While not the fastest USB 3.0 drive, Kingston DT Ultimate 3.0 is very tempting with killer warranty and enough speed to satisfy most customers' needs. If you don't mind giving up some read speed for longevity, then it may just be right up your alley.
More and more companies are certainly getting on the SuperSpeed train! The latest to bring out a USB 3.0 flash drive is Kingston with their Data Traveler Ultimate 3.0 model. On paper, this flash drive's 80MB/s read and 60MB/s write specifications are a little on the low side, though it still eons better than the previous generation Data Traveler. As with most things paper and reality can be completely different, so how does this drive really compare to some other USB 3.0 flash drives? Read on to find in my full review.
For anyone who has used Kinston flash drives the new DT Ultimate USB 3.0 will be refreshingly new in appearance. Unlike past models, the new Ultimate has a very short and stocky plastic body. It is down right thick when you hold it in your hands. I can honestly say I like this design as it fits nicely in your hand and more importantly, has a reassuringly solid feel that belies its reliance on mainly plastic for its case.
The reason for most of this added weight is that the Data Traveler Ultimate uses copious amounts of aluminum coverings on its body. These brushed aluminum side panels are only there for looks and do not really do much to act as heatsinks. This is both a good and bad thing. It is a downside as it is a missed opportunity to let the body of the Ultimate shed even more heat from his controller and NAND chips. But where this model barely gets warm to the touch, it certainly isn't a big deal either! The fact that the flash drive barely warms up during extended usage really is a nice bonus, considering the speed boost Kingston has bestowed upon this new version. The speed of this drive at 80/60 MB/s certainly will not win any performance awards, but it should still be more than enough for most users needs.
As with most flash drives, the Ultimate 3.0 has a removable cap with a non moveable port. I personally both like and dislike this design. At least with the sliding port which can be hidden inside the body, a removable cap can easily be lost. On the positive side, the rear of this flash drive comes with a built-in lanyard ring (with included small lanyard attachment) and is also designed as a integrated cap holder. You can literally plug the cap unto the end of this drive for safe keeping and do so without blocking the integrated blue activity LED.
The LED itself is another nice little tweak which didn't fail to impress. Unlike some other models, Kingston has taken the same approach as Super Talent made the LED internal. The center rear half of the drive glows a nice mellow blue which is neither distracting nor annoying, while still being bright enough to be noticeable. It may only be a small tweak, but this does lend a nice air of refinement that this drive badly needs. Please don't get me wrong, the Super Talent Express 3.0 Drive still looks much nicer and more refined but the Data Traveler Ultimate 3.0 is no slouch in the looks department. It's just that a plastic drive (aluminum side panels or no) just doesn't scream "sophistication" or "elegance" like an all metal chassis does. Considering the price point, this drive resides in plastic just doesn't cut it anymore.
Daily Use & Usability
As mentioned earlier, the Data Traveler Ultimate 3.0 is a very short and thick USB 3.0 flash drive. Luckily, it is no wider than your "typical" USB 2.0 counterpart. In practical terms, this combination means that while it may block the port below (or above) it, it will not block adjacent ports. Considering most USB 3.0 adapter cards have the two ports side by side, this should only make the over-sized footprint of the Ultimate a potential issue for any one using a motherboard with built in USB 3.0 ports.
If you fall into the latter category, it may have a tendency to block a secondary USB 2.0 port, but considering most motherboards come with a veritable kings bounty of USB 2.0 ports, the loss of one port to the Ultimate is neither here nor there. For anyone planning on using this on a USB 2.0 port, I can honestly say that in for my systems the Y adapter was not needed, but I wouldn't count on not needing it either. Kingston's instructions are very clear that you should always use it for completely backwards compatibility. I consider this a major negative as it negates most of the portability aspects a flash drive offers you. Who really wants to carry around a bulky cable just to reliably use their flash drive?!
On the upside, as USB 3.0 becomes more popular, this issue will become more and more moot. Also on the positive side, I did find the Ultimate flash drive to fit comfortably in darn near any of my pockets. It is large enough you know its there, but it is not so large as to be annoying or uncomfortable even after being stuck in a pants pocket all day.
Crystal DiskMark Benchmarks
As expected, the read performance of the Data Traveler Ultimate 32GB did significantly drop off compared to the competition as the file size gets smaller. Luckily, most people will not be pulling gigabytes worth of small 4k files from their flash drive so the differences are more than likely not going to be noticed by consumers in the real world. With that being said, the write performance of this drive is surprisingly peppy and goes a long ways to justifying the added expense of the Ultimate compared to the Super Talent Express 3.0 Drive.
Real World Performance
In more real world orientated tasks, the Ultimate once again shows very good write abilities that are somewhat hobbled by less than optimal read performance. Please don't get me wrong, these numbers are very good for a "mere" flash drive, but they are relatively low for its price range.
Stylish good looks in a retro chic kinda way
Decent read performance with good write performance
LED indicator is not annoyingly bright
Great 5 year warranty
No software needed to get the most from it
Uses default MS drivers
Y adapter included for increased compatibility with USB 2.0 systems
Pricey for the speed it offers
May block USB ports to either side of it
Requires USB 3.0 to get the most from it
Will more than likely NEED the Y adapter for hassle-free USB 2.0 connectivity
There is certainly a lot to like about the Data Traveler Ultimate USB 3.0. I liked its fit and feel. I liked its above average (for its class) write abilities. I especially liked its amazing five year warranty. Heck, I even liked its funky looks (though I do wish Kingston had opted for a full metal chassis). With that being said, there is a few caveats worth pointing out before rushing out and buying one.
One of the biggest issues I have with the Ultimate is its less than stellar read speed. This certainly is a massive improvement over its USB 2.0 brethren but in this new USB 3.0 market, that is actually a tad on the anemic side. It really is a testament to how big a paradigm shift USB 3.0 is, when I can say something like that in all seriousness. The other issue I have is with its backwards compatibility. I didn't have any problems using it directly attached to a USB 2.0 port. But the fact that Kingston not only includes the Y adapter but strongly recommends using it is a tad troubling to say the least. Unlike the read speed issue, this one will go away as time goes by. After all, once USB 3.0 becomes the de-facto standard, the Y cable will no longer be needed!
In the end, if you don't mind waiting a couple extra seconds on reads and want likely the best warranty out there, the Data Traveler Ultimate should be on your short list. If you are a enthusiast looking for bleeding edge speeds, you probably will want to look elsewhere.