USB Head-to-Head: LaCie XtremKey vs. Corsair Flash Survivor

Josh Norem

T wo rugged flash drives go head-to-head

Rugged USB keys are nothing new, but lately they’ve reached a level of badassery previously only reserved for Maximum PC editors and lumberjacks. We’re talking supreme toughness, with hints of leather, peppered beef jerky, and English Gentleman aftershave thrown in. To see which key is the most badass we’ve assembled the top two candidates— the LaCie XtremKey and the Corsair Flash Survivor —and set out to discover which is the top dog. They are both USB 3.0- and 2.0-compatible, come wrapped in some form of metal, and can tolerate environments ranging from super-heated to ice-cold. We put them through their paces to let you know which key you need in your pocket the next time you’re immersed in glacial waters and then set on fire. No editors were harmed in testing, of course, but these two keys certainly were.

The Corsair Flash Survivor features an aluminum chassis made from recycled airplanes, and is waterproof up to 200 meters.

Round 1: Size

The XtremKey’s 2mm-thick steel chassis makes it almost impenetrable to abuse, but it also makes it semi-difficult to lug around—it’s like having a small boat anchor in your pocket. At 57 grams it’s porky too, so dropping it on your phone or your foot could cause some damage. The Corsair Survivor, on the other hand, is made from anodized aluminum, so it’s incredibly light by comparison at 43 grams, while still being exceedingly tough. Despite its lighter weight, you could still smash the Survivor with a hammer and it would, well, survive, unscathed. Both drives can withstand a lot of punishment, but the Flash Survivor does it without weighing us down too much.

Winner: Corsair Flash Survivor

Round 2: Ruggedness

This was a tough category to thoroughly test, simply because the upper limits of the drives’ endurance was beyond what was available to us. For example, the XtremKey can withstand 10 tons of pressure, but we only had a full-size truck available, and both keys passed the roll-over test with flying colors. Both drives were also baked in an oven at 350 degrees for an hour, sent through a wash and dry cycle, frozen and thawed, and thrown on the ground with all our nerd strength, and neither drive stopped working. The nod goes to the XtremKey though, since it can take more damage than the Flash Survivor due to its metal alloy exoskeleton.

Winner: LaCie XtremKey

Round 3: Software Bundle

This category is an easy win for the XtremKey since it includes a fairly sizable software bundle for a USB key, including backup software, encryption tools ( TrueCrypt ), and a cloud storage utility that gives you 5GB of free storage. The Corsair key, on the other hand, ships with just the key and nothing else; although, keep in mind that the Corsair key is half the price of the LaCie key, but we’ll get to that in a bit. To its credit, the Corsair key works with Mac , Windows , and Linux right out of the box with no additional drivers needed, so that’s appreciated. The LaCie key not only ships with software, but it’s actually good software, which is surprising and helps justify the XtremKey’s high price tag.

LaCie’s XtremKey is extreme alright—in its size, price, speed, and the amount of punishment it can take.


Winner: LaCie XtremKey

Round 4: Performance

This is another easy win for the LaCie XtremKey, as it has more than three times the speed as the Corsair key even though both keys are USB 3.0 rated. The LaCie key is rated to perform sequential reads at 230MB/s while the Corsair key is rated for just 80MB/s, and our benchmarks verified a massive speed differential between the drives. Using CrystalDiskMark, we saw the LaCie key read at 213MB/s and the Corsair key perform at 88.3MB/s. In a real-world 11GB file-copy test, the LaCie key took just three minutes and 34 seconds to write the files, while the Corsair key required a sluggish 13 minutes and 30 seconds, so the difference between the two keys in everyday file use is large and noticeable.

Winner: LaCie XtremKey

Round 5: Value

We’re giving this round to the Corsair Flash Survivor simply because it’s half the price of the LaCie key, even though it holds the same 32GB and is rugged enough for the average card-holding geek. We bought our key for just $40 from Amazon, so it’s actually less than half the LaCie key’s $85 asking price. Sure, you get some great software with the LaCie key, and a little extra ruggedness, but the biggest advantage the LaCie key has over the Corsair is its blazing speed. That is something worth paying for, but not at twice the price. The Corsair key also has a five-year warranty, and the XtremKey just covers you for three years.

Winner: Corsair Flash Survivor

And the Winner Is…

Before we started this test, we had the Corsair Flash Survivor pegged as the key we’d spend our money on since we figured it was probably rugged enough, and it costs half as much as the XtremKey. Now that testing is complete, however, we’ve reversed ourselves, and declare the LaCie XtremKey the winner. Not only can it theoretically withstand more punishment than the Flash Survivor, it includes a full-fledged software package, and was more than twice as fast in our tests as the Corsair key. It’s big and heavy, and yes, it’s expensive, but it’s the full package whereas the Flash Survivor is simply a little too bare-bones in comparison.

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