We put five mini USB 3.0 drives from Lexar, PNY, Samsung, Sandisk and Transcend to test. These compact drives by design can always stay plugged as a semi-permanent storage, yet fast enough for everyday tasks.

26 April 2017, Comments: 42

 April 2017         Ian Chiu

 The Best Mini Drives

Lexar JumpDrive S45’s and Sandisk’s Ultra Fit speed, size and price range come out on top in comparison to other tested mini USB 3.0 drives. At around 30 cents cost per GB (64GB, April 2017), both the Lexar and Sandisk are least expensive drives of this category you can buy right now. Combine that with compact profile and decent performance, they make two capable plug-it-and-forget-it mini USB drives. PNY’s Elite-X Fit with 200MB/s read is also worth a look if you want the fastest available and don’t mind its slightly large size.

Feature Comparison

JumpDrive S45
Elite-X FIT
FIT 3.0
Ultra Fit
JetFlash 710
Strength:Speed, size, priceSpeedSize, priceSpeed, size, priceDurability
Read Speed:144.67MB/s199.64MB/s118.92MB/s136.27MB/s90.67MB/s
Write Speed:39.04MB/s37.58MB/s38.78MB/s31.65MB/s28.79MB/s
Storage:16 - 128GB32 - 128GB32 - 128GB16 - 128GB16 - 64GB
Interface:USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1
Dimensions:18 x 16 x 8mm20.8 x 15.2 x 6.4mm19.7 x 15.4 x 8.7mm19 x 17 x 8.8mm22.4 × 12 × 6mm
Build Material:Plastic grip, aluminum bodyPlastic grip, aluminum bodyPlastic grip, aluminum bodyPlastic grip, aluminum bodyAluminum unibody
Activity Light:YesNoNoYesNo
Color(s):Orange (16GB)
Blue (32GB)
Teal (64GB)
Black (128GB)
BlackWhiteBlackGold, silver
Release Date:Feb 2016Aug 2016Feb 2016August 2014Dec 2014
Warranty:3 years1 year5 years5 yearsLifetime

Mini USB 3.0 Drives on Amazon

 Benchmark Analysis

During our large file (a 10GB MKV) transfer tests, PNY’s Elite-X Fit was the speed champion during our read speed benchmark. It bested the second fastest drive – JumpDrive S45 – by 37%. When taken write performance into account, the PNY was neck and neck with the Lexar and Samsung in the same 10GB write tests. It’s worth noting that PNY was the only drive that was able to reach their advertised speeds (200MB/s write and 30MB/s write). Transcend never revealed its drive’s performance, so your mileage may vary.

In another test which involved copying back and forth 4.7GB JPEGs (most being between 4 and 8MB), PNY remained as the leader in this round of benchmark. Samsung and Sandisk were not far behind. Neither write nor read speed was even close to its their larger siblings, but surely you know you are trading speed for size.

Note these two tests focused primiarly on sequential performance, because we felt most people would rely on a mini drive primarily as intermediary or secondary storage for media data.  These mini drives, without a decent flash controller, are inherently incapable of handling applications that require fast random access. For this reason, we didn’t bother with further testing.

 Design & Build

The tested low-profile USB 3.0 drives are all similarly small. As soon as they are put next to each other, Lexar JumpDrive S45’s diminutive size compares favorably to others. Sandisk and Samsung in comparison are wider and longer only by a fraction. In the case of Transcend and PNY, the increase in the drives’ length can be attributed to a large keyring loop hole.

When plugged, the smallest drives – Lexar and Sandisk – only protrude just 5mm and 7mm respectively from the edge of a laptop. Yet their minimalist designs are still able to accommodate a drive activity light. There’s one caveat: Lexar’s LED is overly bright. This might be a problem during media playback when you (and even the person sitting next to you) could be potentially distracted by the blue strobe light.

In terms of durability, Transcend has a rigid aluminium unibody, which is likely to survive if it’s being stepped on. The rest of them are just made by plastic with aluminium chassis housing the flash memory components.

Overheating doesn’t seem to be much of an issue on our MacBook Pro Retina as far as we can tell. The Transcend did get a little bit warm after our endurance tests but that’s simply because the drive’s aluminium conducts heat faster than most other materials commonly used on flash drives.

 Cost per Gigabyte

These prices were average figures taken from various online retailers, and are up-to-date as of April 2017. And judging from current prices, there’s no reason not to pick a 128GB.

 Lexar JumpDrive S45PNY Elite-X FitSamsung FIT 3.0Sandisk Ultra FitTranscend JetFlash 710
16GB49.7 centsn/an/a64 cents81.2 cents
32GB39.1 cents62.5 cents62.8 cents37.3 cents62.5 cents
64GB35.1 cents39.2 cents39.1 cents29.7 cents62.3 cents
128GB31.2 cents70.1 cents32.3 cents30.5 centsn/a

 Who Would Need Such a Small Drive?

Buyers who want a drive that only protrudes as little as possible from a USB port should consider one. Thumb drives in general stick out quite conspicuously so they could easily get bent when being bumped repeatedly. This could easily result in data loss and maybe even worse, a broken USB port.

For smartphone users, if you are using an OTG adapter that already sticks out of the handset’s USB port quite a bit, you want a mini USB drive that gets in the way as little as possible. For PC users, compact drives by design can always stay inserted to a USB-enabled car stereo or to a notebook as a semi-permanent storage for media. They can free up precious space on the laptop’s speedy SSD for mission critical tasks. For this reason, a mini USB drive can actually prove to be quite practical to some of us who might need an effortless storage expansion option.

Mini USB 3.0 Drives on Amazon

  • Jo-han Goh

    Finally a new posting. I thought you guys forgot the website entirely

    • everythingusb

      Thanks for your comment. We are reviving the site after a 4 month long hiatus. Past evaluations of the site suggested a new editorial direction is necessary. This article is the first step in this direction.

  • One review of the Sandisk on B&H complains it runs too hot, something I have also experienced with previous generations of the design.

    • Sopot

      Apparently so does the Transcend. Sad really, I need a reliable small usb 3 stick.

      • Even larger drives (including the new Samsung 1TB USB SSD) seem to have that issue. The thermal dissipation on a usb stub-sized drive are never going to be enough, and market volume is not sufficient to justify the development of ultra-low-power controllers and NAND flash to minimize TDP.

        On the plus side, heat actually improves the reliability of NAND flash.

        • Nino Martino

          Hi Fazal, do you mind to tell us more about how the heat improves the reliability of NAND flash? I really am interested to know more about it

        • P Cox

          From your reference: “The modification is a complex one and required substantial engineering, but the results are impressive—a brief and restricted jolt at 800C appears to “heal” the flash cell, removing its retained charge. Macronix estimates that this can be done repeatedly as needed, leading to a flash cell that could potentially last for 100,000,000 cycles, instead
          of the roughly 1,000 cycles that current 21nm TLC flash cells are rated to last.”

          My guess is that the flash drive isn’t receiving a “brief and restricted 800*C (1,472*F) “jolt”” in the USB socket of your computer; if it is – then it probably doesn’t matter if the USB flash drive life is extended.

    • yeah this is why I am here looking for a replacement, the 32GB sandisk ultra fit I have gets WAY too hot for me to leave it the laptop permanently… this laptop does have a microsd slot, might get one of those instead (well as long as it can boot, which might be unlikely, oh well, figure it out eventually)

  • 2ool

    I just bought Sandisk Ultra Fit, and it seems overheat fast while copying 20GB file. which make it disconnect without complete copying.

    • everythingusb

      Hmm… I tested the Ultra Fit on Surface Pro 3 and MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013). Before completing these benchmarks, I repeatedly filled up the drive with my 40GB photo library. But I never had an issue with overheating let alone disconnecting on its own prematurely. Could you tell us more about your problem?

      • 2ool

        I have the 32GB model. and I tried to write (copying from local drive) one single file 20GB*. the write speed was 47MB/s ~ 30MB/s. but the drive become extremely hot for touching after 1 min of writing , then it disconnect. I tried this on different format i.e. NTFS, exFAT.

        I was able to write the file on USB 2.0 without overheating. also I did tried to write the same file on USB 3.0 while pausing the process if the drive become too hot.

        The drive didn’t seems to have issue reading the same file to my PC (copying it to local drive)

        I believe this issue has relation to the drive and the type of files (not my PC).
        *20GB was Guild Wars 2 Dat file.
        *sorry for my bad english

    • hsk

      I have bought the 128GB version of Sandisk Ultrafit and it does get quite heated when copying larger files or even when you leave it in the laptop for 3-4 hours.

  • Arthur Hortmann Erpen

    Can you have two Sandisk Ultra Fit plugged in a Macbook Pro at the same time? Are they small enough?

  • Lol, this is exactly the flash drive that I owed. It is different brand though. Alpha USB, I am talking about the large one on a picture. It lasted for over 5 years until it fell under my car wheel 🙂 I never understood why someone would want to buy such a tiny USB Drives as these examples. They are so inconvenient and easy to lose. This is the model I have, it is not large and not small, I think such size is perfect and there is no need to make smaller.

    • David Ploenzke

      Because you can leave them plugged in for extra storage.

  • RinconBlue

    I have one of the Sandisk drives and I got a similar sized Leef drive. The Leef drive has an LCD activity light which illuminates the entire drive vice the small light on the Sandisk. I haven’t benchmarked them but they seem to be about the same speed.

  • Jakewwa

    What makes one drive faster than the other? The all have the same USB 3.0 interface. Do they use different memory? The controller? What??

    • tipoo2

      Yes, controller and NAND. USB 3 is just the interface. If they had a 1TB/s interface they’d still only read and write at ~130, the bottleneck is elsewhere.

  • Alessio Brabus

    Hi, forgive my bad english. Interesting test, but what about random 4k read/write? I need a fast USB drive to enhance storage capacity of a lenovo Yoga 300 (just 32gb, only 1 free! How they can sell that unusable thing?)) I tried a Kingston Hyper X, it’s very fast in sequential read/write, but very slow in random 4k, and even too large for a plug in and forget drive. The Sandisk Ultra Fit has perfect size, but it’s slower in sequential performace compared to the HyperX, so I think it’s even worse in random 4k. 🙁

    • tipoo2

      I’m curious about this too. Large sequential transfers are easy, how is it at high IO tests and 4K random read/write?

  • Robert Baker

    First for those asking why such a short USB stick – I am a teacher using a school computer for over a year and half and I need something that I can take everywhere on campus and to home. I keep everything for my class and extra curriculum activities on my drive. This allows me great flexibility with data and convenience to be completely mobile. If I have a regular USB drive sticking out it would get destroyed in a short period of time and that is real experience. Second to the best unit I have found has been the Sandisk Cruzer Fit USB 64 GB.. It has preformed flawlessly and allows for everything I need to be mobile. I highly recommend.

  • Arsenal1Again

    The Sandisk Ultra Fit is always being rated highest in these comparison articles.

    All they are doing is test it long enough to benchmark.

    The SanDisk in a USB 3.0 port is ultra hot within 5 mins of transferring files and the longer it goes on the hotter it gets. There are cases of it frying the port. I have a pair of 64GB Ultra fit drives because they are more stable than the 128GB size. I have found out from experience they heat up like I read everywhere online on USB 3.0, but are fine in USB 2.0 ports besides the fact they are slower in these.

    Many laptops have boot problems with these left in the ports too. My HP 8560w has 3TB of SDD storage and I wanted to use my 2 USB3 Ultrafit drives in it for a dumping ground for files to be processed on one of my other laptops wi9th Sneakernet.

  • Frylock86

    Hey Everything USB, can you please do a fresh review for 2016 of mini USB 3.0 drives? Also include the Samsung USB 3.0 FIT Drive and any other new entrants.

    • Cedric

      Very good question, I wonder what’s the best USB flash drive between SAMSUNG fit 128, LEXAR S45 128, or the SANDISK (that seems to be quickly very hot for a lot of users) I’m searching for a divice that’ll stay always plugged on my laptop to increrase my storage and complete my SSD 256 Gb)

      • Ian Chiu

        If you plan on using the Lexar S45 for secondary storage, keep in mind that the overly bright activity light can be an annoyance.

    • Ian Chiu

      I’m adding Lexar S45 64GB to the comparison but I have problem acquiring Samsung FIT.

  • Alex Busuioceanu

    Hello, could you fit 2 sandisks ultra one next to the other in that macbook pro?

    • Ian Chiu

      I believe two Ultra Fits will barely fit on MacBook Pro 15″ 2010. But I am certain two Lexar S45s will fit without a problem.

  • JaCe88

    Good reviews. I’m glad I went with the Sandisk Ultra Fit since it was also the cheapest small USB drive (128gb for $55) I could find in my local electronics store in Singapore. So far it works pretty fast, and it fits in well with my Surface Pro 4 when it’s inside the thick STM Dux case so it does not stick out much.

  • mahesh rautray

    I think this website is getting paid by SanDisk, everything is mentioned but not the heating problem, do you guys know heating of USB drive will use more battery power i. e. 30% to 40%. So it becomes a problem with phones.

    • Katerina Kounavi

      good point. it know from personal experience

  • Samira Peri

    “no reason not to” is a double negative and means exactly the opposite of what you intended. 😛

    • Kiwi Slayer

      no reason not to basically means a reason to, no?

      • i think not.
        “I have no reason not to buy…Kingston” does not mean “I have reason to buy Kingston”.

        • andreww

          I posted above, but yes, it is a literally device that implies you are compelled to buy a 128gb over other options.

          You can read this reply I posted above for a further break down.

          It may be a vapid and overused expression, but it definitely does not mean the opposite of what the other intended.

          Think about it.

          The other is suggesting you buy a 128gb. Because of the reasons they outline, they cannot find a reason why you SHOULD NOT buy a 128gb. So they are saying, you have NO reason NOT to buy one, therefore you should buy one.

          Some people is saying you ‘have (a) reason not to buy a 128gb’

          The author is saying you have NO ‘reason not to buy a 128gb’. Therefore you should buy one.

    • andreww

      It may be a vapid and overused expression, but it definitely does not mean the opposite of what the other intended.
      Think about it.
      The other is suggesting you buy a 128gb. Because of the reasons they outline, they cannot find a reason why you SHOULD NOT buy a 128gb. So they are saying, you have NO reason NOT to buy one, therefore you should buy one.
      Some people is saying you ‘have (a) reason not to buy a 128gb’
      The author is saying you have NO ‘reason not to buy a 128gb’. Therefore you should buy one.

  • Darin

    Can you add in the Strontium Nitro USB 128gb drive? Also could you please show a comparison of all the random IO speeds? I personally want to purchase the mini USB with the faster random read/write speeds. Raspberry Pi project….

  • Kent Berry

    All of these have slow write speeds, despite USB 3.0 having been around for eons. #justshootme #willmooreslaweverapplytousb3pointohwritecontrollers

  • Nice guide, useful information 🙂

  • nereus

    the tests on my macbook are completely different, I get write speed of 90 MB with sandisk and 80 with Lexar

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