On my keyring, I currently have a 16GB USB drive and I have been very content with it. However, I’ve been bumping up against the 16GB of storage recently and using USB 3.0 ports more often. As prices are falling and that horrible U3 software seems to be in the past, I’m starting to think it’s time to upgrade but I’m not sure what to go with. The rest of this post is probably me being way too particular about certain factors but exploring some of the popular USB 3.0 thumb drive options available.
I currently have the LaCie iamakey v2 16GB USB 2.0 flash drive. I bought it in 2011 after a series of other USB drives let me down with the most memorable reason being the little wire keyring attachment getting stretched out and allowing a drive to fall off. This LaCie drive has a keyring hole built into the drive so it would be easy to bring along and couldn’t be lost on its own. It also fits perfectly on a keyring without adding bulk. Unfortunately, the company has not produced a USB 3.0 version of this model or their other similar key-shaped drives.
The SanDisk Extreme CZ80 comes in capacities up to 64GB with read speeds up to 245MB/s and write up to 190MB/s. The 64GB stick is currently priced at $36.99 on Amazon. This is one of the faster USB drives and it has a little space at the end to be added to a keychain but I hate the slide mechanism USB drives. I’ve had too many USB drives before where the slide mechanism gives out and it becomes a real frustration to insert into a PC.
The SanDisk Ultra Fit is a low profile USB drive. These are perfect for leaving in a laptop, car, or other spot where they might remain plugged in the majority of the time and would be hardly noticed past the USB port. It has a small slit to connect to a keyring via a string or wire as well as a cap. Unfortunately, the small form factor has a detrimental impact on the speed of the drive with 130MB/s read and 40MB/s write. The 64GB SanDisk Ultra Fit is currently priced at $33.90 at Amazon.
The Leef Supra is another low-profile USB drive that would be great for portability or keeping connected. It also suffers from the slower speeds but doesn’t have any software pre-loaded on it, whether you see that as a good or bad thing is up to you. It’s priced at $26.99 for 32GB on Amazon.
Corsair’s Flash Voyager Vega is another small form factor USB drive and it certainly has a spot to be attached to a keychain. The speeds are fairly limited with 118MB/s reads and 16MB/s writes. It is currently priced at $40.99 for 64GB on Amazon.
The Patriot Tab is another compact USB drive that suffers slow speeds. It also has many negative reviews about the drive failing or losing data. A 64GB drive is priced at $32.99 on Amazon.
The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX is the king of speeds on this list because it actually uses an SSD controller. This gives it 450MB/s reads and 360MB/s writes. It’s a little wider than most USB drives, so that may block other ports. The cap would certainly be lost. It’s also the most expensive at $119.99 for 128GB of storage.
Finally, the Corsair Flash Voyager Mini definitely fits the bill as being ready for a keychain. Unfortunately, its speeds seem to be slow at 70MB/s reads and 15MB/s writes. It is currently priced at $34.45 for 64GB storage.
This article highlights the different features of USB drives that I value: form factor, speed, price, quality, and mechanics. These usually seem to balance each other out – price goes up when speed goes up, a size decrease means a speed decrease. The compact drives are great for their portability but suffer for slow speeds that may not make the upgrade from USB 2.0 worth it. The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX is a speed demon but runs about 4x the cost of the other drives. I hate slide-out USB drives and think it silly to not have a means to attach the drive to a keychain or have a cap with no means to attach it elsewhere.
I’m not sure which replacement I would go with. They all have their pros and their cons. Before I could spend that much time on the decision, I wound up with two USB 3.0 drives. Amazon had lightning deals following Cyber Monday on the SanDisk Extreme CZ80 and the SanDisk Ultra Fit. The deal brought the price per gigabyte way down and into the “worth trying it out” range. This will give me one of the top speed drives and one very portable drive while both will increase my available storage capacity. We will see which one becomes my day-to-day USB flash drive on my keychain and which gets loaded with some other utilities or dedicated to large/fast file transfers when I know about them ahead of time.