Imation Defender F200 Biometric Flash Drive Review: Secure but Slow
By Jon L. Jacobi
At a Glance
FIPS 140-3 level 3 validated
Very cool biometric finger swiping and FIPS 140-2 level 3 make this flash drive super secure. But it’s expensive and only a median performer.
Everyone wants to feel a little James or Jane Bond-ish once in a while. And nothing beats the Imation Defender F200 biometric flash drive when it comes to spylike sex appeal. Pull your flash drive out, slap it in your notebook, swipe your finger across its biometric fingerprint reader it to enable it, and voilà, you’re in.
The Defender F200 is not only stylish, it’s highly capable. The drive has been validated to Level 3 of the FIPS 140-2 government security guideline–a lengthy and expensive process. The device uses hardware AES 256-bit encryption and may be configured to use the biometric scanner, a password, or both for a double layer of security. You may also specify two separate fingers to be used for validation. Excuse the morbidity, but it’s recommended that you use a finger from each hand in case you lose the use of an arm. The F200 Biometric, you see, is designed for with the military in mind.
The biometrics and Level 3 certification deserve a heavy premium, but the price for larger-capacity F200s scales particularly poorly, as in government-procurement poorly. As of 4/15/2012, a 4GB Defender F200 cost $159 and a 64GB model, $649–way beyond the extra cost of the memory. Given the slow performance, you should probably stick with lower-capacity units till a USB 3.0 model arrives.
Imation bundles its ACCESS Standard software with the F200 to manage it. The software is portable–that is, it runs from the CD-emulating partition of the flash drive without installation and supports both PCs and Macs. It’s also easy to use and efficient. You configure the scanner, set passwords, and can even reset the drive with it–given the proper authority, that is. ACCESS allows you to administrate multiple users and devices. The drive may also be managed via a server version of ACCESS and McAfee’s ePolicy Orchestrator, which is the basis for part of the DoD’s HBSS (Host Based Security System).
The Defender F200 does have a weakness: performance. With our 10GB batch of smaller files, the unit wrote at 7.7 megabytes per second and read at 18.6 MBps. With a single large 10GB file, those numbers improved to 10.0 MBps and 19.3 MBps. But CMS’s CE-Secure Vault FIPS, Kingston’s Data Traveler 4000 Managed, and Kanguru’s Defender 2000 are vastly better overall performers.
Despite its high price, the Defender F200 will attract buyers: The Level 3 FIPS 140-2 certification, its manageability, and its undeniable wow factor add up to a very attractive product for high rollers or those with access to the public coffers.
For our roundup (with chart) of five secure flash drives, jump here.