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Apricorn Aegis Secure Key Review: Nifty Integrated Keypad Safeguards Your Data

At a Glance
  • Apricorn Aegis Secure Key

    PCWorld Rating

    This slender keypad drive is secure and can handily be used with any operating system or device, but performance is subpar.

The Apricorn Aegis Secure Key is the first PIN-secured flash drive we've tested that manages to maintain a svelte profile. It's a tad longer than a standard USB flash drive, but no larger in any other aspect. Despite its relatively diminutive size, the Secure Key's keypad is still relatively easy to enter numbers with, and the unit's aluminum case feels nice in your hand. We tested the 16GB Aegis Secure Key, priced at $125. The company offers 4GB and 8GB models for $65 and $95 respectively.

You unlock the Aegis Secure Key by pressing a key button, entering the PIN via the number keys, and then pressing the key button once more. The green status light blinks steadily, and you have 30 seconds to insert the drive into a USB port. Easy as pie, and removing the drive from the USB port locks it again. Other management actions, such as changing the PIN, are also performed using the keypad, so the unit is truly software-free. Software-free means that you can use the Aegis Secure Key with any operating system or device: Windows, OS X, Linux, tablets, printers, digital media adapters, TVs, and the like.

The Secure Key's keypad is wear-resistant to keep hackers from identifying usage patterns, and the onboard battery that powers the keypad and electronics when unplugged is good for five years or more. Even if the battery fails, you can still use the drive while it's in a USB port. The Aegis Secure Key doesn't support management consoles, but it does have a master PIN that IT departments can use to control fleets of the product. The drive resets after 10 failed login attempts, erasing all data and both PINs, but the AES 256-bit CBC encrypting electronics remain intact.

At the time of this original review, the Secure Key was not FIPs certified. As of Feburary 5, 2013 Apricorn informed us the drive is now FIPS Level 3 certified.

The Aegis Secure Key also proved a sluggish performer--the slowest drive in our June 2012 roundup by a large margin. It wrote our 10GB batch of small files at 4.2 megabytes per second and read them at 11.4 MBps. With a single large file, those rates improved--barely--to 7.5 MBps and 13.1 MBps. That's slow, even by USB 2.0 standards, so if you're looking to regularly secure a large amount of data, the Aegis Secure Key is not the best product.

This flash drive's keypad gives it a huge advantage in ease of use, though, and the fact that you can use it with any device as you would a nonsecure unit is also a boon. It's a great product, but only for relatively small amounts of data.

For our roundup (with chart) of five secure flash drives, jump here.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This slender keypad drive is secure and can handily be used with any operating system or device, but performance is subpar.

    Pros

    • Integrated keypad
    • Works with any OS or device

    Cons

    • Nothing to speak of
    • Slow performer
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