The Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 80ES is a solid-state USB storage device with password-protected XTS-AES 256-bit hardware encryption. So far, so relatively commonplace. However, what makes this device particularly interesting is that instead of requiring software to unlock the drive, it relies on a built-in touchscreen that lets you key in your PIN or password, making it completely standalone.
The 2.8in, 240 x 320 pixel, full-colour, resistive touchscreen is sufficiently large and sharp to present instructions and other information in a clear fashion. Whether it’s tapping a number into the pinpad, navigating a full alphabet of characters for a longer password or reading the setup instructions, you really can rely just on the screen.
Passwords can be 6-64 characters long, with the latter option making for a very secure key but one that will be a pain to input one character at a time on this touchscreen. It’s doable but you wouldn’t want to do it regularly.
For shorter keys of between 6-12 characters, the touchscreen works well – the resistive touch response also means you can tap precisely with a fingernail (or stylus or any other fine object that won’t scratch the soft plastic surface), rather than being forced to use the pad of your finger, as would be needed with a capacitive touchscreen.
Initial setup is simple. Just plug the drive into a computer and the device will boot up – which takes roughly ten seconds – and present you with the option to enter your desired password. Once entered, the device will connect to your computer and show the contents of the drive, ready to be written to. If you want to disconnect the drive, you just tap the screen, hit the ‘Lock and disconnect’ button, then choose to either ‘power off’ or ‘unlock’ the device.
Upon subsequent connections, if you use just a numeric PIN for unlocking the device, it will present the numpad in a scrambled fashion. This further helps security by ensuring people can’t just look for fingerprints or scratches on the screen to inform their password guesses. Including boot up and unlocking, it takes roughly 20 seconds to get access to your files. Admin and user passwords can also be created to further manage access of the drive.
The device itself is quite bulky for an SSD, with dimensions of 201 x 82 x 17mm. It uses a single USB Type-C socket for connection, and includes both Type-A to Type-C cable and Type-C to Type-C cables. A neoprene carry case is also included, which will be sufficient to keep most scratches at bay, although it won’t protect against harder knocks. The drive isn’t waterproof.
Transfer speeds aren’t blistering. In our transfer tests, the drive took one minute 53 seconds to transfer 23.7GB (eight files) to the drive and one minute 38 seconds to read them back, for transfer speeds of 210MB/sec and 242MB/ sec respectively. Transferring a folder of 4,785 files totalling 4.92GB in size took three minutes and five seconds to write to the drive and 55 seconds to read back.
In terms of cost for the capacity, you can certainly get larger, much faster drives for a lot less. The very fast Samsung T7 is just $200 for a 2TB drive, while Kingston’s own 2TB XS2000 is also around $200. However, encrypted drives demand a premium and the inclusion of the touchscreen adds to the price too.
The Kingston Ironkey Vault Privacy 80ES is a fantastic encrypted drive system for those seeking large, secure, portable storage without the hassle of extra software. The touchscreen interface works well and totally takes the headache out of accessing your files. It’s not particularly fast or cheap, but it’s fast enough for most uses.
+ Pros + Convenient touchscreen password input + Large capacities + Very secure yet very easy to use - Cons - Not very fast - Expensive compared with ‘normal’ drives - A little slow to boot up