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Although USB 3.0 is getting more and more popular, even the latest generation of mainboards do not always come with an appropriate controller. Chipsets are yet only expected to provide USB 3.0 support. As for the numerous PCs built out of older components, the good old USB 2.0 is still prevalent in that realm.

Of course, the newer standard will eventually replace the veteran (USB 2.0 has been in the ranks for a decade, which is only comparable to the PCI bus and PS/2 connectors which are already missing on some modern mainboards) but is there any point of keeping in touch with the progress and switching your peripherals to USB 3.0? Are USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices and controllers as compatible as they are declared to be? Is there any difference in performance between USB 2.0 and 3.0 disks when connected to a USB 2.0 controller?

We are going to answer these two questions in this review by comparing two USB 3.0 disks and a couple of USB 2.0 flash drives. The tests will be run on a Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3P-B3 mainboard which offers USB 2.0 ports (based on the Intel Z68 chipset) as well as USB 3.0 ones (based on an EtronTech controller).

Testing Participants

For this test session we took two USB 3.0 flash drives we had at hand. They came from Kingston and Kingmax. And we compared them to two USB 2.0 devices from the extreme ends of the product range: a cheap and slow ADATA and a fast, expensive and durable Corsair Survivor GTR.

We will now offer you a brief description of each product. The alphabetic order of their presentation is also coincidentally the order of increasing performance according to the official specs.

ADATA C905

  • Storage capacity: 32 GB
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Specified sequential read speed: 30 MB/s
  • Specified sequential write speed: 8 MB/s
  • Dimensions: 18.7 x 10.7 x 61.8 millimeters
  • Weight: 13 grams

This is a regular cheap USB flash drive (about $50 for 32 gigabytes) that can only be distinguished from others by its cute matte aluminum case.

The C905 is handy enough with its compact size, tight cap and low heat dissipation but even its specified specs (which are somewhat higher than what you can get from it in practical applications) do not promise any speed records. You’ve got to be patient if you own this drive.

Corsair Survivor GTR

  • Storage capacity: 32 GB
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Specified sequential read speed: 34 MB/s
  • Specified sequential write speed: 28 MB/s
  • Dimensions: 22 x 22 x 113 millimeters
  • Weight: 54 grams

The second disk we are going to test boasts excellent durability in the first place. The aluminum alloy casing with threaded joints and rubber gaskets can keep the device safe at a shock up to 1500 G. The Survivor GTR can be submersed into water by up to 200 meters and doesn’t fear vibrations, either.

The specified speeds are rather impressive (compared to average USB 2.0 products) and the device doesn’t get very hot at work. So, this is a top-end product which is reflected in its price. It costs more than most other 32GB drives, including USB 3.0 ones.

The Survivor GTR is large. It is the longest in this test whereas the diameter of its protective casing is comparable to that of the plump USB 3.0 drive from Kingston.

 
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