USB flash drives come in all shapes and sizes. But sometimes, all you need is sheer speed—and if that’s the case, what’s the fastest USB flash drive today?
A quick glance at Amazon will show that there are plenty of brands claiming to be the fastest USB stick, whether it’s USB 3.0 or USB 3.1. But you don’t have to go by the advertising alone. Based on data and reviews, you can pick the fastest flash drive with ease.
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). You can now actually get these in the same size as the fastest USB flash drives.
An SSD 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:
- An SSD-based thumb drive will cost more than the fastest USB sticks.
- SSD-based thumb drives have better fault tolerance. This is what keeps your data safe when you remove the drive without clicking Safely Remove or Eject on the screen.
- SSDs use better quality flash memory, claiming more write cycles than flash memory. This means the SSD will last longer.
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.
Importantly, SSD USB drives cost significantly more than the fastest USB flash drives. If you value speed but don’t want to spend a lot, flash drives offer more value for money.
- 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.
- Buy a 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. Chances are, you’ll still be fine with the speeds.
Assuming you need a regular flash drive and not an SSD, here are the fastest USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 flash drives.
Fastest Write Speed on a USB Flash Drive:
SanDisk Extreme Pro SDCZ880
- Capacity: 128GB, 256GB
- Advertised Read Speed: 420 MB/s
- UserBenchmark Read Speed: 297 MB/s
- Advertised Write Speed: 380 MB/s
- UserBenchmark Write Speed: 264 MB/s
The SanDisk Extreme Pro SDCZ880 cranks up the read and write speeds, and in fact, UserBenchmark ranks it as the overall fastest USB flash drive today, especially in write speeds. Such fast sequential write speed is best for copying large files. Since the SanDisk Extreme Pro comes in two fairly high capacities—128GB and 256GB—it is the best drive for such needs.
Also, if you have a habit of losing the covers or caps from your flash drives, you’ll like this one. The SanDisk Extreme Pro has a sliding mechanism to pop out the USB connector. It’s the fastest USB stick with no cap to lose!
USB Flash Drive with the Fastest Read Speed:
Corsair Flash Voyager GTX
- Capacity: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
- Advertised Read Speed: 440 MB/s
- UserBenchmark Read Speed: 368 MB/s
- Advertised Write Speed: 440 MB/s
- UserBenchmark Write Speed: 175 MB/s
The SanDisk Extreme Pro’s read and write speeds are impressive enough to make it the fastest USB flash drive, but the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX has a higher read speed. If you work with files directly from the flash drive, without copying them to your hard drive, then this might be a better choice for you.
If your laptop doesn’t have enough free storage space, you won’t be copying anything to it. The flash drive is what you work from, and the Voyager GTX’s 380 MB/s speed is incredibly fast. Plus it has storage options up to 512GB, so you should have everything you need here.
Fastest Cheap Flash Drive to Install an OS:
Kingston DataTraveler 100 G3
- Capacity: 32GB
- Advertised Read Speed: 100 MB/s
- UserBenchmark Read Speed: 138 MB/s
- Advertised Write Speed: N/A
- UserBenchmark Write Speed: 48 MB/s
You don’t always need a USB flash drive with lots of storage. Sometimes, you need very little storage, but it needs to be fast and cheap. The Kingston DataTraveler DT 100 G3 is perfect for this.
The DT 100 G3 ranges from 16GB through to 256GB. While these drives are USB 3.0, they are also backwards compatible with USB 2.0 ports. Kingston even includes a free five year warranty on each drive.
Fastest Flash Drive to Run Portable OS:
Samsung Fit Plus
- Capacity: 128GB
- UserBenchmark 4k-Read Speed: 14.3 MB/s
- UserBenchmark 4k-Write Speed: 12.2 MB/s
If you are running a portable operating system from a USB drive, the drive plays a big part in the performance. For most people, the 128GB version of the Samsung Fit Plus is the best and fastest USB flash drive for this purpose.
There’s a specific reason behind this. When you’re running Linux from a USB drive, a lot of small files are read continuously, written, and rewritten. This speed, called 4k-Write and 4k-Read, matters more than the fastest sequential speed. The Samsung Fit Plus excels at these 4k speeds, making it ideal for running an operating system.
And there’s always the consideration of cost and size. You don’t want to spend too much on such a drive, and it should ideally not stick out of the laptop. All of this makes the 128GB variant of the Samsung Fit Plus the best fastest flash drive for portable Linux.
Fastest USB-C Flash Drive:
Samsung Duo Plus
- Capacity: 512GB
- Advertised Read Speed: 300 MB/s
- UserBenchmark Read Speed: Untested
- Advertised Write Speed: 100 MB/s
- UserBenchmark Write Speed: Untested
Several laptops and ultrabooks have moved to using only a USB-C port instead of the traditional USB-A port. The Samsung Duo Plus supports both types of ports, so you can use it with regular laptops as well as those with only USB-C ports.
UserBenchmark doesn’t have tests of this drive, but we spotted a few other reviews online in which the Samsung Duo Plus scored an average read speed of 242 MB/s and average write speed of 52 MB/s. It’s not the fastest USB-C flash drive, but it’s as good as it gets right now. Yes, it’s nowhere close to the fastest drives from SanDisk and Corsair, but it’s not too shabby either.
Do note that the Samsung Duo Plus is physically longer than standard flash drives due to its dual connectors. You’ll need to attach the USB-A converter over the USB-C port when you need to use it.
The Fastest USB Flash Drive
The above list of super-fast flash drives should serve the needs of anyone who wants something with up to 256GB of storage. There are larger options available, but we wouldn’t recommend those.
For capacities beyond 256GB, it makes more sense to consider some of the best portable hard drives instead.