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Our internet speeds are faster than ever. There’s plenty of online storage available for free or cheap prices. But the humble USB drive is still essential in 2016 Are USB Flash Drives Still Worth It In 2015? Are USB Flash Drives Still Worth It In 2015? USB flash drives are great for storage, but they have so many other uses. Here's how they're worth their weight in gold. Read More .

As fast as the internet is, it can’t beat the speeds you get from flash drives. Plus, when you have to transfer several gigabytes of data, why would you want to bottleneck your bandwidth?

Now, USB flash drives come in all shapes and sizes. You get rugged ones for protection, disguised USB keys to hide them in plain sight, and some funky designs too. But sometimes, all you need is sheer speed.

A New Breed of USB Drives

Technology has a habit of shrinking in size as the years go by. And that has happened to an incredible degree with solid state drives (SSDs) 101 Guide To Solid State Drives 101 Guide To Solid State Drives Solid State Drives (SSDs) have really taken the mid-range to high end computing world by storm. But what are they? Read More . You can now actually get these in the same size as USB flash drives.


A solid state drive is different from the memory that most thumb drives use. While they are both basically flash memory, the quality of materials and the construction is much different. Typically, an SSD is of a much higher quality. Without getting into the technical details, here are some notable differences:

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Choosing Between SSD and Regular USB Drives

It’s not a simple choice between the two. From the same manufacturer, an SSD-based thumb drive is faster and better than a regular flash thumb drive. But some flash thumb drives will be as good as low-quality SSD thumb drives too. Also, SSD USB drives cost significantly more than regular flash drives.

usb-flash-drive-generic2As a thumb rule, here’s what to take away:

  • Buy an SSD-based USB drive if you will use the drive regularly, need quick speeds to transfer data, and use it a little roughly. Important note: All decent SSD drives use USB 3.0 or 3.1 ports, and the high speeds work only on those ports.
  • Buy a simple flash USB 3.0 drive if you are on a budget and need to read data from the drive more than write data to the drive. It’s not slow, mind you. It’s just slower than SSDs. Chances are, you’ll still be fine with the speeds.

With that in mind, it’s time to pick. The choice is yours, based on budget.

1. Fastest USB Drive Around $20: 32GB Lexar JumpDrive P20 ($20)

The Lexar JumpDrive P20 has only 32GB of storage, but what it lacks in space, it makes up for with speed. UserBenchmark, which records real-world USB read/write speeds from regular users, ranks it as one of the best drives in this budget.


Its average read speed is 141 MB/s and its average write speed is 53 MB/s, which is nothing to write home about. But in this budget, it’s a Ferrari.

If you want more storage instead, don’t bother looking up the read/write speeds. Buy the 64GB drive that is closest to the $20 budget from Sandisk, Kingston, or Corsair. It will give you the average speeds that this price category is capable of.

Lexar JumpDrive P20 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive - LJDP20-32GCRBNA Lexar JumpDrive P20 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive - LJDP20-32GCRBNA Among the fastest USB flash drives available, with speeds up to 400MB/s read, 150MB/s write Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 25.99

2. Fastest USB Drive Around $40: 64GB Sandisk Exreme ($29)

For 64GB drives, it’s a better idea to spend a little more than $20 and get the Sandisk Extreme CZ80. It garnered rave reviews from almost everyone who tested it, and WireCutter thinks it’s the best.


It’s not the fastest, though. The quickest drive still remains the 64GB Lexar Jumpdrive P20 ($40). But at $12 more than the Sandisk, and with a fiddly sliding mechanism, it’s not worth it. While the Lexar has a higher read speed, its write speed is slower than Sandisk.

In the end, Sandisk’s 246 MB/s read speed and 196 MB/s write speed is a better deal than anything else in this price. And it’s second fastest overall.

SanDisk Extreme 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive With Speed Up To 245MB/s-SDCZ80-064G-GAM46 SanDisk Extreme 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive With Speed Up To 245MB/s-SDCZ80-064G-GAM46 Transfer Speed Up To 245MB/s Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 44.68

3. Fastest USB Drive Around $60: 128GB Patriot Supersonic Rage 2 ($50)

While the Patriot Supersonic Rage 2 is technically an SSD-based thumb drive, it doesn’t exactly perform like one. That said, it’s faster than the average 128GB flash drive for this price.


The folks at AnandTech reviewed the 256GB version of the drive, and thought it was pretty good. It comfortably outperforms the Sandisk Extreme’s read speeds with an average of 275 MB/s. But it falters on the write speeds, registering an average of 140MB/s.

Patriot PEF128GSR2USB 128GB Supersonic Rage 2 Series USB 3.0 Flash Drive with Up to 400MB/Sec Read, 300MB/S Write Patriot PEF128GSR2USB 128GB Supersonic Rage 2 Series USB 3.0 Flash Drive with Up to 400MB/Sec Read, 300MB/S Write Transfer speeds of up to 400mb/s read; up to 300mb/s write Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 59.99

Storage Review pitted it against the 128GB Sandisk Extreme Pro ($69), and found a similar shortcoming. In fact, the Extreme Pro might be a better alternative if you’re willing to shell out a few more bucks. It has read speeds of 229 MB/s and write speeds of 211 MB/s, which makes it faster on balance. This is why you can’t go by the advertised specs alone when buying a flash drive USB Flash Drive Guide: 5 Things to Know When Buying One USB Flash Drive Guide: 5 Things to Know When Buying One USB flash drives might seem mundane and straightforward, but there are a few tips and quirks that you should know before you buy your next one. Read More .

SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive With Read Up To 260MB/s, Write Up To 240MB/s- SDCZ88-128G-G46 SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive With Read Up To 260MB/s, Write Up To 240MB/s- SDCZ88-128G-G46 Write up to 60 times faster than USB 2.0 flash drives so you can quickly transfer your files Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display

4. Fastest USB Drive Around $80: 256GB Patriot Supersonic Magnum 2 ($90)

There is no doubt in my mind about the best value-for-money deal around in SSD-based flash drives. The Patriot Supersonic Magnum 2 is an incredible proposition.


Forbes tested the Magnum with two batteries of tests, both real-world and synthetic. CrystalDiskMark, one of the best flash drive speed testers 5 Apps to Check the Speed of Your USB Flash Drive (Windows) 5 Apps to Check the Speed of Your USB Flash Drive (Windows) Read More , recorded a read speed of 380 MB/s and a write speed of 327 MB/s. That’s far higher than anything else you’ll get in this price range.

Patriot Supersonic Magnum 2 USB Drive 256 GB (PEF256GSMN2USB) Patriot Supersonic Magnum 2 USB Drive 256 GB (PEF256GSMN2USB) USB 3.1, Gen. 1 compliant Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 119.99

There’s also the Patriot Supersonic Rage 2 ($90), which isn’t as fast the Magnum. On the outside, it has a rubber housing that protects it from drops and spills. Not a bad deal, if the durability ranks higher for you than speed.

5. Fastest USB Drive Above $100: 512GB Patriot Supersonic Magnum 2 ($165)

The 256GB version is the best value for money but if you need a larger capacity, the Magnum 2 also comes in 512GB. Even so, I’d advise picking the smaller driver. Apparently, the Magnum’s performance doesn’t drop for lower capacities. More or less, if you’re willing to spend big bucks, this is the USB key to buy.


The aluminum housing gives it additional durability, while the new USB 3.1 compatibility makes it a little more future-proof. To make the best use of it, you should probably get a PCI-express USB 3.1 card as well.

The bottom line is that if you want the fastest USB drive with the most amount of storage space, the Patriot Supersonic Magnum 2 is it.

Patriot Supersonic Magnum 2 USB Drive 512 GB (PEF512GSMN2USB) Patriot Supersonic Magnum 2 USB Drive 512 GB (PEF512GSMN2USB) USB 3.1, Gen. 1 compliant Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 214.99

Flash Drives vs. Portable SSDs

The shrinking of SSDs has resulted in one other phenomenon. Portable hard drives with SSDs have also shrunk in size. While bringing it down to the same size as a thumb drive is harder for the manufacturer, a slimmer and sleeker portable drive isn’t as hard. Take, for example, the Samsung T3 or Angelbird SSD2Go Pocket, which seem like excellent ways to get extra storage.

Plus, you can also get wireless portable hard drives for more efficiency. It’s reached a point where you really have to wonder. So reader, which of the two makes more sense to you, a flash drive or a portable SSD?

  1. John.S.
    April 22, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    actually visontek has the fastest flash drive and it has up to 445MB/s read, up to 440MB/s write

  2. ARUN A B
    April 21, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    I saw your site and ordered Sandisk Extreme 64GB. It doesn't even reach upto 50 MB/s writing speed. It ranges a maximum of 48 MB/s only. Falsely advertised from Sandisk. Huge disappointment :(

    • Anonymous
      May 13, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      You have probably put it in a usb 2.0 port. Try putting it in a usb 3.0 to get the proper speed out of it. If not then maybe your testing is off. It's definitely not false advertising, it will be your human error.
      I have one and it runs around 200mbs read

      • David Ward
        September 11, 2015 at 12:52 am

        If you read what ARUN A B has written...He is talking about WRITE speeds. You are quoting READ speeds. Read speeds are always faster. Check again, Anonymous and check your WRITE speeds. My results, though on the smaller drive give me a max of mid 90MB/s, in extreme cases, with an average of around 50MB/s.
        This article states write speeds of OVER 200MB/s. SanDisk site quotes write speeds of UP TO 190MB/s...Which equates to average of around 140-150MB/s. Then there also CAN be other issues with this drive. Notice emphasis on the word "CAN".
        This article contradicts the SanDisk site.
        The best drive here, IMHO, is the Lacie XtremeKey, though it does not show the 64GB, which I am working with and talking about now. It is tough, reliable, waterproof (when cover is screwed on) and as I stated earlier, gives an average write speed of 137-139MB/s. Fastest write speed has been 155MB/s. Though in stating this, one should always to remember to take care of the software eg: proper ejection etc.

    • David Ward
      September 11, 2015 at 12:29 am

      I have the same Sandisk Extrerme but in the 32GB. The fastest write speed I achieve with it is in the mid 90MB/s. And NO! We are NOT idiots as was inferred to you by Anonymous. I only use my USB3.0 ports and also use ASRock XfastUSB. Maybe it is the size but there is NO WAY IN THE WORLD it will get 200MB/s write speed. Read speed is around 200MB/s but the write speed is what I am after.
      I also have the XtremeKey 64GB. This drive is my fastest with constant write speeds of 137-139MB/s.

      • RCA
        November 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

        Dear David, 32GB version is 2x slower in respect to write performance than 64GB one. They use more "stripes" in 64GB model, aka when writing a block of data, it is split into more chunks which are written in parallel. Write performance is also strongly dependent on operating system and file system you use. In Windows, NTFS filesystem is the usual choice and this is not the best performing filesystem available. Also, Windows uses synchronous mode on external media by default. Synchronous mode updates filesystem journal more frequently, so when writing data to the USB key, metadata is updated very frequently, so in fact apart from what user expects, system writes more data (data about data) behind the scenes, which causes slowdown. Try to format the key using FAT32 or exFAT and check again. Also, when they claim up to 200MB/s, they claim it based on measurements using the best performing filesystem and continuos write of a big file (the best case). In real life, one copies mixture of big files and plenty of small ones, so actual average perfromance will be a bit slower. Journalling and synchornous writes slow the operation down. I observed that the same flash key is much faster when writing under macintosh then in windows (holds true with Sandisk Extreme 32GB as well).

        • Steffen Büßelmann
          April 28, 2016 at 5:20 pm

          I own the 64 GB version of it, and although it didn't reach the 200 MB/s write on my machine, I usually see around 180-190 MiB/s when copying something from my SSD onto it.

          You always have to consider the read speed of the drive you are copying stuff from.

          Ofcourse it will be limited by USB 2 to around 20-30 MiB/s.
          Ofcourse it will be limited by regular hard drives to their respective speeds (Think of around 100-130 MiB/s for a 3,5" 7200 RPM drive)
          Ofcourse the filesystem can impact the speed (ExFAT is faster than NTFS due to no journaling, FAT32 limits file size to 4 GiB which can be quite annoying especially with a big drive)

    • dave
      September 14, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      So many silly comments.
      1) No he wasn't using it on USB2, it could not achieve 48MB/s on USB2.
      2) The USB controller is often a bottleneck on high end USB3 flash drives, particularly those with SSD controllers in them.
      3) No NTFS is not the usual Window filesystem for USB flash drives. They are typically exFAT in this capacity and larger.
      4) All your peak MB/s speeds are of little consequence unless that's how you're actually using the drive. 4K read and write speed will be far more important to most people, unless all you use it for is moving large amounts of data around and frankly, that's what networking is for.

  3. speedlover
    February 25, 2015 at 10:56 am

    the usb sandisk extreme is really fast it really was worth the money and the good thing is that it works faster on usb 2.0 too like 20 mb/s what more could you ask for :D

    • ARUN A B
      April 21, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      You'll just get another 20 mb/s faster in usb 3.0 which other normal 3.0 pendrives does it. This isn't worth for 50$

  4. asdaoksmd
    June 16, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    "This bad boy was developed in coordination with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security"

    Should stay away from it like a plague then. unless you want a nice and easy backdoor for the US government.

  5. TW
    May 6, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I bought a Silicon Power Marvel M50 32GB nine months ago and it recently died an inglorious death. Amazon's sales page says it has a limited LIFETIME warranty but it's been several days since I wrote to the Taiwanese manufactuer's USA support email and haven't received a reply.

    YMMV but I would avoid the "budget" USB drives. I found this article looking for a replacement.

  6. DudeStop
    April 3, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    How about looking at Sandisk's actual test data and compared to many others.
    If you posted in Jan 2014 that Sandisk 64GB is "fastest"; there were many that were 'way' faster than sandisk! Sorry to burst your bubble

  7. SlNNED
    March 18, 2014 at 6:21 am

    KINGSTON G3 is the best

  8. r20039
    March 9, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I have used USB 3.0. its definitely way faster than USB 2.0
    I guess still there is no USB 3.1 or higher speed devices in the market .... I donno.. anyone knows? afaik, USB 3.0 flash drives were supposed to be in the market in 2014. Still no Sign- its March now.

  9. Adm
    March 1, 2014 at 3:58 am

    USB 2.0 has speeds of up to 480Mbps, while the fastest drive here is barely faster than half that. I would argue that USB 3.0 drives don't exist and are just false marketing.

    • Mihir Patkar
      March 1, 2014 at 5:35 am

      That's the theoretical top speed of USB 2.0, no USB 2.0 drive comes even close to that :) The theoretical top speed of USB 3.0 is 5Gbps and that of USB 3.1 is 10Gbps. It's no false marketing.

    • MST
      March 23, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      USB2 is 480 megabit, yielding a max theoretical transfer of 60 megabyte per second.

      • RCA
        November 28, 2015 at 12:47 pm

        This is raw speed. The USB 2.0 protocol has its own overhead, so you will never see 60MB/s read or write performance. Actual data are encapsulated into packets, there are overhead bits as CRC etc. According to my experiences, real max. speed of USB 2.0 in high speed mode is around 40MB/s. Theoretical max. speed based on protocol specs. is around 52MB/s, but I've never seen it.

    • Ed G
      February 24, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      I beg your pardon sir, all you have to do is stick one in and feel how smooth and speedy it is. Honestly it puts usb 2.0 to shame. Obviously make sure you have a usb 3.0 port.

  10. Sukh
    February 20, 2014 at 5:27 am

    I like the 4th one, Stylish and mini USB drive. They'll look beautiful with your company logo imprinted on them.

  11. Richard Steven Hack
    January 7, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Oh, yeah, I really want the "secure" one developed with the DoHS aid - and no doubt the NSA helped them... :-)

    • Dell Conagher
      April 12, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      Sorry, what was that? I couldn't hear you over the crinkling of your tinfoil hat.

  12. James P
    January 6, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Maybe the opening sentence should have read that the Sandisk is the fastest of the "affordable" or "every day" USB drives. The IronKey Workspace would be a great addition for protecting sensitive data, but I wouldn't spend that kind of money on a drive just to put photos on. I'm guessing the author was meaning to imply the same thing.

    Aside from the above, I use USB drives mostly for transporting large amounts of photos/files between myself and my children. However, I do keep one 16GB drive in one of the ports of my 7-port hub strictly for Windows (7) to use (SpeedBoost). I also have a couple of drives that I use to keep different versions of some files that I work on frequently. One thing I can say for certain, using these USB drives are a lot faster and easier than constantly having to burn files to a CD or DVD!

  13. Cybr
    January 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    @Rob Because it's expensive. It's rated 1~5 per reviewer's opinion.

  14. Joh
    January 6, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Why is the Sandisk the fastest? The IronKey Workspace W300 64GB is rated with higher speed?!?!?!?!

    • Mihir Patkar
      January 8, 2014 at 6:22 am

      While the Workspace W300 is rated higher, real-world tests by reviewers show the Sandisk is faster :)

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