Reviewing the IronKey D300 - Durability meets hardware encryption!
IronKey is a solid brand in the world of data privacy and security. The company develops mostly encrypted storage solutions like USB memory sticks. Since February 2016, they have been acquired by Kingston and now they have also entered the retail space. One of the first few encrypted USB drives that are aimed both at consumers and businesses is the IronKey D300. It’s a USB 3.0 memory stick that’s waterproof, dustproof, with a zinc casing and 256-bit AES hardware encryption. If you want to store data in a secure manner and have it travel with you, the IronKey D300 might just be the best USB memory stick for you. If you are curious to know about this drive, read our review:
Unboxing and hardware specifications
The IronKey D300 USB encrypted drive comes in sober gray packaging which features the model name and two of its most important specifications: it works with USB 3.0 ports as well USB 2.0 ones and it is a FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified device, with 256-bit AES hardware encryption in XTS mode. What does this mean? According to Wikipedia, FIPS 140-2 Level 3 devices provide a hardware cryptographic module and they have tamper-evident physical security mechanisms.
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The drive uses digitally signed firmware and it enforces complex password protection. Encryption and decryption is done on the drive, with no trace left on the host system, and the drive locks down and reformats after 10 invalid login attempts to protect against brute force attacks.
IronKey D300 has a zinc casing and tamper-evident epoxy seal for physical security. It’s also waterproof up to 4 feet. When you unbox it, you will find the USB encrypted drive and a secure wire that you can use to lock the IronKey D300 to your desk, your laptop or other items.
The IronKey D300 is available both as Standard and a Managed model. The Managed model is aimed at large businesses and it features IronKey EMS by DataLocker. This software allows central management of drive access and usage across thousands of drives. Either cloud-based or on-premises, it enforces drive-specific policies, such as password strength and retry limits, and lets administrators remotely disable lost or stolen drives, recover lost passwords and so on.
We tested the Standard model which can also be used by consumers who are concerned with their security or by small businesses.
The drives are available in multiple capacities: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. The model that we tested is 8GB and it promises a maximum 165MB/s for reading data and 22MB/s for writing it. The drives with higher capacities promise higher speeds of 250MB/s read and 85MB/s write.
In terms of dimensions, IronKey D300 is slightly larger than normal USB memory sticks, at 3.06" x 0.9" x 0.47" or 77.9 mm x 22.2 mm x 12.05 mm. It’s also heavier, at 3.8 ounces or 110 grams.
One of the features that you will like about this encrypted drive is that it is both dustproof and waterproof, up to 4 feet or 1.2 meters. It can be safely used at temperatures varying from 32°F to 140°F (0°C to 60°C) and stored at temperatures varying from -4°F to 185°F (-20°C to 85°C).
IronKey D300 is compatible with all modern versions of Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
If you would like to learn more about the official specifications of this device, go to this page: IronKey D300 Specifications.
Features and user experience
The first time you plug the IronKey D300 USB memory stick into a computer, you see only a 14.4 MB drive. If you are using it on a Windows computer, you should run the IronKey.exe software in order to configure the encrypted drive and be able to use it. This drive also contains the user manual in PDF format as well as drivers for it to work on Linux and Mac OS X.
Now, you are asked to select your language. Luckily, the multi-lingual support is quite good, and the user interface is available in 12 languages that you can see listed in the screenshot below.
Then, you have to accept the license agreement and set the password that you want to use on the encrypted drive. This step is mandatory and very important. You must set a password that it is 8 to 16 characters long and contains at least three of the following: upper case letters, lower case letters, digits and special characters like # or $.
Then you are asked to complete your contact information, that can be used if someone else recovers your IronKey D300. This step is optional.
When you are done setting things up, IronKey D300 will format its secure data partition and notify you when it is ready. Now you will see another drive available, with a total capacity of 7.05 GB (if you purchased the 8GB model). You can use this drive as a normal USB memory stick and copy data on it as you wish.
When you plug the IronKey D300 into another computer, you must first provide the password that you have set in order to use it. If the password is introduced incorrectly 10 times, the drive locks down and reformats. If you don’t know the password, the only thing you can do is format the IronKey D300 and reconfigure it from scratch. However, the data that was stored on it will remain safe and unrecoverable.
Overall, we are pleased with how easy it is to configure and use the IronKey D300 encrypted drive.
Performance in benchmarks
No review would be complete without a section about performance, so we ran a few speed tests on the IronKey D300. As we mentioned earlier, we tested the 8GB model, so you should take into consideration that the speed results we obtained are for this model only. They do not apply to models with higher storage space.
First, we copied a 3.3 GB file from our Windows computer to the IronKey D300. Windows 10 reported an average write speed that varied between 22.5 and 23 MB/s. This is inline with the official specifications of this device.
Then, we copied the same file from the IronKey D300 to a separate partition on our Windows 10 computer. Windows 10 reported an average read speed of 212 MB/s, which is better than the official specs of this device.
Next, we used a benchmarking tool called CrystalDiskMark. This program runs tests that measure how fast a drive reads and writes blocks of data. As you can see from the screenshot below, the maximum read and write speeds we measured with CrystalDiskMark for sequential data transfers are even higher than those advertised by the IronKey D300 in its official hardware specifications. Unfortunately though, the random read/write results are rather slow.
For our last round of tests, we used a tool called USBDeview. This utility shows detailed information about all the USB devices that you use. For the USB storage drives that are connected to your computer, USBDeview also lets you run a quick speed test. As you can see from the screenshot below, our 8GB IronKey D300 encrypted drive managed to achieve write and read speeds that are higher to those advertised in its official hardware specifications.
Also, the results were better than those we’ve measured with Kingston DataTraveler 2000 , which, in most shops, is a more expensive encrypted drive.
The 8GB IronKey D300 encrypted drive that we have tested has managed to offer at least the speeds that were advertised by its manufacturer, sometimes more, which is great. We are very pleased with the performance of this encrypted drive.
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Pros and cons
The IronKey D300 encrypted drive has many positives going for it:
- It’s very durable
- It features 256-bit AES hardware encryption
- It is able to destroy your data if someones tries to tamper with the drive, so that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands
- It’s very easy to use and it works on all major operating systems
- It delivers the performance that it promises in its official specifications, sometimes even more
- The value for money is quite good when compared to other encrypted drives
Honestly, we could not find any fault for this encrypted drive.
IronKey D300 is one of the first encrypted removable storage devices that was made by IronKey and Kingston for both the consumer and business markets. It’s a very promising device that looks great, it’s durable and it features everything you need to make sure that your data remains safe and it isn’t accessed by unwanted parties. We also enjoyed the fact that the official specifications in terms of speed were met and sometimes even outperformed by the real-life performance of this drive. If you need secure removable USB storage that you can take with you anywhere, IronKey D300 is a great choice and we highly recommend it.