The most affordable USB 3.0 flash drives

ONCE EXPENSIVE LUXURIES, USB FLASH DRIVES ARE NOW SO CHEAP AS TO BE GIVEN AWAY IN INCREASINGLY LARGE CAPACITIES. WE TEST 10.
[ LINDSAY HANDMER ]

FOR ANYONE COPYING large or plentiful files, older 2.0 specs drives are painfully slow.

These days, though, USB 3.0 is quite common and high-speed flash drives are very affordable. To help you choose an upgrade, we tested 10 of the most affordable USB 3.0 flash drives available. We targeted 32GB capacity, as this is generally the sweet spot for flash drives, as 16GB is often not available or not a lot cheaper. With a bit of careful shopping online, it’s possible to buy any of the drives (some including shipping) for $20 or less. Many of the flash drives are available in large 128GB or even 256GB capacities.

Most of the drives are from three key manufacturers — Samsung, Kingston and Sandisk. All three companies offer free software that enables features such as encryption, passwords, automatic syncing and backups, as well as data recovery.

While it can be tempting to buy very cheap no-name brand USB drives, they often have fake capacities and specs, or very low transfer speeds.

HOW WE TESTED Each drive had maximum read and write speeds tested with CrystalDiskMark, averaged over three runs. Testing was performed with a Core i7 laptop, running Windows 10. The results give an idea of max sequential read and write speeds, but other file transfer types can be slower.

Samsung Flash Drive Duo (4.5/5)

A DUAL-PURPOSE FLASH DRIVE?

FOR THOSE WHO need a versatile option, the Samsung Flash Drive DUO has a normal Type-A USB connector on one end and microUSB on the other. This means it can be easily plugged into both computers and other compatible devices, such as smartphones and tablets. The USB 3.0 drive is available in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities — no 16GB available. It’s built inside a tough metal shell, with a click on plastic cover for the microUSB port. Handily, it’s water, dust and shockproof and, from experience, can happily survive a trip through a washing machine. We tested the larger 64GB capacity rated at 130 MB/s, which, in the real world, managed a still pretty decent 129MB/s read and excellent 92MB/s write speed. The drive weighs just 5.2 grams, and measures in at 16 x 37 x 6mm, and is backed by a 5-year warranty.

  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

Samsung 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Duo (MUF-128CB/AM)

Usually ships in 24 hours & Free shipping
Last update was in: 2017-05-25 12:07 am

$42.99

Buy this item
Amazon amazon.com

While sources such as GetPrice and staticICE price the Duo, it’s possible to buy through marketplaces, including delivery.

CRITICAL SPECS
Capacity: 32, 64, 128GB
Type-A and microUSB
Dimensions: 16 x 37 x 6mm

back to menu ↑

Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo 3C (4/5)

A DUAL MODE DRIVE.

AT THE TIME of writing, only one store on GetPrice and staticICE had the 32GB MicroDuo 3C for under $20, so savvy shopping is required to pick one up cheaply.

The little flash drive sports a normal USB Type-A port on one end and a USB Type-C connection on the other. The 3C also has a similarly priced brother with a micro USB connection instead of USB-C. Not only does the second port allow easy connection to the latest USB-C-equipped PCs and laptops, the drive can connect to smartphones and other OTG compatible devices.

  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

Kingston Digital 64GB Data Traveler Micro Duo USB 3C Flash Drive (DTDUO3C/64GB)

Usually ships in 24 hours & Free shipping
Last update was in: 2017-05-25 12:07 am

$29.99 $37.00

Buy this item
Amazon amazon.com

The 3C is available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities, and supports USB 3.0, as well as 2.0. The drive leaves the larger USB side uncovered, but has a hinged rubber cover for the Type-C connection. During testing, the drive gave decent read speeds of 93MB/s, but a somewhat slow 14MB/s write.

It measures in at 30 x 17 x 8mm, weighs 6.8g and is backed by a 5-year warranty.

CRITICAL SPECS
Capacity: 16, 32, 64, 128GB
USB Type A and C
Dimensions: 30 x 17 x 8mm

back to menu ↑

Samsung Bar (4/5)

A SOPHISTICATED USB DRIVE.

WITH A FOCUS on higher-end flash drives, only the Samsung Bar sneaks in under our $20 price limit. Even that requires some shopping around (or heading to Officeworks) to squeeze in under budget. The flash drive uses USB 3.0 (and is 2.0 compatible), and is available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB versions. It’s all wrapped in a very solid metal shell, with large keyring attachment point that also makes it easy to pull the drive back out of a USB port.
It’s quite slim too, so has no trouble plugging in next to other USB devices or drives. It doesn’t use a cap or sliding style cover, though, so the open end can collect fluff fairly easily in a pocket. We tested the 64GB model, and hit quite impressive speeds of 134MB/s and 96MB/s reading and writing, respectively.

  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

Samsung 128GB BAR (METAL) USB 3.0 Flash Drive (MUF-128BA/AM)

Usually ships in 24 hours & Free shipping
Last update was in: 2017-05-25 12:07 am

$40.99

Buy this item
Amazon amazon.com

Despite the affordable price, the Bar is water, dust and shockproof, and backed by a long 5-year warranty. The drive measures in at 40 x 12 x 11mm and weighs 8.9 grams.

CRITICAL SPECS
Capacity: 16, 32, 64, 128GB
Waterproof
Dimensions: 40 x 12 x 11mm

back to menu ↑

Samsung FIT (4/5)

A COMPACT SOLUTION.

A LARGER USB drive makes frequent unplugging easy, but is not the best solution for when needing to keep a flash drive plugged in. As a solution, the tiny little FIT barely sticks out beyond the USB port, and is perfect for plugging into car radios or other slimline uses. It measures in at 15 x 20 x 9mm, and weighs just 2.6 grams.

The drive comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities — there is no 16GB option. We tested the 64GB drive, which is rated for up to 130MB/s, but in real world use, we measured a still quite good 125MB/s read speed and89 MB/s writing.

  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

Samsung 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Fit (MUF-128BB/AM)

Usually ships in 24 hours & Free shipping
Last update was in: 2017-05-25 12:07 am

$39.95

Buy this item
Amazon amazon.com

While the plug-in section is metal, the FIT has an angled plastic shell on the end, which, while a little slippery, helps provide some grip for removing the drive. It also has a small hole for a lanyard or keyring loop. The FIT is fully dust, water and shockproof, and comes with a 5-year warranty.

CRITICAL SPECS
Capacity: 32, 64, 128GB
Water, dust and shockproof
Dimensions: 15 x 20 x 9mm

USB 3.0 FLASH DRIVE BUYER’S GUIDE
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A USB 3.0 FLASH DRIVE.

USB 3.0

Up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0, and well worth the slight extra expense.

SLOWER CAPACITIES

Drives of 16GB of smaller often have slower transfer speeds than larger models.

DUAL USE

Some flash drives have a secondary microUSB end, to allow connection directly to devices such as smartphones.

KEYRING

Many USB drives include holes for attachment to keyrings or lanyards, which can help avoid them being lost.

COVERS

These days, USB drives tend to do without covers, so it’s worth checking in the end before plugging in.

EXTRA SOFTWARE

Many manufacturers include software with flash drives, such as making backups or encryption data.

WATERPROOFING

While most drives can survive a short dunk, many models offer proper water and dustproofing.

WARRANTY

Quality USB flash drives are backed with 5-year warranties, but some offer (limited) lifetime guarantees.

back to menu ↑

SanDisk Ultra Fit (4/5)

A COMPACT OPTION.

WHILE MANY USB drives are plugged in and out all day long, having a longer drive sticking out from a laptop is an easy way to damage it or the USB port itself. The SanDisk Ultra Fit solves the problem with a tiny little USB drive that’s barely longer than the plug-in section of the dongle. While a little harder to pull back out, the Fit is slimline enough to be left plugged into a laptop even when slipped into a backpack.

  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

SanDisk Ultra Fit 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive (SDCZ43-128G-GAM46) [Newest Version]

Usually ships in 24 hours & Free shipping
Last update was in: 2017-05-25 12:07 am

$34.80 $39.99

Buy this item
Amazon amazon.com

The Fit uses USB 3.0 and is rated for read speeds up to 150MB/s, but in practice, we achieved rates of 131MB/s reading and 71MB/s writing. The drive is available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities. It comes with a little (non-attached) plastic cap, measures in at 19 x 16 x 9mm, and weighs just 2.5 grams. The flash drive is backed by an excellent 5-year warranty too.

It’s worth shopping around, as the little Fit can be bought, but usually closer to our budget.

CRITICAL SPECS
Capacities: 16, 32, 64, 128GB
Dongle Cap
Dimensions: 19 x 16 x 9mm

back to menu ↑

SanDisk Ultra Dual M3.0 (4/5)

A VERSATILE FLASH DRIVE.

DESIGNED WITH A Type-A connection on one end, and microUSB on the other, the SanDisk Ultra Dual M3.0 can plug into devices such as smartphones. Physically, the drive uses a unique sliding system, which protects, but does not fully cap off, each end.

It’s a little fiddly to use, but quite robust and there are no parts to lose. Sandisk also has an excellent Android app to help manage and backup your device directly to the flash drive.

  • Product
  • Features
  • Photos

SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive m3.0 for Android Devices and Computers (SDDD3-128G-G46)

Usually ships in 24 hours & Free shipping
Last update was in: 2017-05-25 12:07 am

$35.31

Buy this item
Amazon amazon.com

The M3.0 is available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities, with transfer rates up to 150MB/s. Of course, in our real world testing, the speeds were slower, but still top notch at 136MB/s reading and 74MB/s writing. The drive is backed by Sandisk’s 5-year warranty, and includes software for password protecting your files and data recovery.

The M3.0 measures in at 30 x 25 x 11mm and weighs 5.2 grams. Slightly more expensive than its less showy brethren, the M3.0 is easily bought.

CRITICAL SPECS
Capacity: 16, 32, 64, 128GB
Type-A and microUSB
Dimensions: 30 x 25 x 11mm

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0