31 USB 3.0 Thumb Drives, Tested And Reviewed

The Winner: SanDisk Extreme

The phrase “fast USB thumb drive” used to be an oxymoron. But today's USB 3.0-capable models show that this generalization is no longer true. Our benchmarks show that a lot of the latest drives offer incredible speeds in a small package.

You also have to be careful, too, though. Not all USB 3.0-based thumb drives live up to what their interface facilitates. The performance of a modern USB 3.0 drive can range anywhere from what the previous generation could do (around 35 MB/s) to almost 10 times that number.

Just because a vendor plasters USB 3.0 branding all over its thumb drive's advertising doesn't mean the product is going to maximize the interface's potential. Our tests make this painfully obvious in some cases. Each drive demonstrates very different levels of performance, ranging from amazing to abominable.

Sequential read and write performance is a good example. Toshiba's TransMemory-EX 32 GB, which blows away any single hard drive on the market with its 310.1 MB/s, is worlds apart from the Patriot Supersonic Boost XT with its disappointing 36.6 MB/s that essentially makes it a really fast USB 2.0 drive. The other USB 3.0 thumb drives we benchmarked fall somewhere in between.

The Winner: SanDisk Extreme

We do come away with a recommendation, though: SanDisk's Extreme USB 3.0 thumb drive. It offers good to excellent read and write performance across all of our benchmarks. Consequently, in this field of 31 contenders, we confidently give it our Elite honor.

The 64 GB model sells for about $71, which gets you a quick USB 3.0-rated repository able to outperform mechanical storage. Seriously consider using it with an SSD-equipped system to utilize its full potential. Some of the other models in our round-up beat the Extreme in a handful of our tests, but this is the most consistently-fast performer in the workloads we threw at it.

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  • rolli59
    It would have been nice to see price performance index as well but good article.
  • Other Comments
  • rolli59
    It would have been nice to see price performance index as well but good article.
  • psikick
    It's not a surprise the Sandisk wins because this USB drive is actually a small SSD.. It uses the same controller used in Sandisk's ReadyCache SSD drives... the great thing about it is it is priced reasonably considering.. :)
  • Madn3ss795
    Been using this usb3.0 *SSD from Sandisk for half a year and I haven't got disappointed.Great device for the price. The only drawback I found is that its enclosure gets quite hot after 15mins of heavy use ( benchmarking ) because heat might reduce a SSD' durability.
  • razor512
    The sandisk extreme works well.

    I currently have the 16GB version (was $20 when I got it)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/razor512/8272978749/
    does 200MB/s read and 57.3MB/s write

    not as good as the the 64GB version but it is still really good

    Read speed: http://i.imgur.com/TdcufSg.png

    Write speed: http://i.imgur.com/jQVkBCa.png
  • daveys93
    I have the 32 GB version of the SanDisk Extreme and it is a great thumb drive. The 16 GB version is a bit slow and the 64 GB is a bit expensive for some, the 32 GB is a good middle ground. Here are the benchmarks I used when trying to decide which USB3.0 drive to get:

    http://www.whoratesit.com/SanDisk-Extreme-USB-30-32GB/Rating/1466

    There is a toggle on that site that allows you to view the benchmark results for all three sizes.

    Here is the full whoratesit.com article as a complement to the Toms article: http://www.whoratesit.com/Best-Flash-Drive/Comparison/1#rank1
  • WyomingKnott
    In my case the limiting factor is the controller / port. I've got three USB 3.0 controllers: On my notebook at work, built into the motherboard at home, and a PCI-E one. The PCI-E one is twice the speed of the lowest one in 4k random writes.

    If I were home I'd post the controller and the thumb drive model, but I'm not there so don't ask.
  • a1sealc4
    Very interesting read I assumed most 3.0 usb drives were similar in speed.
  • aznriptide859
    Why no Corsair Flash Survivor? :( I love mine, albeit the write times aren't the speediest.
  • __-_-_-__
    finally a good article... -.- tkx
  • RedJaron
    Anonymous said:
    In my case the limiting factor is the controller / port. I've got three USB 3.0 controllers: On my notebook at work, built into the motherboard at home, and a PCI-E one. The PCI-E one is twice the speed of the lowest one in 4k random writes.

    If I were home I'd post the controller and the thumb drive model, but I'm not there so don't ask.


    Too true, don't forget the controller speed. The Etron controller in my old-ish Z68 board ensures my USB 3.0 devices rarely go above 25 MBps even though I can get double that performance on my newer work computer.
  • pjmelect
    I wonder what the speed of these devices is when used with a USB 2.0 port. Do they max out at around 30MB/s or are they slower than this on a USB2 port?
  • Blazer1985
    Thanks to tom's charts I was able to buy the Sandisk Extreme 64gb and I love it. I think that usb sticks should have a rating, like sd / cf cards btw.
    No other site offers such thorough tech analisys. Thanks Tom.
  • spooky2th
    Looks like USB 3.0 drives are not all created the same.
  • SirGCal
    Newegg has a ton of reviews on that particular drive failing very rapidly which offers up some concern... They all said it was fast as heck until it went belly up. Then poof. Some warrantied it on their 3rd... Wounder if the manufacturer fixed the issue yet.. ???
  • Madn3ss795
    Anonymous said:
    I wonder what the speed of these devices is when used with a USB 2.0 port. Do they max out at around 30MB/s or are they slower than this on a USB2 port?


    Maxed read speed ( 30-33mb/s ) but sequential write speed got capped at around 27mb/s only. Tested myself.
  • saymi
    I bought 3 sandisk extrermes about a year ago and using them for different purposes. I installed Linux into one of them and it works flawlessly. Others are for storage and application usage. I did not considered buying an alternative. I have not had any compatibility issue with any hardware yet.
  • marraco
    Nice. Now hack it, install windows and run benchmarks against common HD benchmarks
  • andy5174
    I had been waiting for this for ages!
  • BWMerlin
    A really nice article, is there any chance of one about SD cards?
  • ronin2009
    no mention of the "Lexar JumpDrive Triton" ??! one of the fastest usb 3.0 keys out there