Lexar JumpDrive Mercury: Awesomest JumpDrive Mercury Ever

I’ve handled many USB flash drives, from ones that simply hold data to biometric drives that scan fingerprints to U3 drives that let you store and launch your favorite apps no matter what PC you’re using. The Lexar JumpDrive Mercury is top to bottom one of the most full-featured drives available, with great read/write speeds and a modest price at just $50 for 1GB (a 2GB model is just $70). This is an early review. Expect to see the drive available in a few weeks.

For starters, the bow-tie-shaped compact key has an e-ink display on top letting you know your exact remaining capacity without even having to plug in the drive. The display is shatter-proof, too, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking if you toss it in your bag. That alone is worth buying this drive for, but Lexar didn’t stop there.

Concerned about security? The Mercury features the company’s Secure II encryption-tools software. The app lets you create password-protected partitions on the drive as well as secure individual files with 256-bit AES encryption. There’s also a strong file-shredding utility that can be used to destroy files you drag into the interface, anything in the recycle bin or write over the free space on a drive. Plus, Secure II works on both Mac and Windows computers. In my tests the software was not only easy to use, but extremely effective.

Finally, Lexar pre-loaded the drive with the PowerToGo software platform. Basically, it works the same as the U3 platform, allowing you to load up the USB key with software that can be launched on any Windows PC.

Installing software is as simple as following a link from the PowerToGo Start Menu, picking the programs you want to have and following the prompts. There are a number of free and trial applications to choose from.

When PowerToGo is launched (it can be set to start upon the key’s insertion or manually) it drops a small, movable toolbar on your desktop. A click on the icon in the center of the bar pops open the Start Menu giving you access to the apps you have stored on the drive. You’ll find links to launch Microsoft Office programs as well—Word, Excel and PowerPoint—as well as Outlook Express and Internet Explorer. However, these are not the full products, but links to launch the full versions if they are installed on the PC you’re using.

Again, this is a well-designed, well-executed USB flash drive and if you’re in the market for one that goes above and beyond simple mobile storage, you want the Lexar JumpDrive Mercury.