We tested five dual flash drives from Kingston, PNY, Sandisk, Silicon Power and Sony. These USB 3.1 Gen. 1 drives serve as a bridge between USB-C and legacy USB-A PCs, offering you the best of the both worlds.

28 July 2018, Comments: 0

 July 2018         Ian Chiu

 Do I need a Dual Flash Drive?


Dual flash drives – having USB Type-A and USB-C connector on opposite ends – are becoming more relevant as more computers and smartphones ship with the reversible USB port exclusively.  They make sure you have readily access to your data on your future-proof USB-C devices as well as giving you backward compatibility on PCs and Macs with good old USB Type-A.  For this reason, it will never hurt to have at least one of these dual-headed flash drives in case you need a quick and easy file transfer solution.

Feature Comparison


 
Kingston
DT microDuo 3C
PNY
Duo Link OTG Drive
Sandisk
Ultra Dual Drive
Silicon Power
Mobile C31
Sony
USM-CA1
Storage:16 - 128GB32 - 128GB16 - 256GB16 - 64GB16 - 64GB
Interface(s):USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
Dimensions:30 x 16.6 x 8.4mm50.8 x 25.4 x 8.9mm38 x 20.1 x 9.4mm33.2 x 12.3 x 8.5mm26.4 x 12.2 x 5.3mm
Weight:4.5g8.2g9.1g3.3g5g
Build Material:Plastic & metalPlasticPlastic & metalPlastic & metalMetal
USB Plug Protection?Rotating cap for USB-CRetractable connectorsRetractable connectorsSwivel capNo
Color(s):SilverBlackBlack & silverSilver & greySilver
Android File Manager?NoNoSandisk Memory ZoneSP File ManagerNo
Release Date:July 2015April 2018May 2016July 2017Jan 2016
Warranty:5 years1 year5 yearsLifetime2 years

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Benchmark Analysis


We carried out our drive benchmarks on two different platforms – Apple MacBook Pro (2014) and Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.  The Galaxy – the first (or second if you count Note 7) flagship phone from Samsung to come with USB-C – was chosen because of its popularity whereas the MacBook Pro was selected for legacy USB-A connectivity.

Kingston claims read speed of 100MB/s over USB Type-A for its MicroDuo 3C.  The corresponding numbers are 150MB/s and 130MB/s for Sandisk Ultra Dual and Sony USM-CA1 respectively.  Silicon Power, however, doesn’t advertise its drive speed for its Mobile C31 so we didn’t know what to expect in terms of performance.  Lastly, PNY’s Duo Link OTG can reportedly reach up to 130MB/s in ideal conditions.

Our testing with the USB Type-A interface involved transferring a 5GB MP4 file back and forth between our Mac and the drives.  We repeated the process with a folder containing 1000 JPEGs.  As you can see in the graph above, Silicon Power Mobile C31 was clearly ahead with rest of the drives but the advantages greatly diminished during small file transfers.  There’s also something peculiar to the Kingston MicroDuo 3C as the drive consistently fell short of its advertised speed.

Next we looked into the kind of performance you can expect if you plan on using these dual-headed drives for regular photo backups and large video imports on a Samsung Galaxy S8.  The smartphone is equipped with USB-C capable of delivering 5Gbps, just like almost every other Android handset released in 2017.  For this set of benchmarks, we repeated the same procedures on USB-C as we did with the legacy USB-A on our Mac.

From the graph above, the Mobile C31 from Silicon Power continued to lead by a fair margin in large file transfers.  The drive, however, was neck and neck with the others when copying photos.  The MicroDuo 3C from Kingston did manage to hold its own in spite of its disappointing performance on USB Type-A.

Benchmark Data


 Kingston
DT microDuo 3C
PNY
Duo Link OTG Drive
Sandisk
Ultra Dual Drive
Silicon Power
Mobile C31
Sony
USM-CA1
5GB Movie Read Speed:
(USB Drive to PC)
42.11MB/s121.66MB/s142.21MB/s211.32MB/s123.18MB/s
5GB Movie Write Speed:
(PC to USB Drive)
14.34MB/s20.44MB/s27.48MB/s29.24MB/s16.45MB/s
5GB Photos Read Speed:
(USB Drive to PC)
38.70MB/s97.62MB/s100.98MB/s165.75MB/s89.72MB/s
5GB Photos Write Speed:
(PC to USB Drive)
13.41MB/s18.49MB/s17.56MB/s26.87MB/s12.26MB/s
5GB Movie Read Speed:
(USB Drive to Samsung S8)
75.32MB/s85.2MB/s65.81MB/s88.84MB/s67.56MB/s
5GB Movie Write Speed:
(Samsung S8 to USB Drive)
21.3MB/s16.62MB/s21.56MB/s21.98MB/s20.52MB/s
5GB Photos Read Speed:
(USB Drive to Samsung S8)
68.83MB/s75.51MB/s57.52MB/s76.33MB/s53.8MB/s
5GB Photos Write Speed:
(Samsung S8 to USB Drive)
14.27MB/s15.01MB/s21.31MB/s18.91MB/s20.35MB/s

Drive Design & Features


Manufacturers took different approach in the design with their dual flash drives but there’s nothing we haven’t seen before.  To protect the USB connectors, Kingston and Silicon Power opt for the swivel cap whereas Sandisk and PNY choose retractable connector design.  Sony simply provides a silicone case for its drive.

Design-wise, the Sandisk and Silicon Power are better for daily use as we didn’t have to wait for either drive to cool down before pulling them out from a USB port.  In the case of Sony and Kingston, we had to wait half a minute or so because these bare drives might get too hot to handle after several minutes of intense I/O operations.  The PNY, however, doesn’t exactly have the best sliding mechanism as the slider sometimes makes it difficult to reveal and retract the USB connectors.  The drive also feels somewhat flimsy compared to other models tested here.

On the software side, some of these drives provide their own Android backup and file management app.  That is the case with Sandisk and Silicon Power.  However, we didn’t have any lucky getting our Sandisk Ultra Dual recognized by the company’s Memory Zone app.  Silicon Power’s own file explorer is also more or less the same as the stock file manager found on our Samsung S8 Plus.  Since there’s an abundance of third-party file browser apps on Google Play Store, you’ve plenty of options when it comes to managing files on your USB drives on Android.

 The Best Dual USB Drives


Out of the five drives we tested, Silicon Power Mobile C31 has proved to be a better performer in terms of design and performance.  Its swivel cap also serves as a great handle for pulling the drive from a port, especially if the drive heats up considerably after long use.  The second best is the Sandisk Dual Ultra Drive should you prefer its slider and all-around protection.

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