USB flash drives not all the same

We all probably have a number of USB flash drives and they all look much the same.

I had thought they were pretty much the same, and generally bought the cheapest I could find. However, I did avoid some unknown brands just because having one die can result in loss of valuable files. This happened to me with a cheap Aldi 8GB flash drive, so I will not buy them from Aldi any more.

But yesterday I was copying a big file to a flash drive and thought it seemed a bit slow. So I did some speed tests and found some quite surprising results.

Because I have had a number of failures, I have tended to buy brand-name flash drives, mostly SanDisk as they are a big company with products ranging from camera cards to solid state disks for computers.

My test was to time copying 4GB onto the flash drive, and to time copying the same thing back to the computer’s internal disk. I also tried copying to a USB hard disk.

The results were:
                                Lexar        SanDisk Cruzer       SanDisk Ultra        Seagate
Time to copy to       3:45          9:31                         9:49                       2:36

 flash drive

Time to copy from  1:55           3:10                         2:56                       1:57

 flash drive

The first thing you will notice is that both SanDisks take nearly 2.5 times as long to copy files to than the Lexar. Copying from the flash drive is also 50% longer than the Lexar.

The second thing is that the Cruzer is a “standard” flash drive, and the Ultra is a “fast” drive according to SanDisk. (SanDisk also have an even faster model called Extreme. The faster drives are more expensive than the standard ones, sometimes by a lot.) The Ultra is actually slower than the Cruzer to copy to it, and slightly faster to copy from it.

A last thing to notice is that the external hard disk is noticeably faster than the flash drives for copying to it, and about the same as the fastest for copying from it.

As far as I know, the Lexar is just a standard speed flash drive, and it was relatively cheap.

The moral of this story is that premium-priced brand-name devices are not necessarily better than unknown brands, and that paying extra for faster speed does not always get you faster speed than the cheaper models.

On the other hand, if speed is not an issue, get the cheapest ones you can find that you are confident will not fail.