to a USB port be inconvenient for some reason, a 2 ft. USB cable is included along with a plastic bracket you can clip to the lid of a laptop. For those who like to wear their data, you can connect a neck strap to the WUSB32, though a strap isn’t included.Installation of the WUSB32 on a Windows XP notebook wasn’t difficult (Windows versions back to 98 Second Edition are supported as well), though it did stall a few times requiring me to manually point to a couple of driver files on the CD. The WLAN adapter and flash drive respective drivers are installed separately. WUSB32 shows up in Windows’ Device Manager as two separate devices, and you can, for example, disable the WLAN adapter for security reasons while continuing to use the storage drive.
SMC smartly puts a copy of the installation software on the flash drive to save you the trouble of having to travel with the CD, but given that the 8MB file consumes fully 25% of the storage capacity, the convenience may not be worth it. You'll want to copy it to your hard drive at the very least.
The WUSB32 is a USB 1.1 device, so its performance is limited to 12 Mbps. Then again, it’s not going to take very long to read or write a mere 32 MB. In a stopwatch test, it took 8 seconds to copy an 8MB file off the device, and about 12 seconds to write the same file back.
With an online street price of between $55 and $65, the convenience of the WUSB32 does involve a slight cost premium considering that you could purchase a compact 802.11b USB adapter and a separate 128 MB flash drive for not a lot more money than what the SMC costs. But then you’d have to carry two devices around your neck and you'd look foolish.
With even 802.11g USB WLAN adapters and flash drives as large as 512MB currently on the market, I wouldn’t say the 11 Mbps Wireless USB Flash Drive gives you the best of both worlds. However, it does give you a good taste of each, and for those with modest storage and performance requirements, a taste may be all you really need.