We put four 128GB USB 3.0 drives from Corsair, Kingston, Lexar and Sandisk to test. These drives are designed to be great at sequential read and write - essential for portable backups and large file transfers.
January 2016 Ian Chiu
The purpose of this USB 3.0 flash drive showdown is to find out which is best for file transfers and portable backup. We’re also looking for a drive that offers the best bang for your buck. For this reason, sequential performance, build and price inherently became our main focus during our evaluations.
In this four drive comparison, Corsair Flash Voyager GS and Kingston HyperX Savage have a distinct advantage in large file copying. Both the Lexar JumpDrive P20 and Sandisk Extreme PRO 3.0 carry a relatively low price per gigabyte, yet the latter has the edge over rivals in small file writes.
Flash Voyager GS
|Storage:||64 - 512GB||64 - 512GB||32 - 128GB||128GB|
|Dimensions:||78 x 26.4 x 10.8mm||76.3 x 23.5 x 12.2mm||64 x 22.4 x 10.5mm||71 x 21 x 11mm|
|Color(s):||Black||Black with red accents||Black||Silver with black accents|
|Interface(s):||USB 3.0||USB 3.0||USB 3.0||USB 3.0|
|Build Material:||Zinc alloy||Rubberized plastic with aluminium support||Plastic body in aluminum alloy||Plastic body in aluminum alloy|
|January 2015||November 2015||Feburary 2015||February 2014|
|Warranty:||5 years||5 years||Lifetime||Lifetime|
All but one managed to exceed 350MB/s in our 4.7GB copying tests. Throughout the entire benchmark, both Kingston and Corsair exceeded their advertised speeds. They were in neck and neck for the entire race. The Sandisk – shipping since early 2014 – has begun to show its age compared to the other USB 3.0 drives which didn’t make debut until mid-2015. So, it’s fair to assume Sandisk might plan on updating or phasing out the Extreme PRO 3.0 in near future.
Next up is our photo transfer tests that involved 990 JPEGs sized at 4.7GB with most files being between 4 and 8MB. Again, Corsair and Kingston continued to lead by a fair margin except for write operations. It was during small photo writes that the Sandisk surpassed its rivals by as much as 40 percent in speed. Your mileage may vary, however, as manufacturers traditionally don’t reveal small file performance figures.
We also performed benchmark with CyrstalDiskMark. When results came in, none of the drives were capable of delivering a good enough random read or write speed for IO intensive tasks. Surprisingly, the now ageing Sandisk Extreme PRO 3.0 fared a lot better than the other three as it managed to reach 95MB/s in 512KB random write and 10MB/s across all the other 4KB random file operations.
All four USB 3.0 flash drives share a similar form factor but the Flash Voyager GS from Corsair stands apart with its zinc alloy body, adding to its toughness as well as weight. There’s one caveat: the chassis is very prone to scratches. So, you might not want to hook the GS to a keychain. The removable metallic cap with its rubber seal interior fits very tight in the USB plug, and this is probably as good as you can get with a removable cap system.
As for Lexar JumpDrive P20 and Sandisk Extreme PRO 3.0, both their bases are strengthened with aluminium alloy even though the rest is still plastic, including the retractable connector mechanism. Between the two, the Sandisk’s USB slider is more responsive, yet the Lexar has a lower profile – it’s in fact the most compact among the tested drives.
Moving onto Kingston, its HyperX Savage 3.0 by contrast is more trendy in design with its metallic red X-shaped emblem. Its girth and location also add strength drive’s rubberized body. We did end up wishing for a better cap. While the cap stayed on during our tests, it didn’t feel very secure. It might only be a matter of time before it slips off.
As far as durability is concerned, the Corsair Flash Voyager GS is clearly built to take a beating. We are confident that the other drives are equally able to survive after a drop or being stomped on occasionally. Having said that, we wouldn’t know if these drives will make it after being thrown into a washing machine. This scenario is actually more likely to happen to most of us. Perhaps you readers can fill us in on that in the comments.
It’s worth mentioning that the Corsair has a wider-than-normal profile compared to the rest. This could crowd other devices depending on port layout. In our case with MacBook Pro Retina, the Flash Voyager GS completely blocked access to the adjacent Thunderbolt 2 port; fortunately, there’s a second Thunderbolt and USB port at our disposal.
Lastly, all four flash drives have their keychain / lanyard hole on the opposite end of the USB connector. An LED activity light is also present on all except the Sandisk.
These prices were taken from Amazon directly, and are up-to-date as of early July 2016. Cost per gigabyte becomes increasingly important as storage size increases exponentially. For instance, the actual price difference between Sandisk and Kingston is only $17 for 128GB. The price gap widens to $80 when you compare Kingston’s and Corsair’s 512GB model. When taken account into price, capacity and performance, it would seem the sweet spot remains at 128GB as of this writing.
Flash Voyager GS
|64GB||72.8 cents||59.3 cents||58.9 cents||n/a|
|128GB||45.3 cents||54.6 cents||50.7 cents||56.9 cents|
|256GB||39.1 cents||42.6 cents||n/a||n/a|
|512GB||36.3 cents||41.5 cents||n/a||n/a|
We’ve picked four 128GB flagship USB 3.0 drives from first-tier manufacturers for this round-up. While more will be included in coming months, we felt this is quite representative of what you can expect on the market (as of early 2016).
Performance-minded users have a choice between Corsair Flash Voyager GS and Kingston HyperX Savage 3.0. Both are really good at what they do: sequential read and write. They are also the only models to offer capacity up to 512GB among the tested drives.
Sandisk Extreme PRO 3.0 excels at random read and write, but this particular area wasn’t what we were examining. And the Lexar JumpDrive P20 from a cost standpoint is more appealing to those who don’t need fastest of everything. In the end, it all comes down to whether the time saved is worth the cost.