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

3 September 2018, Comments: 46

 September 2018         Ian Chiu

 Our Pick: Samsung FIT Plus


If performance is above all else, Samsung FIT Plus is the one to go for as it comes out on top in comparison to other mini USB 3.0 drives in our tests.  It is also backed by a generous 5-year warranty, and is the only drive other than the Sandisk Ultra Fit 3.1 to come with a 256GB option.  For the budget conscious, the Samsung’s cost per gigabyte is also reasonably low considering its zippy performance and durability.  Perhaps our only complaint is the size being noticeably larger than all the other drives in this round-up.  The PNY’s Elite-X Fit is our next logical choice albeit slower than the Samsung but the product has been out of stock for a while already.  We can’t recommend it until we are certain what plans PNY has for its mini drive.

Feature Comparison


 
Mushkin
Enhanced Atom

PNY
Elite-X FIT
Samsung
FIT Plus USB 3.1

Sandisk
Ultra Fit 3.1
Sandisk
Ultra Fit 3.0
Read Speed:
(10GB video)
150.23MB/s199.64MB/s293.54MB/s137.21MB/s135.23MB/s
Write Speed:
(10GB video)
34.76MB/s37.58MB/s42.31MB/s23.11MB/s30.25MB/s
Read Speed:
(5GB photos)
122.43MB/s167.19MB/s172.39MB/s100.59MB/s97.67MB/s
Write Speed:
(5GB photos)
27.75MB/s30.21MB/s35.48MB/s11.96MB/s27.55MB/s
Storage:16 - 128GB32 - 256GB32 - 256GB16 - 256GB16 - 128GB
Interface:USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.1 Gen 1USB 3.0
Dimensions:19.8 x 16.5 x 7.5mm20.8 x 15.2 x 6.4mm23.6 x 18.8 x 7.37mm19.1 x 15.9 x 8.8mm19.1 x 15.9 x 8.8mm
Build Material:Plastic grip, aluminum bodyPlastic grip, aluminum bodyPlastic grip, aluminum bodyPlastic bodyPlastic grip, aluminum body
Activity Light?NoNoNoNoNo
End Cap?YesYesNoNoYes
Color(s):WhiteBlackGrayBlackBlack
Release Date:Jan 2016Aug 2016June 2018Jan 2018June 2017
Warranty:2 years1 year5 years5 years5 years

Mini USB 3.0 Drives on Amazon


 Benchmark Analysis


During our large file (a 10GB MP4) transfer tests, Samsung’s FIT Plus is an undisputed leader in this sub-category of USB storage; it bested the second fastest drive – PNY Elite-X FIT – by as much as 47% in read speed.  It’s worth noting that Samsung’s performance ratings vary between different capacities.  The 32GB and 64GB model can reach up to 200MB/s whereas the 128GB and 256GB version can do 300MB/s.

Lastly, we noticed the Sandisk and the Mushkin both exhibited performance inconsistencies during write operations.  The former would actually drop to below 10MB/s before slowly returning to above 30MB/s.  The same thing didn’t happen with the PNY and Samsung. In another test which involved copying back and forth 5GB JPEGs (most of them being between 4 and 8MB), the Samsung was neck and neck with the PNY.  Both drives remained as the leaders in this round of benchmark.  However, 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 primarily 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 additional testing.

 Design & Build


The featured low-profile USB 3.0 drives are all similarly small, but as soon as they are put next to each other, Sandisk Ultra Fit 3.1’s diminutive size compares favorably to others – even if only by a fraction.  When inserted, the Sandisk only protrudes just 6mm from the edge of a laptop.  Still, last generation Sandisk, PNY and Mushkin are only slightly longer in comparison.  The Samsung FIT Plus in contrast is noticeably larger, probably in favor of heat dissipation.  It’s worth noting that the Samsung and PNY are the only ones with a keyring loop hole.

In terms of durability, Sandisk took a step backward with its squishy plastic connector with latest version of Ultra Fit 3.1.  This is a concern that is already echoed by a number of user reviews on Amazon.  Having said that, if you intend to leave the drive plugged at all times, this shouldn’t be that big of a problem.  We would have to say the other drives with their metal USB connectors protecting the flash components could likely survive if being stepped on.

 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.

By design, compact drives can always stay inserted to a USB-enabled car stereo or to a notebook as a semi-permanent storage for media.  They can also 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


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46 responses on “What are the Best Mini USB 3.0 Drives?

  1. Kris Phillips says:

    Funny enough a few years later the only one that’s competitive currently is the Sandisk. Spec wise it’s about 3rd. Price wise it’s the cheapest one available by a very wide margin. The Sandisk clocks in about half the price of the others if you can even still find the others. Despite inconsistent reports of overheating issues it is tied for the longest warranty at 5 years. Unless you NEED that PNY performance (with just a 1 year warranty) I would recommend Sandisk.

    Another one worth looking at, though is priced higher than the Sandisk, is the Mushkin enhanced atom. Seems to fall in line both spec and price wise with everything else on the list.=

    • noel_105 says:

      Here in Canada, the Samsung is only $10 more. A price I’m willing to pay to avoid potential damage to my USB port from the Sandisk drive overheating.

      • Kris Phillips says:

        I’m in Canada too. In my price hunting I found the SanDisk at 48$ and the Samsung is 74$. I understand you could have found a better price for the Samsung. I averaged prices when I claimed half the price. PNY I couldn’t find for under 100$ always looking for the 128GB and ignoring the rest.

        I’d also like to address the overheating. I don’t think it’s happening anymore or is extremely rare. Looking at ratings the SanDisk has a higher rating on Amazon than the Samsung does, and you can bet everyone who had their computer melted rated it a 1*. So while the reports are things that exist I don’t think it’s a real risk. At this point the Sandisk one has been out for 3.5ish years, there have been many revisions of it, it was likely an earlier revision that had the problem and even then it was likely rare.

        Both Samsung and Sandisk are rated for 5 years so for my purposes I would say Samsung is my second choice.

  2. nereus says:

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

  3. Nice guide, useful information 🙂

  4. Kent Berry says:

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

  5. Darin says:

    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….

  6. Samira Peri says:

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

    • Kiwi Slayer says:

      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 says:

          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 says:

      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.

  7. mahesh rautray says:

    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.

  8. JaCe88 says:

    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.

  9. Alex Busuioceanu says:

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

    • Ian Chiu says:

      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.

  10. Frylock86 says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

        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 says:

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

  11. Arsenal1Again says:

    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.

  12. Robert Baker says:

    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.

  13. Alessio Brabus says:

    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 says:

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

  14. Jakewwa says:

    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 says:

      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.

  15. RinconBlue says:

    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.

  16. Vlad B says:

    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.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/292c86f4f64adaf16c4141922ab561a0a7c129e3d4bd6234b315dd5492aaa35b.jpg

  17. Arthur Hortmann Erpen says:

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

  18. 2ool says:

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

    • everythingusb says:

      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 says:

        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 says:

      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.

  19. 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 says:

      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 says:

          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 says:

          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)

  20. Jo-han Goh says:

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

    • everythingusb says:

      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.

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