The Lexar ExpressCard is a solid state drive (SSD) that is available in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB capacities. The card, as its name implies, fits into ExpressCard slots that are found on many recent notebooks. This offering from Lexar provides additional storage space, a place to do backups or a nice chunk of flash memory that can be available for the ReadyBoost feature built into Microsoft Windows Vista.
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The Lexar ExpressCard SSD is available in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB capacities. For this review, I have the 8GB model in hand. According to the press materials, the selling points are that the card can provide a high-performance, high-capacity backup option and/or it can be used with a Vista computer to increase system performance with ReadyBoost. Lexar includes backup software that allows you to set up automatic backups.
As with most flash-based devices, usage is pretty simple – just plug it in. When inserted into my notebook, running Windows Vista, I get the AutoPlay menu that allows me to view the files in Windows Explorer or set up the device as a ReadyBoost device.
If you browse the contents of the card, you’ll see an instruction manual and application file for Lexar’s NoTouch Backup software (Windows XP and Vista compatible only). The software is incredibly easy to use and creates a single archive file when you perform a backup. Even if you need to restore, things are still simple. If you’d prefer not to use the included software, you can always use the built-in Windows backup system (if you’re on Windows), or just copy files over using your file manager.
If you’re running Windows Vista, the Lexar ExpressCard SSD can be used as a ReadyBoost device. When using ReadyBoost, the computer uses the flash card as another way to cache data. Without ReadyBoost, your computer uses your hard drive to cache data that is not needed in system RAM. A ReadyBoost device lets the computer use the flash drive as cache space as well. While it may not have faster transfer rates than your internal hard drive, the flash card has very fast access times. This is why ReadyBoost can speed up your system. To use the Lexar ExpressCard SSD as a ReadyBoost device, you can choose the option on the AutoPlay menu or right click on the drive in Windows Explorer, find the ReadyBoost tab and apply your settings.
Main hard drive, higher transfer, but slower access (view large image)
Lexar ExpressCard SSD (note the access time) (view large image)
If you’re looking for a compact backup solution or want some ReadyBoost lovin’, the Lexar ExpressCard SSD will do the trick. For backups, you can use the included software or use any other software that can write to a removable disk. Since you can hide 4GB, 8GB or 16GB into your ExpressCard slot, you don’t need to lug along an awkward external storage device or any cables. If you do use the device as a ReadyBoost device, you can actually leave some space for backup as well. My system has 2GB of system RAM, so Windows suggested a ReadyBoost cache size of 4GB, leaving 4GB (approximately) for additional storage. The Lexar ExpressCard is a good backup solution for people who are often mobile and don’t need to backup their entire machine.