If you're gadget fans like we are, all of this digital content creation leads us to need more places to store the stuff we're making.
Fortunately, storage options continue to get less expensive, and more creative. Who would have thought you could wear a storage drive on your wrist? For these and other options for storage, we proudly offer our picks from the 2012 Cool Yule Tools holiday gift guide.
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Note: Products are listed in no particular order or preference. Prices are also rounded-up estimates from either the product's website or Amazon.com. Better deals may be offered online during the holiday season.
Prices range from $15 (2GB) up to $24 (8GB)
The MOH Band provides USB flash memory storage for users, but instead of a hard plastic stick that can be easily lost in a bag or pocket, it's on a flexible silicone wristband (think of those Livestrong bracelets). The MOH Band comes in at least 34 style/color options, and you can even have bands that are customized for groups or businesses.
The size of the bands are aimed to fit a student's wrist - for adults this may cause for a tight fit. The units we tried had 8GB of storage, more than enough room for documents, photos or even a bunch of songs (video files might fill up the memory quickly). Smaller storage sizes are also available (2GB and 4GB).
In addition, Memory On Hand donates 10% of its profits to Scholarship America, so buying this as a stocking stuffer can help provide educational opportunities for the less fortunate.
- Keith Shaw
$15 (for 8GB)
I'll probably never be able to afford a Porsche 911 Carrera S, but I can own a 1:72 scale version of the car and get 8GB of portable storage at the same time.
The AutoDrive series of die cast metal cars are quite awesome - they have the look and feel of old-school Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars, but a slider switch on the bottom can pop out a USB port from the back of the car, letting you insert it into a free USB port on your computer for data storage transfer.
Another cool feature - the headlights on the car light up when the car is connected to the computer, and they blink whenever data is being transferred. If you're not a fan of the Porsche, you can get an AutoDrive that looks like a red Volkswagen Beetle, a white Audi R8, a yellow Lamborghini, a silver Aston Martin or a red Mini Cooper.
At only $15 a pop, these will make great stocking stuffers, and you can tell your gift recipient that you bought them a brand-new car for the holidays. After the joke/shock wears off, they'll still have a great 8GB USB flash drive.
- Keith Shaw
$130 (1TB model, Mac version)
Seagate recently changed the branding of its GoFlex portable hard drives to something more simple - the name of the product basically says what it does. In the case of the Backup Plus for Mac, the USB-enabled portable hard drive provides backup functionality for users of Macintosh computers.
The GoFlex nature of connectors, where users can switch from a USB port to something that's faster (in this case, a FireWire 800 adapter or Thunderbolt adapter), still exists, as long as you're willing to purchase those adapters separately. If you're fine with USB 2.0, then just plug it in to your Mac, and the drive will automatically mount to your system. Because this is a Mac product, the system will ask if you want to use the drive for Time Machine backup purposes. You don't have to do this, but it's nice that it can.
The "Plus" side of Backup Plus is a feature that allows you to save Facebook photos to the drive. You can download what you've already put up on the social networking site to the drive, and the software (downloaded separately from Seagate) will also automatically download any new photos that you upload. It's a cool feature that can help protect digital photos that end up being uploaded from a smartphone to Facebook, for example, without going through a PC.
Other than that it's a pretty basic portable hard drive. The 1TB of capacity should be more than enough for most people (unless you have a budding videophile on your holiday list). Backup and storage isn't usually the sexiest holiday gift, but just like we all used to receive socks and underwear in our stockings, think of this as the "socks and underwear" of technology gadgets.
- Keith Shaw
Being mobile often means sacrificing security for the benefits of convenience and ease of use, but there's no reason these need to be in conflict. We see this in the Addonics CA256USB CipherUSB - a dongle pass-through that essentially encrypts the contents of any USB device plugged into it.
How does it work? Simple. Plug a USB storage device (memory key, hard drive) into the CipherUSB, and then plug all of this into your PC (Mac software is also available). The first time you do this you'll be asked to create a security key; after that, the process is transparent. The OS will see the drive as unencrypted, but all data traffic to and from the USB storage device is encrypted in real time by the CipherUSB.
Thus, anyone getting a hold of your storage device will find it useless (encryption is 256-bit AES) unless they have a CipherUSB and your security key. Yes, this is two-factor authentication and encryption, and at a bargain-basement price!
You can even cascade CipherUSBs for even more security if you'd like (you'd have to be pretty paranoid to do that, but, hey, it's possible). One quick note - this is very important - you really need to store the CipherUSB device separate from your target drive, as there's no real-time authentication here. Someone finding both together will be able to read your data, so you've been warned.