32GB USB Flash Drives from Industry Leaders

We are going to test three USB flash drives with today’s highest storage capacity of 32GB from the leading memory makers – Corsair, OCZ Technology and Patriot.

by Andrey Kuznetcov , Oleg Artamonov
05/25/2008 | 10:52 PM

Our previous roundups of USB flash drives covered 2GB and 4GB models that enjoy high popularity due to their price (for details see our articles called 2GB Mini-USB Flash Drives Roundup and 4GB USB Flash Drives Roundup). But this report is about the cutting edge of technology – the highest-capacity flash drives available today!

 

Quite recently 32 gigabytes used to be considered a reasonable capacity even for a hard disk and now you can take such a huge amount of storage space with you on your key-ring!

Testing Participants

Corsair Flash Voyager

This flash drive has a rubber case that should protect it against shocks and water but the traditional plastic or metallic case often provides enough practical protection while being free from such a drawback of the rubber case as large dimensions.

The cap is detachable. It slips off the drive easily but you cannot put it on the drive’s butt-end at work. The activity indicator is blue and conspicuous.

 

 

A rather short USB extension cord and a neck strap are included with the drive. The strap is as many as 2 centimeters wide – obviously for the text “Corsair Flash Voyager” to be better visible.

Size: 74.3 x 23.2 x 14.0mm; weight: 18.3g.

Patriot Xporter XT

 

 

This drive has a rubber case, too. And it is quite large again. The cap goes off with little effort, so there is a risk of your losing it just taking the drive out of a tight pocket. You can put the cap on the drive’s butt-end at work if you don’t attach the neck strap to it.

The activity indicator is blue and dull, almost invisible under daylight. It is also located on the side that is going to face downward in most system cases with USB ports on the front panel.

A short USB extension cord and a neck strap are included with the drive.

Size: 72.7 x 19.9 x 12.0mm; weight: 17.5g.

OCZ Rally 2

 

 

This drive has a classic design with a detachable cap. The latter can be easily lost. It is small, slips off the drive readily, and is painted black. You cannot put it on the drive’s butt-end at work.

The Rally 2 has a plastic carcass with a metallic casing. The strap is fastened to the plastic piece that can pop out of the case if you pull at the strap suddenly (when the drive is plugged into a USB port, of course).

The activity indicator is amber-colored. It is bright and large and perfectly visible.

A neck-strap is included with the drive.

Size: 69.2 x 16.0 x 8.1mm; weight: 13.2g.

Testbed and Methods

We used the following test programs:

The testbed was configured like follows:

We use two versions of FC-Test to compare the results with those we got in our older reviews.

Performance in Intel IOMeter

Sequential Read & Write Patterns

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 diagrams show the dependence of the drive’s speed on the data chunk size.

The Patriot Xporter XT wins the sequential read test. It is the best irrespective of the data chunk size. The OCZ Rally 2 follows the leader quite closely, though. The Corsair Flash Voyager falls behind the leaders, especially on large data blocks.

The Rally 2 wins the sequential write test as it achieves the highest write speed and surpasses its opponents on nearly every size of the data chink. The Patriot Xporter XT is slower than the leader, yet far better than the Flash Voyager.

Average Access Read & Write Time

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. A smaller response is better.

Every drive has a good response at reading. They differ but slightly between each other.

The Corsair Flash Voyager has a higher write response than its two opponents.

Windows Vista ReadyBoost

Flash drives are generally used for storing files. Sequential writing and reading are the two most common operations for them as the consequence, and most of our tests check out this scenario. However, if you use your flash drive to store applications that can be started right from it, the random access speed becomes important, too.

We measure the speed of random reading and writing using the same method we used earlier to check a drive’s compliance with ReadyBoost technology. To remind you, a ReadyBoost-compliant flash drive must have a capacity of 256MB. 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.

The three drives all perform well enough in the random read test. The Corsair Flash Voyager takes last place, but it is not far slower than the leaders.

It’s worse with the write speed: two out of the three drives even could not meet the ReadyBoost requirements. And if the performance of the leader Xporter XT is compared with the results of the 4GB drives we tested before, its speed proves to be low, too.

Performance in FC-Test 1.0

FC-Test will help us examine the flash drives under real-life conditions rather than in synthetic benchmarks such as IOMeter. 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 OCZ Rally 2 wins the test of writing a hundred of 1MB files. The Patriot Xporter XT is in its turn ahead of the Corsair Flash Voyager.

There are no changes when the drives read the 100x1MB pattern. The Rally 2 is first, and the Flash Voyager is last. The difference between them is smaller than at writing, though.

It’s all the same when the file size is increased to 10MB. The Rally 2 is far ahead of the other two drives.

OCZ’s winning attitude is confirmed in the test of reading 10 files. The Corsair Flash Voyager has fallen quite far behind the leader.

The OCZ Rally 2 triumphs in the test of writing one 100MB file, too. There is nothing new about the other two drives: the Patriot Xporter XT is slightly faster than the Corsair Flash Voyager, the latter being only half as fast as the leader.

As you could expect, the OCZ Rally 2 shows the highest speed when reading one large file. The Patriot Xporter XT is somewhat slower.

Performance in FC-Test 2.0

The second version of FC-Test uses a more accurate measurement method, yet its results are often similar to those of the first version.

The OCZ Rally 2 shows its superiority over the opponents again when writing the 100x1MB file-set. The other two drives are far slower than the leader.

The Patriot Xporter XT outperforms the Rally 2 when reading the 100x1MB file-set even though by a small margin. The Corsair gains nothing from the second version of FC-Test – it is still in last place, being far behind the leaders.

The speed of every drive improves when we use larger files. The standings do not change, though. The Rally 2 is first, followed by the Xporter XT. The Flash Voyager is the last one again.

The Patriot Xporter XT and the OCZ Rally 2 are equals when it comes to reading 10MB files. The Corsair has no chance in the competition.

The drives from OCZ and Patriot slow down suddenly on transitioning to the 100MB file, yet the standings do not change: the Rally 2 is first and the Flash Voyager is last.

When reading one large file the OCZ Rally 2 finally makes it to first place in FC-Test 2.0, too. It is quite far ahead of the Patriot Xporter XT.

Conclusion

The OCZ Rally 2 drive is obviously the leader of this test session. Besides delivering the highest performance in most of our tests, it also differs from its “rubber” opponents with its compact and neat case. If you are looking for a maximum-capacity flash drive for carrying your files with you, you should definitely consider the Rally 2.

Why do we mention files here? Because the Rally 2 was only second after the Patriot Xporter XT in the random-access test. This difference may be important if you use your flash drive not only for storing data but also for storing applications you can start right from the drive. On the other hand, even the Xporter XT has much lower results in this test than the best of 4GB models we benchmarked before.

Unfortunately, the Corsair Flash Voyager lost thi time. Alas, this drive was the slowest throughout all of our tests.