One of the first products we saw at Mushkin’s suite is their final USB 3.0 USB stick with a SandForce SF-2281 controller. Not everyone needs ultra-high performance from a USB stick, but if 39K IOPS of random read/write performance sounds enticing, this could be your solution. The Ventura Ultra has been quite popular apparently, remaining sold out at most online stores, and Mushkin is now brining a 480GB model to the party to join the already available 60GB, 120GB, and 240GB capacities.

From a technology standpoint, besides the use of a SandForce controller on a USB stick, the big news with the 480GB Ventura Ultra is the switch to 128Gbit NAND die, which accounts for the doubling of capacity. The Ventura Ultra line also operates in UASP mode, which improves performance substantially and helps to provide SSD levels of performance despite using USB 3.0 (as opposed to SATA).

The target market for Ventura Ultra is more for IT professionals looking for a fast and small “tool kit” device, or perhaps users looking for a small and portable USB-based OS. Pricing and availability weren’t given, but while SF-2281 is pretty old news now, it’s still far faster than anything else in the USB stick market. Read/write performance is rated at up to 450/445 MB/s, and while Mushkin didn’t list prices, at least one online reseller is selling the 240GB model at $299.

As for the Atom, no, we’re not talking about Intel’s Atom CPU/SoC but rather a second ultra-small USB stick. It’s the sort of form factor that allows you to leave the stick plugged into a notebook even when you’re putting it in a bag without too much concern for damage. Mushkin promises “big USB 3.0 speeds” despite the tiny size…and they at least partially deliver.

They gave us their product brochures on an 8GB Atom stick, so I was able to run a few quick tests. Write speed for a large 303MiB file ended up pretty poor at just 5MB/s average. Read speeds on the other hand were far more promising – after rebooting, I measured read speeds off the drive for the same file of over 80MB/s. Getting a bunch of useful files on the Atom initially may require some time and patience, but at least copying them back off again won’t be nearly as bad.

It’s frankly pretty crazy to think just how much storage we’re now able to fit into an ultra-small device, as the Atom is available in 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB models. 19.8mm x 16.5mm x 7.5mm isn’t all that much larger than a standard USB connector. In fact, the actual flash NAND sits on the opposite side of the USB contacts, and the only reason for the slight protrusion from the side of your laptop is to give you something to grab when removing the Atom. The 8GB model is already available online for $10, so I suspect availability of the other capacities will come soon.

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  • TheTurboFool - Wednesday, January 08, 2014 - link

    The use of a Patriot USB cover in the photo is kind of peculiar... Reply
  • wolrah - Wednesday, January 08, 2014 - link

    I was going to say, that looks just like the rubber bit from my old Xporter XT. Reply
  • SodaAnt - Wednesday, January 08, 2014 - link

    I'd be interested in the 120GB version as sort of a portable OS device, which can be a lot more flexible than using a simple live CD. Reply
  • Dentons - Wednesday, January 08, 2014 - link

    The larger varieties of Mushkin's Atom been shipping for awhile. As with many flash drives, the larger sizes deliver faster speeds, presumably by addressing more chips in parallel.

    While faster, for USB 3.0, they are not fast. Their 32GB version seems to max out at roughly 20MBPS write. The Atom have compelling read speed, but their write speed is only about 2/3rds of the USB 2.0 speeds.

    If they had a 64GB version with 80MBPS write speed, I'd be lining up to buy.
    Reply
  • azazel1024 - Wednesday, January 08, 2014 - link

    What is random like? I assume pretty bad...but I am curious.

    As for performance, in the size that is amazing. However, I have an over 12 month old USB3 stick that was something like $20 fo 16GB at the time that manages around 100MB/sec reads and 21MB/sec writes. Random performance isn't great though, but not horrible.

    Tiny can be great, but if the random performance is as bad as the sequential write speeds, it isn't useful for much. If it takes forever to get data on it and random read is crap, whats the point?

    I'd be a lot more interested if we were talking double those write numbers and there was proof of decent random read performance (random write performance being good too, would be nice).

    Then you have applications like an always inserted extra disk you can use to launch applications from and stuff.
    Reply
  • azazel1024 - Wednesday, January 08, 2014 - link

    One other comment that occurs to me, I can almost see their point of storage you just leave in for a tablet or thin laptop, but again, the write performance just seems to low to be worth while as storage you always have along (what is the point of amazing read performance if all you are really going to be able to use it as is a media drive).

    That and the 8GB drive, other than being too low capacity to probably be worth while augmenting the storage of your device is VERY high power consumption at idle. I don't know what other USB thumb drives use, but .65w at idle seems awfully high. That's higher than most SSDs use at idle, which is often more in the .2-.4w range.

    Estimated impact on a tablet with a 30whr battery and a 10hr normal run time would be killing almost 20% of run time (dropping to about 8.2hrs).

    The larger capacity models have much lower power consumption, but a quarter watt could still par down run time by half an hour or so of the same tablet comparison above. That is a much more gentle impact, but is also very much non-zero or negligible.

    I'll be interested, at least in the insert and forget extra tablet storage, when A) This is a micro USB thumb drive with similarly scaled down proportions and B) the power consumption at idle drops below .2w.

    I'll be very interested when write speeds double and capacities can reach 64GB

    Yes, I want a lot.

    Until then, my micro SD card is much, much better (okay, I'll admit, the card reader is limited to 23MB/sec in my T100, but it probably uses less power, it can have 64GB cards in it, and the write performance of my Sandisk Extreme card is almost certainly much better than these thumb drives...possibly random read performance too (which is 3.5MB/sec 4k random write and 7.5MB/sec random read, topping out at 23MB/sec read/write performance at 64KB block size. Which is sad, because the card tops 85MB/sec reads and 51MB/sec writes in my USB3 card reader...sigh).
    Reply
  • iaco - Thursday, January 09, 2014 - link

    "The Ventura Ultra has been quite popular apparently, remaining sold out at most online stores, and Mushkin is now brining a 480GB model to the party to join the already available 60GB, 120GB, and 240GB capacities."

    Is that what Mushkin says? I've been eyeing the 60 GB model and only found the 240 GB for sale. 120 GB also nowhere to be found. They're not out-of-stock they're unlisted, as if nobody is interested in selling them.
    Reply
  • mkozakewich - Monday, February 03, 2014 - link

    That USB part will inevitably get broken off, so I'm still waiting for an M.2-to-USB enclosure. There's something like that for Macbook Air SSDs, but obviously that's not going to be very forward-compatible. Reply

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