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Best Overall: SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB Drive at Amazon
"Gives you blistering speeds three to four times faster than a standard USB 3.0 drive."
Best for Speed: Sandisk Extreme Go 3.1 64GB at Amazon
"Can transfer a 4K movie in less than 40 seconds."
Best for Durability: Samsung 32GB Metal Flash Drive at Amazon
"Waterproof, shockproof, magnet-proof, and resistant to high temperatures."
Best Budget: Kingston Digital 16GB DataTraveler at Amazon
"With a five-year warranty, a great design, and a value price."
Best for Apple Products: SanDisk iXpand 128GB at Amazon
"Designed for ease of use with iPhones and iPads."
Best for Ultrabooks: Samsung 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Fit at Amazon
"Slim and compact, about the size of your thumbnail."
Best for Macbooks: C80 64GB Flash Drive at bhphotovideo.com
"Features a dual interface with USB Type-C and USB Type-A 3.0 ports."
Best for Security: Kingston Data Traveler Vault at Amazon
"This USB 3.0 drive offers what the company is calling business-grade security with 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption."
Most Rugged: Flash Survivor Stealth 64-bit USB 3.0 Flash Drive at Amazon
"Constructed with aircraft-grade aluminum housing."
Best Capacity: PNY Turbo 256GB at Amazon
"Nothing fancy here, but when you need a quarter of a terabyte in a flash, the PNY turbo has got your back."
The SanDisk PRO gives you blistering speeds, offering 420 MB/s on the reading front and 380 MB/s on the writing end, which is 3–4x faster than what a standard USB 3.0 drive will offer. The sleek, aluminum casing is both super durable and very eye-catching, so you can bring it with you to your business meetings and look professional as well. The onboard AES, 128-bit file encryption gives you top-of-the-line security for your sensitive files. That USB 3.0 connection is also backward compatible with USB 2.0, so you won’t hit any snags with an older computer. SanDisk is so confident in the functionality of this little drive, that they’ve even backed it with a full lifetime warranty in case any issues befall it. Finally, there’s a file backup system you can download called RescuePRO that will let you recover lost files if needed.
Offering blazing fast performance in a compact package, the Sandisk Extreme Go definitively takes the crown as the best USB flash drive. With read/write speeds of 420 MB/s and 380 MB/s respectively, the data transfer performance of the Extreme Go is so strong it can outperform that of a computer-based solid state drive.
Buoyed by its rocket-like speeds, the Extreme Go lives up to its name by transferring a 4K movie in less than 40 seconds — that's nearly 35 times the speed of a USB 2.0 drive and thanks to USB 3.1 hardware. Beyond its fast operation, the Sandisk looks as good as it performs with a sleek and slim package that's 2.79 x 0.84 x 0.45 inches in size and weighs only 4.8 ounces. The retractable connector makes it easy to store when not in use and it is backward compatible with any USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 port. Tucked inside its diminutive profile is a choice of 64GB or 128GB of storage capacity and it comes complete with data storage recovery in the event of an accidental file deletion.
Anyone who has accidentally left their flash drive in their pants pockets through a laundry cycle will appreciate the durability of this Samsung drive. Its durable metal casing is waterproof, shockproof, magnetproof, and resistant to high temperatures. The drive is housed inside the metal casing, so it won’t break off (and the keyring is made with the same quality casing, again helping your drive live longer). Samsung believes in this drive enough to provide a five-year warranty should anything happen. Durability isn’t its only perk, either. USB 3.0 and NAND technology gives this drive data transfer respectable read speeds of up to 130 MB/s and write speeds over 100 MB/s. It is also backwards compatible with USB 2.0, but expect a drop in transfer speeds.
You can get USB 3.0 speed in a compact and durable metal USB drive from Kingston for under $10. It sports a capless design with a sturdy keyring, perfect for travel or as a part of your everyday carry. The design can even be customized to add your logo or company name. Read speeds top 100 Mb/s, while write speeds are on the slow end. With a five-year warranty, a great design, and a value price, this small drive makes a perfect addition to your keyring.
Apple smart products don’t come with USB ports, so you will need a backwards compatible drive that can also plug into lightning devices. This thumbdrive from SanDisk is designed for ease of use with iPhones and iPads, thanks to a curbed plastic connector that fits behind the back of the screen. It has high-speed USB 3.0 transfer speeds and can hold over 7,200 photos or 8,000 songs. It has automatic photo backup and contact transfer to help free up space on your devices without having to deal with the slow upload speeds.
With their paper-slim profiles, Ultrabooks and tablets are barely thick enough for a USB port. That's why some of the bulkier drives on this list are not ideal for those devices. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Fit drives are slim and compact, about the size of your thumb nail. This unobtrusive storage is constructed with a metal casing that is resistant to the elements and NAND flash technology. With USB 3.0 tech you can expect fast read speeds, while the price is easy to stomach. Just make sure to attach it to a lanyard, so you don't lose it.
Courtesy of B&H
Macbooks require a USB Type-C device, which is where this swivel dual flash drive from Silicon Power comes in handy. It features a dual interface with USB Type-C and USB Type-A 3.0 ports on opposite ends of a compact device. The 360-degree swivel cap protects whichever connector is not in use and attaches easily to keychains. The C80 doesn’t require any special drivers or software to work; just plug it into the port and it is ready to go. But it has an optional file management app, which is a free and simple automatic file categorization that puts your work in the appropriate folders. Expect fast read and write speeds and 64 GB of storage to hold all your photos and files.
High-security flash drives aren’t exactly a new concept. For as long as companies have been transferring confidential info via USB drives, there’s been a concern of keeping that info confidential. While you might be swayed by flashy gimmicks like fingerprint sensors and password keypads, these end up being too expensive and not overly powerful (with a few exceptions of course). But that’s why our security pick goes to the Kingston Data Traveler Vault.
This USB 3.0 drive offers what the company is calling business-grade security with 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption. You can also choose a stepped up “managed” version that offers a more complete set of management tools using SafeConsole as support. Finally, there’s an anti-virus version that loads in ESET antivirus software out of the box to avoid trojan horses and other hacker tracking programs. All of the models are TAA-compliant, so this drive won’t be in breach of government regulations, and that USB 3.0 means that you’ll have nearly the fastest transfer speeds possible. You can pick it up in sizes ranging from 4GB to 64GB.
If you are taking your data to the extreme ends of the Earth and need to go a step above and beyond to keep it safe, the rugged Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth 64-bit is the drive for you. Constructed with aircraft-grade aluminum housing and outfitted with a molded shock damping collar, this drive is meant to survive anything you can throw at it. It can even be submerged in up to 200 meters of water because of the EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber) waterproof seal. With speeds at around 85 MB/s, this isn’t the fastest drive around, but its ruggedness is unparalleled.
Nothing fancy here, but when you need a quarter of a terabyte in a pinch, the PNY turbo has got your back. Boasting a capacity of up to 256GB, this flash drive has got it where it counts, making storage of all but the most colossal files just a drag-and-drop away. Equipped with a collapsable USB-A port, the PNY Turbo utilizes USB 3.0 architecture to supply the best possible transfer speeds currently available over a USB-A connection.
While it doesn't offer features like wireless connectivity, or data encryption, the PNY Turbo is still great for offloading a glut of files that might otherwise be taking up valuable real estate on your machine. It may not be the cheapest flash-drive available, but the price per GB still provides excellent value.
Speed - If it’s speed you seek, go for a flash drive that has USB 3.0 technology. Compared to USB 2.0, which has a data transfer rate of 480 megabits per second (Mbps), USB 3.0 is 10 times faster at 4,800 Mbps.
Security - Often times the data you’re transferring is highly sensitive, which means your basic flash drive won’t cut it. Spring for a flash drive with a numerical touchpad that allows you to password protect your files. Or better yet, snag one that requires your fingerprint.
Capacity - More so than any other feature, capacity will drive the price of a flash drive up the most. So before you make a purchase, consider how much you’re willing to spend on a flash drive and weigh that against how much capacity you’ll likely need. A flash drive with 16GB can cost you as little as $10, while a 128GB one will run up to $60 or more.
Includes file encryption software
Solid state drive in flash drive form
Slower than advertised
“The solid state flash drive can theoretically achieve incredibly high transfer speeds, blurring the line between an external solid state drive and a flash drive,” our tester raved. He did note he was “unable to reach higher than half the listed read and write speeds.” However, he explained, “The Extreme Pro is still very fast compared to other USB 3.0 flash drives.” In the end, our tester recommended this flash drive “with the caveat that there's a good chance you won't see those 300+ MB/s transfer speeds.” He also added that for just a little more, you could invest in an external hard drive—if the ultra-compact form factor isn’t important in your buying decision.
Convenient LED indicator
Flimsy plastic casing
Transfer speeds much slower with USB hub
Advanced features for encryption software not included
“The transfer speeds are satisfyingly fast for reading and writing all kinds of files, whether large HD videos or unsorted media folders,” our tester reported of this flash drive. He also liked the inclusion of the SecureAccess file encryption, although advanced features are an additional purchase. In terms of negatives, our reviewer called the plastic shell casing “flimsy and fragile” and observed that the transfer speeds are capped when the flash drive is plugged into a USB hub. Overall? Our tester was “more than satisfied with the transfer speeds, but would have appreciated a better, sturdier physical design.”
Included key ring
Waterproof and shockproof
“The Samsung BAR is incredibly small and easily portable, measuring just under 2-inches long,” our tester said. He added, “It's also extremely durable: waterproof, shockproof, as well as x-rays and magnets [proof].” The included key ring adds to its portability, according to our reviewer. On the flip side, he called the transfer speeds “decent but mostly unremarkable.” Our tester concluded, “Most of the BAR's problems are due to Samsung releasing a newer, cheaper model, the BAR Plus.”
Slow write speed
No file encryption
“The DataTraveler's tiny metal frame and prominent key ring make it easily portable,” our tester said of this flash drive. He added, “Downloading files off the drive itself is fast and easy, at over 100 MB/s, and it's also one of the cheapest USB 3.0 flash drives you can get.” The downside? “While read speeds were fine, the DataTraveler struggles to actually copy files onto the drive,” our reviewer explained. “Despite supporting USB 3.0, it barely tops write speeds of 10 MB/s, and lacks any other features.” The takeaway: “We'd only recommend this product as a cheap way for business professionals to pass out digital content to clients, or for networking,” he stated.
Drive App is easy to use
Plays media directly
Transfer speeds are relatively low
Only supports .MOV and .M4P video files
Have to download an app
Our tester highly recommended this flash drive for iOS mobile users: “The iXpand is a great resource for backing up media files and for expanding storage, as well as transferring files to a PC.” He added, “The Drive App is easy to navigate and copy files with, as well as operate the camera and play music and video files.” On the other hand, our reviewer reported, “The 30 MB/s write speed on PC is far from horrible but definitely slow for the asking price, and we calculated only about a 12 MB/s when connected to an iOS device.” He ultimately concluded, “A slightly cheaper price would make it the surefire winner in the Lightning connector category.”
Easy to lose
This drive’s small size won over our testers: “Its small profile allows it to stay plugged into a computer even when transporting it in a bag or case, which is not something most flash drives can claim,” one person said. Lifewire reviewers agree that the drive’s tiny footprint makes it much more likely to get lost, but they say its fast read speeds and convenient portability easily make up for that.