Even with the abundance of cloud storage options, I think everyone should carry a USB thumb drive (flash drive) in their Every Day Carry (EDC) kit. It is still the fastest, most efficient and most secure way to move information from point A to point B.
For every online cloud service there are 100 different types, brands and models of USB thumb drives. To save you time and money, I did all the homework and the USB thumb drive you should buy is the SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 32GB model (link).
What you should consider when buying a USB thumb drive
In summary, there are only 5 elements to consider when reviewing USB thumb drives:
- Performance (read / write speed)
- Durability (this thing will be beaten constantly and you want something that will protect your valuable data
- Carry-ability (the drive should be as light and small as possible)
- Design (some thumb drives are so thick they'll use one USB port and block another)
Update your thumb drive regularly
Technology improves quickly and this truth applies to computers, tablet, smartphones and of course USB flash drives. An award winning drive from last year likely was dethroned by something faster, better and cheaper this year.
I bring this up because many readers hold on to USB flash drives until they die but considering how much performance changes, you may want to refresh your primary everyday carry thumb drive at least once every 18 months.
The thumb drive evaluation
There are thousands of thumb drives available on Amazon, DHGate.com, Aliexpress.com, etc. In preparation for this article I read thousands of reviews, articles, test results, etc. I used all of this information to compile a list of my top 10 devices. These 10 devices had the best performance, competitive pricing, great design and tones of positive reviews. The brands that made my top 10 are the ones you would expect : Sandisk, LaCie, Patriot, Lexar, Corsair, Transcend, Mach, Kingston.
I then acquired brand new versions of each for testing and ran them through the following CrystalDiskMark (link) tests:
- Sequential Read / Write
- 4KB Random Read / Write
- 512KB Random Read / Write
- Copying small files
- copying large files
In summary you have to be careful of the USB 3.0 moniker as some drives perform as slow as 35MB/sec and others can deliver close to 200MB/sec. As an example the Toshiba TransMemory-EX 32 GB delivered up to 300MB/sec performance whereas the Patriot supersonic was below 40MB/sec. USB 3.0 does not mean the manufacturer has maximized performance.
The Winner is
After many hours of testing, the best value (see 5 characteristics above) was the Sandisk Extreme USB 3.0 32 GB drive. It performed fantastically well is every performance test. It's performance blows away the speed of any mechanical hard drive. To really maximize its throughput you need to pair it with a PC containing a good SSD.
When you consider that you can pickup a 32GB version of this drive for around $US40, it is almost as cheap as the crappy no name brand cheap thumb drives from China.
Although the drive is USB 3.0, it is backward compatible with USB 2.0 drives. Even if you only have USB 2.0 right now, buy this drive because your next PC (home or work) will definitely have USB 3.0.
The runner ups
If you see any of these cheaper than the SanDisk, it would still be a good deal to consider.