The 32 GB SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 Flash Drive is the best flash drive and the one to buy. Not only is it the fastest flash drive we tested after scouring the field, it costs only $45–virtually the same price as our old pick despite being twice as fast at both reading and writing.
Actually, it’s more than twice as fast when it comes to writing data. The SanDisk Extreme Flash Drive reads files at about 230 MB/s and writes them at 200 MB/s. Our old pick, for reference, topped at a write speed of 85 MB/s. In practical terms, the SanDisk’s write speed means I can copy a 1.44 gigabyte folder of images to the drive in about 18 seconds, or copy a 5.45 gig movie rip in around 39 seconds.
Everyone who has a computer and who needs to move files around should have a USB flash drive. This is the one to get.
What Makes A Good Thumb Drive?
In a word: performance.
Sequential read and write speeds, as you’d get from a big file transfer, are the most important general measurements.
Most of the USB 3.0 flash drives on Amazon hover around that 100 MB/s write speed mark, so cresting the 200 MB/s mark is damn fast as of mid-2013.
All my old USB 2.0 flash drives had write speeds of about 10-15 MB/s. We considered our previous USB 3.0 pick from early 2012 to be fast with 85 MB/s write speeds. Most of the USB 3.0 flash drives you’ll see on Amazon hover around that 100 MB/s write speed mark, so cresting the 200 MB/s mark is damn fast as of mid-2013.
Another measurement, 4K random read/write speed, matters if you plan on running an OS off of a flash drive (it’s pretty easy these days to install Windows on a USB drive for portability), but for most users, copying and reading files quickly is all you need.
Performance is by far the most important element of a flash drive, but design matters too. It can make the difference between a drive that’s pleasurable to use regularly and a drive that’s sort of awkward. If a drive is too wide, for example, it might block two USB ports. If it has a separate cap, that cap will probably be easy to lose.