by Andrey Kuznetcov , Oleg Artamonov
04/02/2008 | 02:09 PM
We are offering you the test data on over twenty USB flash drives with a storage capacity of 2 gigabytes. This is not a record-breaking capacity, but it remains demanded due to its rather low price. After all, do you really need to carry more data with you often?
Besides the new models, we have also included test data for a few flash drives we tested earlier into the tables and diagrams in order to see if the new products have progressed in terms of performance.
Now let’s meet our testing participants.
This drive has an original design optimized for wearing on your key-ring, but it’s hard to grasp its small sleek case with your fingers. The connector doesn’t stick out far from the case, and the PD17 may prove to be incompatible with your PC case if its USB connectors are somewhat sunken into the face panel.
The drive lacks an activity indicator.
Dimensions: 36.4 x 25.6 x 5.7mm; weight: 4.2g.
This flash drive with a very interesting opening mechanism is also one of the smallest. The PD19 has a rather simple design and is easy to work with, but its case doesn’t look robust to us. It can be used even if the external casing is damaged, though. There is no activity indicator on the case. The drive comes without accessories.
Dimensions: 35.1 x 18.5 x 3.4mm; weight: 2.5g.
The flash memory is what differentiates this Mickey from the original. What’s similar between them is the shape – a head with two ears. One ear is detachable and has a USB connector. It is actually the flash drive. The rest of the device is just a decoration (and serves as a cap for the USB plug).
The tiny mirror in the case can be used for its main purpose or you can put a photo under its window, but neither function is impressive due to the tiny size.
That’s an unusual design overall.
The Mickey comes with a small metallic chain in a large cardboard box.
Dimensions: 39.7 x 45.7 x 28.4mm; weight: 18.5g.
The drive comes in a very compact case, most of which is the USB connector. The red cap has small depressions in the sides for easier opening. The cap locks in place and cannot slip off accidentally. There is a blue LED in the butt-end of the case. A rim for a neck strap is located there as well. The manufacturer’s name is printed on the side of the case.
The accessories include a small loop of round-section cord, a wide band made from soft translucent plastic with the manufacturer’s name against a green background, and a small plastic trinket with a metallic chain.
Dimensions: 38 x 15 x 5mm; weight: 5g.
This is one the smallest flash drives in this review. It is only 37mm long including the cap and the cord ring. Fortunately, the manufacturer didn’t try to make the device as tiny as possible. The case is thick enough to lie snugly in the fingers. As a drawback, the cap can be lost easily because it cannot be fastened at the back of the flash drive during work.
The case is made from aluminum with plastic pieces at the butt-ends. The drive comes with a neck strap.
Dimensions: 37.0 x 17.6 x 9.7mm; weight: 7.1g.
This flash drive looks cute and neat thanks to its compact size and white glossy plastic. It is not very handy, though. It takes an effort to remove the cap as it is tight and too sleek for the fingers. Besides, the small plastic caps are easy to lose. Fortunately, the kit includes four spare caps of different colors.
Dimensions: 52.5 x 18.9 x 8.2mm; weight: 7.5g.
This is a classic flash drive with a removable cap in a stylish steel case. Well, steel is the material of the exterior; the internal carcass is plastic. The Mini Pro seems to be the best option for people who prefer a restrained yet memorable style.
The cap can be removed easily. It doesn’t have any locks, just the force of friction, which is quiet enough. The cap cannot be put on the back of the drive during work, though.
A green activity indicator is integrated into the drive’s corners. Its intensity is low – you can barely discern it in daylight.
Dimensions: 52.5 x 20.4 x 7.8mm; weight: 16.7g.
One of the most compact sliders, this one has an original and unhandy design: it takes an effort to slide it open or close but it’s hard to apply this effort due to the small size of the case. It’s next to impossible to open or close the drive with one hand.
The activity indicator is green. Its intensity is low and it’s barely visible under daylight.
Included with the drive is a small cord for attaching it to a neck strap.
Dimensions: 36.1 x 18.4 x 11.0mm; weight: 5.7g.
This flash drive owes its unusual shape to ergonomic reasons. While many other drives of this size are ready to slip out of your fingers, the expanding case of the DataTraveler lies firmly in your hand.
The cap is detachable and you can put it on the back of the drive during work. Unlike with many other drives, the neck strap doesn’t prevent you from doing so.
The activity indicator is green and tiny but conspicuous.
The kit contains a small thin cord to attach the drive to a neck strap.
Dimensions: 38.2 x 18.9 x 8.0mm; weight: 5.4g.
The case of this drive is made from gray plastic with decorative orange inserts. There is a shiny metallic plate on one side with the name of the model. The manufacturer declares a max read speed of 6MB/s and a max write speed of 3MB/s for this model. After installation the drive is visible in the system as two devices: a disk and a CD-ROM drive.
The drive comes with an installation guide, a software bundle manual, and a strap. Moreover, a U3 software bundle you can download for free from www.u3.com is preinstalled on it. The bundle includes Pass2Go (to remember your passwords and bookmarks and log in automatically), ACDSee PE (for viewing digital images), and Zinios (for reading books and magazines in digital format).
Dimensions: 66.9 x 20.4 x 9.0mm; weight: 11g.
That’s one of the simplest drives in this review. Its compact case is made from soft rubber of a salad green color. The Xporter Mini is hardly stylish or pretty, yet it’s somewhat cute due to this very simplicity of design.
The cap is detachable. It fits tight on the drive, so you can hardly lose it. The cap can be put on the drive’s butt-end at work but only if you don’t use the neck strap.
The activity indicator is red, bright and conspicuous. It shines right through the drive’s case.
Dimensions: 42.4 x 17.9 x 9.5mm; weight: 7.9g.
The black box with the manufacturer’s symbol and name looks cute by itself. It contains a bulletproof drive whose small barrel-shaped case is made of rather thick metal – it’s hard to imagine how it may be broken. So, this is going to be a nice gift for people who live an active life. The cap is to be unscrewed rather than pulled out, which should make the drive hermetic. The dual-layer case carries an artistic ornament that looks like those on ancient Greek vases. This ornament is also functional as its relief gives you a reliable finger-hold. An impressive metal chain with a clasp and a key-ring is attached to the top of the cap.
The manufacturer declares a max data-transfer rate of 20MB/s. Data on the drive can be protected with a password and/or encrypted. You can also use pre-recorded or user-defined unique IDs and switch the drive into read-only mode.
This is one of the few flash drives that have an all-metal case without an internal plastic carcass. The case of the Titanium U3 consists of two halves molded out of titanium-based alloy called Liquidmetal. According to the manufacturer, this alloy is as robust as pure titanium but can be processed much easier. In other words, you can’t break your Titanium U3 even if you step on it with your shoe – you’ll only scratch its case a little.
The U3 model has become smaller in comparison with the previous Titanium series and there have appeared shiny elements on its case that enliven the drive’s appearance. The USB connector slides in and out when you move the plastic piece in the middle of the drive. It’s easy to open and close the drive with one hand only.
The activity indicator is integrated into the Open/Close slider; it is blue and bright but not exceedingly bright as in the first version of the Titanium.
The drive comes with a neck strap and a clip to attach it to your shirt pocket, for example.
Dimensions: 57.9 x 21.0 x 9.1mm; weight: 21.7g.
That’s another attempt to combine the compactness of super-slim plastic flash drives with the robustness of the larger models. In the Pico-A, the flash drive is hidden into a robust metallic case. Unfortunately, it is not protected when open but protrudes far, by more than 5 centimeters, out of the case – it can be broken accidentally with an awkward movement.
There is no activity indicator on the case. A short chain is included with the drive.
Dimensions: 38.5 x 12.7 x 4.3mm; weight: 5.1g.
As opposed to most other flash drives of such a super-compact form-factor, the Pico-C has a metallic rather than plastic case. Unfortunately, besides obvious advantages, this solution has one drawback: it’s hard to insert the drive into a USB connector and it’s even harder – due to the sleekness of the case – to take it out of the connector. Still, if you need a very small flash drive, the Pico-C will be a good choice. There’s no activity indicator on it.
The drive comes with a small but useful chain – flash drives of such size are prone to get lost, and the chain will help prevent that.
Dimensions: 31.4 x 12.6 x 3.4mm; weight: 4.9g.
This drive looks very compact thanks to its design with rounded-off corners. The case is made from milk-white plastic with an orange insert near the USB connector. The activity indicator is built into the case near that orange piece and shines through the drive with blue. A hole for a neck strap is at the back of the drive. The default white cap can be replaced with one of the spare caps (orange and colorless).
The manufacturer declares a read speed of 12MB/s and a write speed of 8MB/s for this model. The accessories include a quick start guide, advertising booklet, two spare caps, a strap, and a small CD with software. The software allows using the drive to lock the PC, to create two partitions on the drive, one of which is password-protected. The drive can also be used as a boot device.
Dimensions: 60 x 16.5 x 8.1mm; weight: 7g.
The metallic case of this flash drive is appealing and also robust. The red band in the middle indicates the capacity of 2 gigabytes. The cap is locked on the USB connector and can hardly slip off accidentally. There is a blue LED indicator of operation mode at the drive’s butt-end.
The manufacturer declares a read speed of 12-16MB/s and a write speed of 9-12MB/s for this drive. The accessories include a metallic chain, a quick installation guide, a cloth to clean the drive, and a small CD with software that contains a user manual, drivers, and JetFlash Elite. The JetFlash Elite suite consists of the following programs: AutoLogin for automatic authorization in protected zones of your favorite websites; PC-Lock to use the flash drive as a lock for your PC; Favorites for storing the list of your favorite websites on the drive; Secretzip for compressing files and protecting them with a password using the AES algorithm; E-Mail for sending, receiving and storing your e-mail; DataBackup for creating and restoring data backups and synchronizing data between the PC and the flash drive; MyFlash for direct access to the drive. And finally, the Online Update feature allows updating the software from the Transcend website.
Dimensions: 49.5 x 15.8 x 7.4mm; weight: 15g.
The smallest and lightest drive in this review doesn’t look reliable. Its thin plastic case bends easily, ready to break after an awkward movement. The tiny size coupled with low weight and black color of the plastic make it likely to get lost. The coarse surface of the case helps you to take the drive out of the connector.
There is a ring for a strap on the case, but the latter is not included.
The drive lacks an activity indicator.
Dimensions: 30.3 x 12.4 x 2.8mm; weight: 1.3g.
This flash drive resembles the above-described Super Talent Pico-A. The plastic case of the flash drive proper is hidden into a metallic case by rotating it around an axis. Unfortunately, besides the rather high weight and low robustness when open, the JetFlash V90 is also hard to open up: you have to do that with two hands, catching the flash part with your nail.
Designed in a chrome-plated case with nacreous trimming, this flash drive would make a nice present for a lady. A pretty, yet not quite handy, present.
The drive lacks an activity indicator.
Included with the drive are two straps of different lengths. These are quite beautiful, resembling silver.
Dimensions: 34.1 x 13.5 x 5.0mm; weight: 7.2g.
This small flash drive has an aluminum case with two versions of the decorative panel, nacreous or tessellated as shown in the photos above. The drive uses a flick-knife design. The metallic case ensures increased protection even if you use it as a trinket on your key-ring.
The accessories include a metallic chain, a quick installation guide, and a small CD with software that includes a user manual, drivers, and JetFlash Elite. The JetFlash Elite suite was described above.
Dimensions: 33.8 x 13.1 x 4.8mm; weight: 8g.
The case of this drive is made from translucent matte black plastic. As a result, the orange light of the activity indicator inside the drive is visible from any angle. The drive lies snugly in the hand. The cap on the USB connector is turnable. It has a small rim for a strap. The drive has a read-only switch.
It comes with a quick installation guide only.
Dimensions: 73 x 20 x 8mm; weight: 15g.
We used the following test programs:
The testbed was configured like follows:
We will use two versions of FC-Test to be able to compare the results of the flash drives with those that we have tested earlier.
Note that not the brand new the USB drives that we have already tested before are marked with blue color in the tables.
We’ll start out with the synthetic IOMeter benchmark. This pattern measures the drive’s sequential read and write speed on data blocks of different size (from 0.5 to 1024KB).
The diagram shows that the Super Talent Pico-A has the highest sequential read speed, over 30MB/s. The leader is followed by the Super Talent Pico-C, ATP Petito, and Transcend’s JetFlash V90 and V90с. The A-Data T730 is fast too, having a sequential read speed of over 20MB/s. Seven drives have a maximum speed lower than 15MB/s – not fast by today’s standards.
The Transcend JetFlash 185 has the highest sequential write speed. Besides it, three more drives – Transcend’s JetFlash V90 and V90с, and the ATP Petito – made it to 10MB/s. Five flash drives have a sequential write speed of lower than 5MB/s – that’s obviously not enough for today.
The average read/write response time is measured in a 10-minute test to read/write random-address 512-byte data blocks at a request queue of 1.
The first diagram shows the average read access time. A smaller time is better here. That’s why the TwinMOS X4, Transcend JetFlash 130 and Pretec Bulletproof are the losers. Their access time is far higher than that of the other drives.
The writes access time is higher, of course. The Transcend JetFlash 185 is in the lead having a much lower write access time than the others. And there are seven drives that have fallen behind. The TwinMOS X4 is the worst one in this test just it was in terms of read access time.
Although the discussions about ReadyBoost technology integrated into Windows Vista are far from being over, we can’t but check the drives out for their support of ReadyBoost. To remind you, the flash drive must have a capacity of 256MB to pass this test. Moreover, it has to deliver a speed of 2.5MB/s when reading random-address 4KB data blocks and a speed of 1.75MB/s when writing random-address 512MB data blocks. We performed this test using IOMeter. In the diagrams below blue marks the results that comply with the ReadyBoost requirements and red marks the results that do not comply with them.
As you see, four drives are not ReadyBoost-compliant: Kingston DataTraveller mini, Kingston DataTraveller mini fun, Filemate Mini and Filemate Mini Pro. The ATP Petito wins this test but by a narrow margin.
There are six drives that can’t pass this test – they do not reach the desired speed of 1.75MB/s. Interestingly, the four drives that didn’t pass the read test fail in the write test, too.
FC-Test will help us examine the flash drives under real-life conditions. We’ll use two versions of this test utility, but they share the same general principle.
The program writes and reads a few file-sets and measures the time it takes to perform each operation. This helps calculate the speed of the drive and see how it depends on the number and size of the processed files. We use three file-sets that differ in the size (1, 10 and 100MB) and number (1, 10, and 100) of files included. Practice suggests that a 100MB file is large enough to reveal the maximum performance of a USB flash drive and using a larger file doesn’t affect the results much.
The Transcend JetFlash 185 is beyond competition when reading 1MB files. It is almost two times as fast as its closest pursuer. The TwinMOS X4, Filemate Mini and Filemate Mini Pro are losers here.
The test of writing the 100x1MB pattern produces more pleasant results. Most of the drives deliver acceptable speed, six of them surpassing the 20MB/s mark. Both drives from Super Talen and the ATP Petito are in the top three. They are followed by the Transcend JetFlash 185 and JetFlash V90, and the A-Data T730 “Mickey”.
The speeds get higher when the drives have to write ten files, 10MB each. Flash memory works better with larger files. However, we’ve got the same winner, the Transcend JetFlash 185 that has no real opponent. The SanDisk Cruzer Titanium U3 stands out among the others, though. The TwinMOS X4, Filemate Mini and Filemate Mini Pro are the slowest drives again.
The read speed grows higher with larger files, too, but not as much as at writing. There are the same six drives reaching 20MB/s as in the 100x1MB pattern.
The drives deliver their highest speeds when writing one 100MB file. The Transcend JetFlash 185 is still on top, while the TwinMOS X4, Filemate Mini и Filemate Mini Pro are very slow in comparison with the others.
The second version of FC-Test uses a more accurate measurement method, yet its results are often similar to those of the first version. Let’s check it out now.
As you could expect, the Transcend JetFlash 185 wins the test of writing 1MB files. It is far ahead of the other devices. The other two drives from Transcend and the ATP Petito can be marked out as well. They are just below the speed of 10MB/s. The trio of drives from TwinMOS and Filemate are at the bottom of the table, again.
When reading the 100x1MB pattern, the Super Talent Pico-A proves to be the fastest, reaching a speed of 30MB/s. The leader is followed by the Talent Pico-C, ATP Petito, and Transcend’s JetFlash V90 and V90с. One more drive overcame the 20MB/s barrier – that was the A-Data T730 “Mickey”.
When writing ten 10MB files, the predictable leader JetFlash 185 is followed by three drives that show a write speed higher than 10MB/s. We’ve got the same trio of outsiders again.
The diagram of reading the 10x10MB pattern isn’t much different from FC-Test 1.0. We’ve got the same top six drives. The slower devices change places within their speed group, but these changes are insignificant.
The test of writing one large file makes it all finally clear. The Transcend JetFlash 185 has no rivals in terms of speed. It is followed by three more drives that surpass the 10MB/s barrier. The TwinMOS X4, Filemate Mini and Filemate Mini Pro are still very slow.
The last diagram shows the results of reading a single large file. We see there are minor changes in the results in comparison with the first version of FC-Test. The Super Talent Pico-A is in the lead again. It is followed by six devices that overcame the 20MB/s mark. Among them the ATP Petito is replaced with the Super Talent Pico-C in second place. The other changes in the table of results are insignificant – the increase of the file size has affected the read speed of the flash drives in slightly different ways.
The Transcend JetFlash 185 is the definite leader in terms of write speed. It also has a good read speed, being a well-balanced product. Although we benchmarked it almost a year ago, none of the newer devices can match it. So, if write speed is your priority, consider the Transcend JetFlash 185 in the first place.
Taking a write speed of 10MB/s as a certain barrier you don’t want to get under today, we can single out three more devices, Transcend JetFlash V90, Transcend JetFlash V90с and ATP Petito, especially as all of them are leaders in terms of read speed. All the above-mentioned drives support Windows Vista ReadyBoost (except that we didn’t check out the Transcend V90c for its compatibility with ReadyBoost). It’s somewhat surprising to see the ATP Petito in this trio. The frivolous appearance of this drive had no inkling as to its high performance.
The ATP Petito and the Transcend JetFlash V90 can also be regarded as stylish models, intended to make a nice present, thanks to the beautiful and original cases. Unfortunately, the Transcend drives are not ideal ergonomically at everyday use but the Petito is certainly deserving of your interest.
The two drives from Super Talent – the Pico-A and Pico-C – have a high speed of reading files but are only average when it comes to writing. The Pico-C is going to be a good choice if you need a very small drive. As for the Pico-A, it is not so small when open, and its case is not robust enough.
The SanDisk Cruzer Titanium U3 is just the opposite: a good write speed and a lower-than-average speed of reading. This drive is interesting for its robustness – it’s next to impossible to physically break it. Unfortunately, it’s not dust- or waterproof.
Finally, we must tell you about the slowest drives, which are the TwinMOS X4, Filemate Mini and Filemate Mini Pro. If you care about speed, then these three models will not suit your needs, unfortunately.