USB flash drives are small, spacious and incredibly versatile. They can be used to copy files from one PC to another, connected as media to televisions and car stereos or for expanding your laptop’s storage. Also known as memory sticks or pen drives they have become a standard for plugging in storage. If your use is very occasional then just about any flash drive will do. However, if you regularly move large files from one place to another – for eg: movie files to connect to your television or RAW Camera Images from one computer to another you will quickly appreciate the fast speeds that newer flash drives give you.
The Best Pen Drive for Most people
SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 32GB
The SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 is the best bang for buck pen drive giving great performance and speed at a not so expensive price. Depending on file sizes, real life average read speeds varied from 225 mbps to 120 mbps and write speeds from 170 MB/s to 50 mbps making this is one of the fastest flash drives we’ve tested. It’s faster than anything else at this price range. It looks nice, is well built and durable.
Though slightly larger than other flash drives, it’s slim and smooth with a spring-action slider to push out the USB plug. This design eliminates the need for a cap as it protects the connector when not in use. There is a large keychain loop which makes it easier for you to attach it to keyrings, but we found it large for every day carry on a key. There is also a blue activity LED light on the device which flashes when data is being transferred.
As a bonus, the SanDisk Extreme USB Flash Drive comes with SanDisk Secure Access software, which allows you to easily password-protect and encrypt your files using 128-bit AES encryption. All in all, we found this was a package that was hard to beat.
Expansion of Laptop storage
SanDisk Ultra Fit 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
The SanDisk Ultra Fit is a Low-profile USB drive that is as small as a coin. When plugged in, it virtually disappears and barely extends past the edge of the port you plug it into. It is so small that you can barely make out that there is a drive attached. Its unbelievable that there is a 128 GB drive inside. It’s not one of the fastest drives and tests show real life read-speeds ranging from 120 to 30 mbps and write speeds ranging from 85 to 20 mbps (depending on file sizes). It is still faster than many USB 3.0 drives out there, but not the fastest. You have to trade-off speed for its convenience and small size. Our top pick, the SanDisk Extreme is big and will extend out like a thumb, increasing chances of it getting knocked around or accidentally tugged. The Ultra-fit is barely noticeable when plugged in except for the red LED that acts as an indicator light when it’s getting power.
The only downside is that these flash drives do run hot when plugged in for longer durations, which means you may not want keep them plugged in all the time. We think these should be part of a keychain to easily carry data around since the size means you will lose it easily.
How did we pick the best USB Flash storage drive?
While flash drives are dime a dozen, we picked our drives by looking at the following parameters.
- USB 3.0 – Read write speeds are sluggish on USB 2.0 drives and most modern PC’s and Laptops support USB 3.0. There is no real reason to go for slow and outdated USB 2.0 anymore.
- Read Write Speeds – Not all flash drives are made equal. the cheaper they are they slower and poorly built they are. There are huge performance differences between flash drives. The good ones have fast read and write speeds, so you can transfer files quickly. Speeds vary wildly from 25 mbps to around 200 mbps. We eliminated drives which were slower than their claimed 150 mbps. Mind you, we found that most stated read/write speed figures were only indicative “*”maximum speeds.
- Reviews – We went through expert reviews, speed test reports and actual user reviews to shortlist, before testing the drives ourselves.
- Form factor – The ruggedness, portability and versatility of the design goes a long way in its durability and user friendliness. There are several designs where the flash drive head is not protected and we found these ones to have a higher failure rate. The trick is to achieve the right balance.
- Price – Since flash drives are small and compact, they have a tendency to get lost or forgotten. Hence we don’t really recommend spending a lot on them. We also do not recommend keeping critical files on them. Thus we eliminated several expensive drives with “advanced” features like antivirus, Shock proof water proof, etc.
What about Micro USB or USB type C flash drives?
The latest MacBooks’ may have replaced USB Type-A slots with USB type-C slots and it is expected that Type-C will slowly replace USB Type A slots. But that will still take a few years and till then USB Type-A will be the universal port. If you have a MacBook then you can get a “dual” connection drive with both the USB Type-A standard and new USB Type-C reversible or just buy an USB C Adapter. The same applies for those looking to connect a flash drive to their android phones. You can get a flash drive with both USB and a Micro USB connector, but for most purposes a OTG adapter should work just fine.
- SanDisk Ultra 64GB USB Pen Drive – A good entry level purchase, this is of the highest rated flash drives. The Ultra Range from SanDisk are certainly more affordable than the “Extreme” range. However, the transfer speeds are extremely slow and sometimes we found the unit to just slow down to a stop when given multiple large files.
- Corsair Flash Voyager Flash Drive, USB3.0, 64GB – It’s got a durable build and is water resistant and shock-proof. However, the write speeds are around 50 mbps which is considerably slower than our top pick. Not a great pick for most people, unless you plan going swimming with your Flash drive.
- Transcend JetFlash 810 64GB USB 3.0 Pendrive – It’s a highly rated flash drive, but has extremely slow speeds. Avoidable.