Apacer Handy Steno AH161 plus USB 2.0 Flash Drive
A brainwavez.org Hardware Review

South Africa By: Mandy J Watson on 1 March 2010
Category: Tech > Hardware > Reviews
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The design of USB flash-memory storage devices has come a long way from the grey, thumb-sized units with a company logo that were (and still are) handed out at corporate events. They've now evolved into playful fashion accessories, such as this one, that will appeal to anyone with even the vaguest aesthetic leanings.

Apacer Handy Steno AH161 plusApacer's Handy Steno range of flash-memory storage devices that begin with the number "1" comprise its fashion range - units, such as the AH160, that have a well refined aesthetic appeal and functionality beyond what is usually expected of these kinds of storage devices. The Apacer Handy Steno AH161 plus, therefore, fits right into this range with its gold highlights and small, but attractive, matte-black housing, all designed to evoke a jigsaw-puzzle theme (can you tell I've written one too many articles for décor magazines?).

The unit is another with a no-loss cap design. The gold cap unclips to reveal the connector, which is full size, not slightly shortened like that of the Apacer AH160, so it should fit into recessed USB slots on netbooks. The cap can then be clipped into any of the three recesses on the black part of the housing (even the one at the back, which is partly obstructed by a small metal ring for the chain). The cap clips firmly in all three positions and, for some reason, only one way - there's a subtle design mark on the front (the U-shaped recess on the protruding clip) that indicates the difference between the front and the back.

When the cap is clipped over the USB connector, however, there is a little bit of play and the two grips inside the cap seem to rub against the metal parts of the USB connector, so I don't know if that might cause wear-and-tear problems in the long term. The gold "leaf" is also starting to peel off inside the cap of the (brand-new) review device I have - it looks as though in the manufacturing process it wasn't applied properly on the inside - but it's too early for me to say whether or not in time this will also happen on the outside.

Apacer Handy Steno AH161 plusThe gold "puzzle piece" in the center of the unit's chain is actually held to its housing with a magnet and can be unclipped, which I only realised when I was going through the press photos as there are no instructions on the pack - I initially just thought it was a decorative extra to complement the upmarket design of the unit. This magnet clip, therefore, (officially termed a "magnetic buckle", which I've just seen in the product's data sheet) makes it easier for you to hang the unit on your handbag, camera, or phone as a fashion accessory, which is its intended purpose (though not really a viable thing to do in South Africa). I had thought that the way to do it is to unscrew it from the chain (which is another way that you can do it) but the magnetic buckle is a much easier method.

Alternatively, if you're not into all of that and just want the storage unit (which, in itself, is a very well designed piece of hardware, you can unscrew all the extra bits and pieces and leave them at home.

I must admit that when I first saw the announcement of the unit's release late last year I wasn't convinced of either the aesthetics or the potential appeal of the clip-on cap's mechanism. However the photos really don't do it justice and its only in using it that I've come to love its clever design, although I might personally, in time, end up unclipping all the (to me) unnecessary leads and chains and just stick with the elegant, compact unit.

On to the tech stuff. It may look good, but does it perform?

The unit is available in two capacities, 4 GB and 8 GB, and Apacer sent me the 8 GB unit to review. I've switched to a better program for testing read/write performance and am standardising on five runs of 100 MB of data and five runs of 1000 MB of data, the results of which you can see in the tables.

Apacer Handy Steno AH161 plus
Benchmark Results
CrystalDiskMark 2.2
Settings: 5 passes, 100 MB test size
(5 tests run; results in megabytes per second)
Test TypeTest 1Test 2Test 3Test 4Test 5
Sequential Read:10.19010.19010.19010.19010.180
Sequential Write:4.2024.2114.2264.2284.231
Random Read 512 KB:10.22010.18010.18010.18010.200
Random Write 512 KB:0.6910.8040.6480.6480.701
Random Read 4 KB:3.9783.9683.9523.9563.935
Random Write 4 KB:0.0070.0070.0070.0070.007
Settings: 5 passes, 1000 MB test size
(5 tests run; results in megabytes per second)
Test TypeTest 1Test 2Test 3Test 4Test 5
Sequential Read:10.22010.24010.26810.31410.314
Sequential Write:4.2044.2114.1934.2064.198
Random Read 512 KB:10.22010.22010.16010.26810.268
Random Write 512 KB:0.6690.6850.6920.7240.736
Random Read 4 KB:3.9333.9973.9044.0123.828
Random Write 4 KB:0.0060.0060.0060.0060.006

The speeds are good, though not the best that Apacer units have to offer, and as one might expect, the unit gets warm, but not hot, while running.

Finally, there's a blue LED inside the housing near the back that indicates read/write operations and, once again, the unit comes with Apacer's ACE (Apacer Compression Explorer) software for Windows, which you download separately off the Apacer web site - you gain access with the unique product code on the back of each package.

Apacer Handy Steno AH161 plus

This is a good all-round device, suitable for its intended purpose, storage, as well as an attractive gift for friends with flair.

The Apacer Handy Steno AH161 plus review unit was provided by Apacer.

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Rating: 8/10

Key Facts
Manufacturer: Apacer
Storage Capacity: 4 GB, 8 GB
Weight: 5g
Dimensions: 39.9x16.8x6.8mm (LxWxH)
Interface: USB 2.0 certified, backwards compatible with USB 1.1; supports hot swapping
Power Supply: USB bus powered, no external power supply necessary
Power Consumption: 115 mA (maximum)
Performance (Maximum): n/a
Indicators: Blue LED (detect, read, and write)
Operating System Support:
Windows: Windows 98*, Windows 98SE*, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and above
* drivers required
Mac OS: Mac OS 8.6 and above
Linux: Linux 2.4.0 and above
Operating Temperature: 0°C to +60°C (+32°F to +140°F)
Storage Temperature: -20°C to +60°C (-4°F to +140°F)

On The Internet
Apacer Handy Steno AH160 Product Page: Apacer Asia/Pacific | Apacer EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa)

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