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USB Flash Drives: Speed Vs. Capacity

The USB Flash Drive Jungle

This roundup includes products released within one year preceding the publication date of this article. The product selection consists solely of review units made available to Tom’s Guide by vendors. While the products listed here do not constitute a comprehensive listing of all products in the category, they do represent a broad range of what is available to consumers in this category. We will quickly update this roundup with new products as they become available to Tom’s Guide, and soon add data relating to product specifications and test dates. In other words, these roundups are a work in progress. Please check back frequently to see what’s new.

Over the last ten years, USB flash drives have changed the way we think about storing and transporting important information. Starting with the first 8 MB commercial drives from IBM in 2000, all the way to the mammoth 128 GB keys available from Patriot and Kingston in the present, flash drives are now a preferred method of document and media storage. And with your average 4 GB flash drive going for about ten to fifteen dollars, anyone who needs a flash drive can grab one with little hesitation regarding price.

Using a USB flash drive means no more carrying files and papers around, and no more scratched disks. Flash drives (also known as USB keys and “thumb” drives) are here, and everybody's using them, both for work and for fun. But how do you pick the best one? When it comes to the enormous selection of drives available, are they really all alike?

In this latest roundup, we have chosen five different flash drives to help you make your choice. That choice will depend heavily on which you believe is more important: storage capacity or overall speed.

Speed vs. capacity: you'll need to choose

Write speeds differ considerably from model to model; the 64 GB Patriot XPorter Magnum topped out at 14 MB/sec,, while the 4 GB Buffalo Technology Firestix Type S came close to 20 MB/sec., and the OCZ Rally 2 Turbo almost 30 MB/sec. Read speeds for all the tested drives came in around 20 MB/sec., with no major differences between units.

Looks and extra features come first

Certain brands place more importance on the “originality” of their drives, such as the chunky look of the Corsair Survivor 32 GB or the Corsair Flash Voyager Mini 4 GB’s being waterproof. Manufacturers try to outdo each other when creating new flash drives, and are using visual design more and more as a way of making their drives stand out from the rest of the pack.