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  • webmastir - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    great write up, thanks! Reply
  • Kelemvor - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Absolutely. Hit on all the topics. Thanks. And they really aren't all that much more expensive. Reply
  • sbrown23 - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    It was good, but I would like to have seen a testing of Linux distro running from the flash drive to get an idea of performance in that type of scenario. Load each up with a Linux distribution, boot each one and run a couple of benchmarks (heck even include boottime, etc.) Reply
  • pvdw - Thursday, December 01, 2011 - link

    Definitely. The biggest use I get out of flash drives is for tech support, so I find random reads and writes sorely lacking. :( Reply
  • xygot - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    This is a nice article for USB 3.0 using flash drive. However, I'm more interested in benchmark between USB 3.0 and eSata using external hard drive. Is there a benchmark on the way?

    This is what holding me for now if I need to upgrade to USB 3.0 or stay on eSata.
  • Zenthar - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    I would like to see that as well. Given the $/GB of those thumbdrives, I would also be curious to see external USB 3.0 SSDs. Different needs will warrant different solutions.

    For backups for example (mostly sequential read/write), it would probably be more cost/efficient to get an external 2.5 HDD. If you want something to install and run applications from, then perhaps you will get better performance out of an external SSD.

    The extra size of external HDD/SSD could be a bit annoying, but this usually translates to lower possibility of losing or washing the drive.
  • Gigantopithecus - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Hi xygot - I don't plan on adding a USB 3.0 vs eSATA performance comparison to the article. However, I can report that using a USB 3.0 HDD dock with a Western Digital WD20EARS on both ends of the transfer, for MP3 files, I get sustained writes of ~30MB/s and sustained reads of 50MB/s. Hope that helps! Reply
  • ckryan - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    If you want to use a mechanical HDD, just stick with eSata. You won't be limited in any aspect of the HDD's performance. But I think there are some newer eSata and USB3 docks on the way, or possibly already on the market. Why not both?

    In my eSata II testing, I've found that a 7200rpm desktop drive has almost identical performance in an enclosure as it does with the Sata ports on the MB. As for USB3.0, I have two motherboards that support it, but no usb 3.0 devices. So I can't really speak to 3.0's performance except to say it's not like your HDD will run faster in a USB3 enclosure than it does in your computer.

    As for the few USB3 external HDD, it's always been my preference to roll my own with an enclosure and my own HDD.
  • Sweeo - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Well for me I would go for USB 3,how many comps/other divices got eSata ?
    USB 3 backword compatable
    The thing is "other devises"
  • doylecc - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    Adding eSATA is easy if you have a desktop. The adapter is inexpensive; this one costs less than $5 and provides two eSATA ports:

    The eSata adapter socket mounts on an expansion card bracket that installs in any unused expansion card opening in the back of your computer.

    Performance-wise, eSATA will allow you to extract the full performance from any mechanical hard drive. The faster SSDs need SATA III (6GB/sec) or USB 3 bandwidth for full performance.

    Of course, if you have a laptop, you're limited to the built-in ports.
  • rickcain2320 - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    I really wished firewire had gained more traction in the market. I've had nothing but trouble with USB over the years, with quirky connection behavior to buggy driver sets to slow transfer speeds. Reply
  • Rick83 - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    20 GB was not huge.
    In fact, in 1998/1999 I had a 30 GB disk in a relatively cheap off-the-shelf computer.
    So by 2002, 60/80 GB would have been 'huge', but 20 was becoming pretty much standard for new machines.
  • ckryan - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    My average system drive size never really increased all that much over the years. In 1998/1999 I had a 20GB system. When I built a new Pentium 4 system in 2003 I put an original 36GB 10K Raptor in it. I used it for quite some time. All of my laptops from the last decade always had around 40GB of very slow HDD. Then in the last two years I put small SSDs in all of my systems, until recently, when I bought and Intel 510 120GB for my main system. In many ways not having a ton of space taught me to optimize what I would put on my drive and how to make the most of it, helping me into the early days of SSDs where space is at a premium, especially in a mobile system where you only have access to one drive.

    Though now that I think about it, what the hell were people doing with all that space (besides games)? I'll have to find my old late 90's vintage system and see. My first computer was a 386sx 16, a packard bell, with a 40megabyte hdd. I could install windows 3.1 OR Ultima 7, but not both. So in twenty years I went from a 40MB HDD and 1.44MB "High Density" floppies to 3TB HDD, super fast SSDs, and enormous flash drives. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but I seem to be waxing nostalgic a lot recently about the "Good old days" that never really were.
  • randinspace - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Around that same time period I got into some pretty dubious translation "scenes" ("they're are for educational purposes") and had to go from a DELL with a 20gb HDD to a custom build packing a 60 GB drive within a mere year, but between prices being what they were and eventually abandoning my desktop for a laptop it made a lot more sense to me to rely upon DVDs for long term storage until just a couple of years ago. Now my netbook has a bigger HDD than my first external HDD did but the idea of losing so much data/material at once completely terrifies me since everybody else's projects got derailed left and right back then due to HDD failures... Actually, I wonder how often hardware failure was just an excuse by lazy/greedy translators/editors? More than health problems anyway.

    That said, video encoding techniques have somehow advanced at a rate that makes it possible to have not only better resolutions but lower file sizes than we did back then (not accounting for the likes of .flv and morons that decide to distribute .ts files and bloated Blu-Ray .isos) as long as you have a decent CPU, but instead of taking the gains and running this has somehow inspired most people to ratchet up the space taken up by the audio side for all that the last thing that makes a difference in one's experience of something in a language they can't understand (that might be subtitled in a language they only barely understand) is the difference between AAC and FLAC.

    Even in certain games the largest part of the install might be the audio, and by the same token since CDs are still hanging in there but people now have TB of storage instead of MB (sticking a CD in the drive or having your stereo nearby to listen to it) or GB (I'm glad that .rmf is far behind me but .ogg and .mp3 are still valid for most setups) there isn't a lot of incentive for most people to "limit themselves" to either highly compressed or even variable bitrate files instead of WAV (LOL, though some make an argument for the time saved encoding) and FLAC and APE and what have you (my personal favorite of the bunch is TTA but too many people fail at it for some reason).

    OK I put too much text in parentheses there, but since I wasn't using my disk space on games the short answer to your question of what people were using the space for aside from them is hoarding AV... In fact there's a really apt quote that shows up on DailyTech from somebody (either a seagate or WD executive, I think) commenting that by providing consumers with storage capacity they were just helping them watch porn or something like that.
  • Stahn Aileron - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    I'm pretty sure he meant relatively to portable storage solutions, not internal to a computer.

    Actually, when exactly did portable HDD's come into the mainstream?
  • hurrakan - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link


    I have a 32GB Kingston Data Traveller Ultimate 3 but it's annoying because it needs an attachment to use USB2. And as very few computers have USB3, I always have to carry the attachment.

    I wish the "Kingston HyperX MAX USB3" had been included - I would have liked to see how it compares.

    Also, it would be awesome if Anandtech conducted a benchmark of microSD cards (different brands and classes).
  • randinspace - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    I was thinking the same thing since I've been wondering a lot about the performance of SD/micro~/SDHC/micro~ considering the fact that just about any device with USB input will also have a card reader but the opposite isn't necessarily true, tablets and smart phones for example. Hell, even my netbook has an SD card slot. Reply
  • HangFire - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Nice review.

    Now, I'd like to see Motherboards on Bench, with SATA 2/3, USB 2/3, Gb Ethernet, and memory bandwidth benchmarks.
  • blowfish - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    of course the principal benefit of USB over eSATA is the ability to hot swap a USB connected device. If that's not important to you, then eSATA is very cost effective. I expect to see eSATA/USB 3.0 hard drive enclosures appear before too long though, which would allow the best of both worlds. I think many USB problems relate to power - some older motherboards can't handle all the USB ports being filled and can give erratic results. Reply
  • mino - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    You hot-swap eSATA just the same. And the main reason is performance - USB3 could not EVER reach eSATA performance levels, basically because of the protocol overhead even if everything was equal. Reply
  • coyote2 - Saturday, August 06, 2011 - link

    Are you talking about 6GB/s eSATA III?

    USB3 is so much faster than the last eSATA, I'd be surprised to hear it's "protocol overhead" could make it perform slower.
  • theangryintern - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    I have the ADATA S102, got it a few months ago. So far I've been very happy with it. At home where I have a USB 3.0 controller card and an SSD boot drive, copies to and from the ADATA are screaming fast. At work, even on USB 2.0 it's still pretty fast Reply
  • PotablePots - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    I was actually hoping that this article would look at portable application performance. I use a ton of portable application software and finding a flash drive that will give the best performance when running applications is something I could use AT's help on. Most of my portable software comes from I use mostly Portable Chrome and OpenOffice but also GIMP and Blender on occasion. Reply
  • Aikouka - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Zach, is it possible that you can list some value to help identify how much data you're transferring to these devices in the real world tests? For example, while I may copy PDFs to my thumb drives at times, I don't necessarily copy over hundreds of megabytes worth. I normally spend the most time waiting when I'm copying really large files to a thumb drive such as a movie I shot on my HD camcorder. Reply
  • Gigantopithecus - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    Hi Aikouka - The details of the real world scenario tests are on the second page. For the PDFs, the test copied 3,364 PDFs totaling 3.20GB. As I said, there are as many real-world usage scenarios as there are flash drive users! I personally, on a near daily basis, will copy hundreds, if not thousands, of PDFs onto a flash drive to perform a dump on a colleague's computer (hmm, that doesn't sound good - but you know what I mean, ha). That is if someone asks me about topics x, y, and z, I'll simply say read these, and give them a bunch of articles. I addressed your interest in large file transfers with the 100MB Iometer benchmark numbers and the real-world DVD ISO file read/write performance times. Those should give you a clear picture of which drives read and write bigger files, like those shot on your HD cam, the fastest. Reply
  • justcommenting - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link


    I don't mean any offense, but I thought the writing style with this post was below normal Anandtech standards. The introduction skips details on what USB 1.1 changed that saw the widespread adoption and jumps around between discussing USB flash devices and USB hard disk devices without distinction between the two.

    I appreciate the various graphs, but I don't think the author did a very good job of explaining why certain drives pulled ahead in various scenarios, why that might matter, etc. Instead, graphs felt tossed into pages with little more than a description of the picture underneath.

    Like the pages before it, the conclusion is also a tough read due to general poor sentence / paragraph structure. I love Anandtech articles because of the highly technical content and the well-phrased, well-researched, and well-backed opinions put forth. I'd pay for it if I could, but preferably with stronger articles than this one. :)
  • Pozz - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    indeed and less exclamation marks would be a start :)

    still, very interesting article
  • MaximillianSterling - Friday, July 29, 2011 - link

    Nice random U-M reference.

    Ah, the VERY long nights spent there. Although I preferred the Media Union.
  • Gigantopithecus - Saturday, July 30, 2011 - link

    I hoped someone would catch that. ;) Lotta really long nights there, brother! Reply
  • Goi - Sunday, July 31, 2011 - link

    I would've liked to see what controllers and NAND flash chips were being used in the different flash drives. I know some are using USB 3.0<->NAND flash bridge controllers, while others are using SSD controllers with a separate SATA<->NAND flash bridge, or perhaps using a NAND device with a SATA interface. It would be interesting to find out how these design decisions affect performance. Reply
  • BadThad - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    Good job, nice little test!

    For my purposes a simple 4 or 8MB USB 2.0 drive is fine. Most of the files I need to move around are small and it's only a couple of seconds for read/write ops. As often as I lose these or they just outright die, I can't see spending more than $10 or so on a flash drive.
  • 7Enigma - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    I assume you mean GB? :) And I'm with you there. I have an 8GB and only occasionally wish I had a 16 or 32 and most of the time it's because I'm too lazy to remove unneeded data. Reply
  • casteve - Monday, August 01, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the review. I use thumb drives for archiving data. Create a ZIP or RAR file and place it into a truecrypt folder. With USB 2.0, it's faster to compress using the internal drive and then transfer onto the external drive's truecrypt folder. With 3.0 thumb drives, maybe the transfer rate is fast enough just compress on the fly. It'd be nice to see this proved out. Reply
  • epobirs - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    I've got a Corsair Flash Voyager 16 GB USB 3.0 unit. They've been down around $20 or less AR recently. It's definitely faster (and about 33% longer physically) than its USB 2.0 equivalent but I wonder it would have fallen in this lineup.

    I carry a bunch of drives for my job and have been retiring 8 GB and smaller units and replacing them with 16 GB models now that the cost per gigabyte is the same, around $1, in promo specials. The Corsair is enough faster that I'll now buy only USB 3.0 drives as good deals appear, preferably 32 GB models.

    I might be satisfied when I have a dozen terabytes in my cargo pants pocket but I won't know until I get there. My definition of a decent software and video library to take with me everywhere keeps growing and the cloud does not strike me as a reliable substitute yet or possibly ever.
  • jagaimo - Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - link

    USB 2.0 has a maximum bandwidth of 480Mbits/s, or 60MBytes/s. On a good number of these benchmarks, even the USB 3.0 parts don't hit that speed.

    e.g., 100MB Sequential Write Performance - Native Interface. The Adata S102 32GB USB3.0 unit only hits 38MB/s. It's still short of the USB 2.0 speed limit.

    I guess my point is this... The 480Mb/s bandwidth of USB 2.0 isn't the limiting factor. It seems like it's something else. Is there a reason why we don't see 60MB/s transfers on the 2.0 devices?
  • MGSsancho - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 - link

    That's 640mbs total in both directions. It is really 320mbs in each direction. see the specs
  • jonathan1683 - Saturday, September 17, 2011 - link

    I would have liked to see 32 GB ones in the mix, but they might be in another article. I have a 16gb flash voyager and it always takes forever reading it initially. Sometimes a couple minutes just to initiate a directory listing. Does anyone know if this is common or maybe I have a defective unit? I notice I don't have this issue on windows XP it's only on win7. Reply
  • tkafafi - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    I think the writeup did a great job of providing the experimental data. I'm just wondering what is the explanation for the results seen on the mixed usb2/usb3 systesm, as they were surprising for sure.

  • j7n - Friday, September 20, 2013 - link

    Early USB flash memory wasn't "agonizingly slow" in comparison to floppies and rewritable CDs, especially if you account for the time needed to verify the recording on those discs because they were so unreliable. A USB 1.1 port could practically do around 600-700 kB/s, which is at least fifteen times that of a floppy. Reply
  • hizoka - Thursday, December 26, 2013 - link

    Silicon Power USB 3.0 Flash Drive, Read/Write Speed Up to 90/60 Mbps
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  • peterpan783 - Saturday, April 12, 2014 - link

    Very informative, but I would have preferred to see the performance indicated in megabytes per second, and not in time. I can see whatever drive took whatever seconds more or less, but that doesn't tell me anything about the actual speed. USB flash drive performance is measured in MB/s. Reply
  • XmppTextingBloodsport - Saturday, March 19, 2016 - link

    In the future I hope you will employ better cross platform considerations like FS:


    And seek an official manuafacturer answer for

    * ideal Block Size (or Allocation Unit)
    ** for 2 or 3 primary use cases
    ** large media files
    ** mix of text and media files
    ** single large file
    * ideal [re]formatting method (_not_ requiring a microsoft license)
    ** to partition or not to partition
    ** entire drive VeryCrypt (the new incarnation of TrueCrypt)
    * how much [cheating] cache the drive has
    * manufacturer's tools availability beyond windows
    ** turning off feckless led

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