Concluding remarks

We had three primary questions in mind when testing these USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 drives. First, how much faster are the USB 3.0 drives than USB 2.0 drives when each is plugged into their respective native port? The benchmarks and real-world scenarios clearly illustrate that USB 3.0 is faster across the board, sometimes by nearly 900%. Second, are USB 3.0 drives faster than USB 2.0 drives when both are plugged into a USB 2.0 port? Though USB 3.0 support is increasingly common on computer systems, USB 2.0 will remain more common and often the only choice for years to come. Our testing indicates that using a USB 3.0 flash drive in a USB 2.0 port yields better results than sticking with a USB 2.0 flash drive. Third, are USB 2.0 flash drives faster when plugged into USB 3.0 ports compared to USB 2.0 ports? Yes, but not by much at all—you'd likely not even notice the difference.

Are USB 3.0 flash drives worth the increased cost compared to USB 2.0 flash drives? We’ve provided performance data, and pricing is always variable depending on sales, rebates, clearances, etc. You might also want to consider how often you lose flash drives! (And how impatient you become watching transfers progress!) Given my personal USB flash drive usage patterns (occasional backups and data transfers), I think the Mushkin Ventura Pro, Kingston DT Ultimate, and Patriot Supersonic USB 3.0 flash drives are particularly appealing. These three strike a good balance between price and performance given today's prices. If you tend to write files rarely and read them frequently, the least expensive USB 3.0 flash drives provide substantially faster reads than USB 2.0 flash drives. However, if you use flash drives more often, such as frequently throughout the day, you’ll want to consider springing for high-performance models like the Patriot Supersonic Magnum and Super Talent RC8.

Finally, we’d like to thank the manufacturers for supplying flash drives for this roundup. We appreciate the samples sent from Patriot, Kingston, AData, Super Talent and Mushkin!

USB 2.0 Flash Drive on USB 3.0 Interface Real-world Performance


View All Comments

  • 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 1, 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 1, 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.

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