Transcend JetFlash WLAN

By Joseph Moran

May 04, 2004

Like any product that combines features -- in this case, wireless and storage -- there are trade-offs, but luckily the JetFlash overcomes most of them.

Model: TS128MJF-WL (128MB) or TS256MJF-WL (256MB)
Price: $80 (128MB) $112 (256MB)
Pros: Up to 256MB of storage, hardware switch to turn off radio radio
Cons: Only supports 802.11b, removable cap can be lost

Sometimes the most useful products are not truly new, but simply convenient combinations of two existing products. The Transcend JetFlash WLAN is the latest example.

Like the SMC EZ Connect Wireless USB Flash Drive, the JetFlash melds an 802.11b WLAN adapter and a USB Flash drive in a single compact device. The JetFlash takes the concept a step further by providing storage capacity more akin to dedicated USB flash devices. The SMC provides only 32MB of storage, but the JetFlash is available in either 128MB or 256MB versions without much of a price increase.

Physical differences between the two devices are immediately apparent. The JetFlash WLAN measures approximately 3.25 x .75 x .5 inches, and thus manages to fit a lot more memory into a slightly smaller package than the SMC.

Transcend includes a neck strap for the JefFlash WLAN, as well as both a USB extension cable and hinged adapter to allow the device to attach to devices with recessed or otherwise hard-to-reach USB ports.

The JetFlash WLAN lacks the SMC's useful retractable cap that protects the USB port when not in use. Instead, the JetFlash makes do with a conventional removable cap, which is likely to get misplaced as it's not tethered to the device. The JetFlash does the SMC one better by providing a hardware switch that can toggle the WLAN radio on and off, which is a lot more convenient than doing so through software.

Like all USB storage devices the JetFlash is plug and play. No driver software is required to use the storage device on Windows 2000 or XP. The JetFlash conveniently pre-installs its Wi-Fi utility software on the client. Admirably, the file is placed on its own partition of less than 2 MB so you can keep this file separate and not risk accidental deletion as you perform file maintenance on the main drive.

Of course, if you're using Windows XP you won't need this software either. That's probably a good thing, since the utility is fairly crude. On the other hand, I didn't have any trouble connecting the device to a number of different wireless networks. A driver for Windows 9x systems is provided on the included CD.

Like most devices that combine more than one function, the Transcend JetFlash WLAN does impose limitations. Obviously, its 11 Mbps maximum data rate can't take full advantage of the growing numbers of 802.11g networks. Because the interface supports only USB 1.1, file transfers won't be as quick as some dedicated USB drives that take advantage of the faster performance of USB 2.0.

Rarely, however, does convenience come without a price. 802.11b and up to 256MB will probably sufficient for most. Until someone comes out with a wireless flash drive that supports 802.11g and provides storage in the 1 GB+ range, the JetFlash WLAN is the closest you can get to a no-compromise device.

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