USB Thumb Drive Vs. Hard Drive

USB Flash Drive: Super Talent Pico C Gold USB 8 GB

We did not select the Super Talent Pico C Gold 8 GB USB 2.0 flash drive because it is particularly fast, but rather because it’s convenient. The Pico C is based on a single-chip MLC flash solution, and hence allows you to create extremely small storage products. It does not come with any protective cap or cover, but you cannot possibly go much smaller.

Tiny and Fast, But Not Made For Tough Workloads

Super Talent rates the Pico series as 200X drives, which stands for 200 times single-speed CD-ROM transfer rates (200 x 150 KB/s or 30 MB/s). Although the transfer rate test had the drive drop in performance from 30 MB/s to as little as 16 MB/s, the device will deliver an excellent 28.7 MB/s read bandwidth on average. That’s 2.5 times the transfer performance of the IBM DTTA drive.

However, write performance is far from the excellent read transfer rates, maxing out at 12.6 MB/s. In this case, the hard drive isn’t really a lot slower, delivering 10.9 MB/s of maximum write throughput.

As mentioned when we discussed the IBM DTTA drive, the I/O performance results are amazing when it comes to the Super Talent Pico C Gold. It outperforms the DTTA drive in the Web server benchmark, which only consists of read operations. In this case, MLC flash delivers great performance. But as soon as you require fast write operations, especially random ones, performance drops. In fact, it falls so much that the old (and rather slow) hard drive still outperforms the Pico C 8 GB flash thumb drive, being three to five times faster! Clearly, the flash-based thumb drive is great for file storage, but not for intensive access.

Unbeatable Features: Robust, Water Resistant, Plug & Play

We’d like to look at some of the other features that make the USB flash drive so much more convenient than the hard drive. It’s ready for transfers in an instant thanks to USB’s plug and play capability. It is robust, as you cannot kill the device or your data by shaking or dropping it, and the Pico C devices are specifically meant to be water-resistant. We are not aware of a mechanical hard drive that would be able to withstand the same sort of punishment.

Even Score for Long-Term Data Retention

Super Talent says that the drive will store data for up to 10 years, which sounds like an advantage when compared to conventional hard drives typically designed with a component design life of only five years. However, the IBM DTTA drive proved that a hard drive can still work properly after 10 years—although we have to say that we have only used it every once in a while during the last several. We generally recommend that you copy important data to new media every few years, and to store important data redundantly on different media—just to be on the safe side.