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Retractable Thumb Drives: SanDisk Cruzer Contour & Memorex M-Flyer Pilot

As USB thumb drives grow in capacity -- to 4 GB under $100 and 8 GB under $200 even for higher-end drives -- they become more valuable as they hold more of our digital stuff. And yet we also want style and performance and convenience, and rugged designs to keep up with our active lives. It's also time to get rid of the protective little end cap which always wants to hide, and move to designs with a retractable USB connector. Of course, these drives need to be a bit larger to enclose the connector, and simply to add some protective bulk so they don't disappear with the cap.

The SanDisk Cruzer Contour has a unique sliding design to protect the retractable USB connector.

The Cruzer Contour is rugged and fast and high capacity (up to 8 GB), but the design is really striking. It has a glossy black body that slides within a silver metallic outer frame. Slide the body back and then then forward to extend the USB connector from the end of the body, and then slide it forward and then back to retract the connector into body. There's even a tiny flap that flips over the end of the connector to cover it completely.

The drive also provides performance, writing at 18 MB/sec, and the reading at 25 MB/sec. It also supports ReadyBoost for Microsoft Windows Vista.

The drive includes Windows-only U3 software for taking your desktop on the road by running applications directly from drive, plus password protection with AES hardware encryption. These include Skype, SanDisk CruzerSync to synchronize files, Protecteer SignupShield Passwords, plus Big Fish Games - Sudoku and Mahjong Towers Eternity. It's priced at $99.99 for 4 GB, and $189.99 for 8 GB.

Another example is the newly updated Memorex M-Flyer Pilot with higher capacity, a "splash" of color, and a spring-loaded, retractable USB connector.

The M-Flyer Pilot's USB connector slides within the outer shell. Push the end to extend the USB connector out the other side, and then press the button to have the connector spring back into its retracted position.

The drive includes Windows-only Mingo security software for password protection and encryption, and is Enhanced for ReadyBoost for Windows Vista. It's priced at $49.99 for 2 GB (silver and blue), and $79.99 for 4 GB (silver and red).

See more in the Portable Storage Gallery, under Flash USB Pocket Drives.

Find the SanDisk Cruzer Contour on Amazon.com
Find the Memorex M-Flyer on Amazon.com

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