26 January 2016, Comments: 0

 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.

Feature Comparison


 Corsair
Flash Voyager GS
Kingston
HyperX Savage
Lexar
JumpDrive P20
Sandisk
Extreme PRO
Read Seq:365.98MB/s354.52MB/s349.08MB/s239.13MB/s
Write Seq:254.74MB/s270.33MB/s192.21MB/s203.03MB/s
Storage:64 - 512GB64 - 512GB32 - 128GB128GB
Dimensions:78 x 26.4 x 10.8mm76.3 x 23.5 x 12.2mm64 x 22.4 x 10.5mm71 x 21 x 11mm
Color(s):BlackBlack with red accentsBlackSilver with black accents
Interface(s):USB 3.0USB 3.0USB 3.0USB 3.0
Retractable Connector?NoNoYesYes
Build Material:Zinc alloyRubberized plastic with aluminium support Plastic body in aluminum alloyPlastic body in aluminum alloy
Release Date:January 2015November 2015Feburary 2015February 2014
Warranty:5 years5 yearsLifetimeLifetime

Benchmark Analysis


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.

 Design & Build


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.

 What Else You Need to Know


  • Kingston HyperX Savage is being sold as USB 3.1 Gen. 1 but keep in mind that this mode technically defines a maximum transfer rate of 5Gbps under the new 3.1 specs. There’s actually nothing wrong with that just don’t be glamoured by that USB version number since it’s no improvement over USB 3.0 in terms of speed under Gen 1 mode.
  • Note that the lowest capacity models for the featured drives are comparatively slower than their more expanded siblings. In the case of Corsair and Kingston, their entry-level model is 64GB whereas the Lexar offers size as low as 32GB.
  • As tested drives neither support TRIM nor do they have good random read and write speeds, they aren’t the ideal choices for running Windows or applications for that matter. They are by design exceptionally good at moving large files. By the same token, these drives will work great as supplemental storage for production system’s high-speed SSDs.
  • While conventional wisdom suggests you buy the fastest drive available, it’s best to pick one that matches the speed of system’s primary drive. Otherwise, your primary drive would just become the bottleneck to the flash drive.
  • If you value smaller drive dimension over speed, mini USB drives are another category of flash drives that doubles as a semi-permanent storage for your laptops. They are fact an effortless and a much more elegant way to expand space.

Price per Gigabyte


These prices were taken from Amazon directly, and are up-to-date as of early April 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.

 Corsair
Flash Voyager GS
Kingston
HyperX Savage
Lexar
JumpDrive P20
Sandisk
Extreme PRO
32GBn/an/a77.4 centsn/a
64GB59.5 cents59.3 cents58.9 centsn/a
128GB48.1 cents54.6 cents55.2 cents47.2 cents
256GB41.9 cents44.9 centsn/an/a
512GB37.5 cents55.2 centsn/an/a

 Which One to Choose?


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.

Featured Drives on Amazon