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Nine USB 3.0 Flash Drives For Road Warriors

High-Performance Drives

Intel recently announced its Thunderbolt technology, previously known as Light Peak. The interface offers 10 Gb/s upstream and downstream bandwidth, and aims at facilitating the connection of many peripheral classes to your computer. Monitors, printers, and even all types of storage devices can use a single cable type now.

But the technology's potential is far from being realized. Thunderbolt will not be interesting until the end of the year at the earliest, due to a lack of devices. At first, drives, devices, and controllers will all be more expensive than the USB 3.0-based hardware currently conquering the mass market, and the fact that Apple's MacBook Pro is the first real Thunderbolt-based platform makes the new interface somewhat exclusive.

USB 3.0’s 5 Gb/s bandwidth already looks outdated in the lightning flash that is Thunderbolt. But the fast storage devices on the market today prove that this is not the case at all. We brought nine of those products to our test lab for a broad comparison. Among them are some very fast models that should satisfy the most time-pressed road warriors, and all without Thunderbolt.

Trends in Mobile Data Storage

USB thumb drives are storage sticks generally the size of a cigarette lighter that, nowadays, range up to 128 GB or so, though we know that higher capacities are coming up shortly. We observe that many of these devices offer performance levels that no longer lag so severely behind SSDs running natively over SATA.

Read data rates of up to 200 MB/s are already possible via USB 3.0. Some devices fall off significantly when writing because of the physical characteristics of MLC NAND flash memory, though they can usually match the write transfer rates of older 2.5” hard drives. This means that, in everyday life, it is increasingly possible for large amounts of data to be copied to a USB drive at really pleasant speeds.

The Cloud vs. the Flash

The current hype surrounding cloud computing suggests that data in the future shall be stored exclusively on the Internet. Applications like online storage, online backup, and online office software (Google Docs or MS Office Live Workspace) make this future somewhat tangible. At some point, it may no longer be important to know where our bits and bytes are stored.

But until total broadband Internet access becomes available, accessing files and programs stored ”in the cloud” is not possible in real-time for many users, making cloud storage solutions only suitable for data that doesn’t have to be accessed very quickly. In home and small business computing, the trend is still to store data locally on hard drives or NAS servers, and, only if necessary, to turn to online solutions.

Security and Quick Access Are Most Important

It's not just us, either. Most users prefer to keep their important data (correspondence, password management programs, scans of ID cards or bills, insurance documents, contracts, messenger history, email data files) safe and under their direct control. It is also increasingly common to protect this type of data with encryption using software like TrueCrypt. It allows data to be stored safely on the device of your choice. For this type of application, thumb drives are naturally appropriate digital companions. They are small enough to fit on a key ring, but large enough for the aforementioned types of data, and now, finally, fast enough for enthusiasts.

  • spectrewind
    Conclusion: This article ignores encryption.

    The article is a complete failure. You THG people ignored encryption as a metric. Why??!!
    Flash drives are cheap. Company information and regulatory items (HIPAA for example) are priceless.

    I'm a "road warrior" that depends on a flash drive for my daily work: IRONKEY. My employer provides it. I am legally required to use it. It is hardware encrypted. The drive might be stolen or lost, but the data will not seen by any unauthorized user.

    If I lose my drive, the physical media is lost. I have medical databases that I am required to keep secret via government regulation. My drive will wipe itself after 10 incorrect login attempts.
    Do any of the reviewed drives on THG do this?
    Reply
  • sudeshc
    Extremely good read, what i liked was that the companies are not making false claims anymore most of them performed as was claimed.
    Reply
  • sudeshc
    spectrewindConclusion: This article ignores encryption.The article is a complete failure. You THG people ignored encryption as a metric. Why??!!Flash drives are cheap.
    This in my opinion is altogether a different topic and should be covered in different article where the encryption also as well as over performance be compared.
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    if lacie offered that drive for cheaper id be all over that like flies on dogshit.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    sudeshcThis in my opinion is altogether a different topic and should be covered in different article where the encryption also as well as over performance be compared.
    Agreed, I'll pass that feedback along to the author.
    Reply
  • Sphex
    If you actually read the article, you would know that the SuperTalent SuperCrypt encrypts its data with a password, like the IRONKEY. Maybe you should read.
    Reply
  • spectrewind
    SphexIf you actually read the article, you would know that the SuperTalent SuperCrypt encrypts its data with a password, like the IRONKEY. Maybe you should read.

    I did read the article. One drive supporting cryto does not a metric make, which I mentioned. That feature is an anomaly and not a fundamental feature (metric) of the article.

    "Maybe you should read."
    Reading is good. Comprehension is even better. I suggest you begin there, since you obviously cannot do that.
    Reply
  • injected_metal
    9513351 said:
    IRONKEY. My employer provides it. I am legally required to use it. It is hardware encrypted. The drive might be stolen or lost, but the data will not seen by any unauthorized user.

    Your post reads like an advertisement and you complain that they didn't do an encryption comparison when only 1 drive supports it at hardware level. On top of that cant you read, this is a USB 3.0 test, ironkey only does 2.0. Furthermore your employer provides your drive so what difference would it make if they said your ironkey was a slow but safe piece of $#!t? This is an everyday-user drive roundup for fast file transfer, not a business specific roundup that would be useless to most tom's readers. You said it yourself, your company provides secure storage since they expect you to move important files. Typical users won't need this and if they do the decision most likely will be out of their hands. Additionally in a security environment the protection far outweighs the need for speed, so the test metric would be completely different than how consumer grade drives would be tested.

    tl;dr
    You don't seem to comprehend the use of your drive and what features the owner actually values.
    Reply
  • willgart
    some test with encryption enabled are missing. what is the impact of an encrypted drive? what are the encryption option?
    we do not always looking for speed, we are also looking for backup or archive of sensitive data.
    and other peoples are looking for speed only, for sure, because they hate loosing time in data transfert :)

    but the same questions are also for classic HDD, not only USB keys.
    Reply
  • Bolbi
    I purchased a 16GB A-DATA S102. It's not a premium product, but it does receive a significant performance boost from USB 3.0 (according to other reviewers; my USB 3.0 laptop is still in Fedex's hands). The drives in this review, I think, are for those who need only the best features and performance. The average user can still get better performance out of a "regular" USB 3.0 flash drive.
    Reply