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.

26 January 2016, Comments: 2

 January 2016         Ian Chiu

The purpose of this article is to find out which flash drive 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 focuses during our evaluations.

In this four drive comparison, Corsair Flash Voyager GS and Kingston HyperX Savage have a distinct performance 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

Flash Voyager GS
Flash Voyager GTX
HyperX Savage
DT Elite G2
Bar Plus
Extreme PRO
Extreme Go
Movie Read:
(10GB MP4)
Movie Write:
(10GB MP4)
Photo Read:
Photo Write:
Storage:64 - 512GB128 - 256GB64 - 512GB32 - 128GB16 - 128GB32 - 256GB128 - 256GB64 - 128GB
Dimensions:78 x 26.4 x 10.8mm78 x 26.4 x 10.8mm76.3 x 23.5 x 12mm59.4 x 19 x 11mm40 x 12.2 x 10.92mm40.5 x 15 x 13mm71 x 21 x 11mm71 x 20 x 11mm
Color(s):BlackBlackBlack with red accentsBlackGray, silverGray, silverBlackBlack
Interface(s):USB 3.0USB 3.0USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen. 1
Retractable Connector?NoNoNoNoNoNoYesYes
Build Material:Zinc alloyZinc alloyRubberized plastic with aluminium support Zinc alloy die-cast metal body with plastic capMetal unibodyMetal unibodyPlastic body with aluminum alloyPlastic body with aluminum alloy
Software:NoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneDrive encryption, data recoveryDrive encryption, data recovery
Release Date:Jan 2015Jan 2015Nov 2015Sept 2017Sept 2015July 2018Jan 2017Jan 2017
Warranty:5 years5 years5 years5 years5 years5 yearsLifetimeLifetime

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 Design & Build

All four USB 3.0 flash drives share a similar build quality.  The Corsair Flash Voyager GS does stand apart with its zinc alloy body, adding to its toughness as well as weight.  There’s one caveat with the Corsair, however; the chassis is very prone to scratches.  So, you might not want to hook the Flash Voyager to a keychain.  The Corsair’s removable metallic cap fits very tight in the USB plug, thanks to the cap’s rubber seal interior.  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.

By contrast, the Kingston HyperX Savage 3.0 is more trendy in design with its metallic red X-shaped emblem, which happens to add some strength to the drive’s rubberized body.  We did end up wishing for a better cap.  While it stayed on during our tests, it didn’t feel very secure.  It might only be a matter of time before the cap 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 any of them will still function 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.

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 aging 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.

 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 there’s no speed improvement by “upgrading” to USB 3.1 Gen 1.
  • 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.

 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.

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