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Best USB stick: Buying Guide

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Cloud services are very convenient. They allow us to keep our files safely and always have them available regardless of the devices we use. But they have two big problems: they offer relatively little space for data storage (unless you sign up for paid plans) and, working through the Internet, they take a long time to transfer the heaviest files. In short: if you are lucky enough to live in an area reached by optical fiber and you are willing to pay a subscription every month, there are no problems, cloud services are an optimal solution for sharing files between multiple computers and devices . Otherwise, to transfer files from one PC to another, especially if it is heavy files, USB sticks are even more comfortable .

Small, easy to use and compatible with almost all devices, USB sticks (also called pen drives ) are the ideal solution for those who have to transfer many files from one computer to another or must always have working documents at hand other files that can serve on the move. Someone also uses them as a hard disk to store long-term files, but I personally advise against using them in this way. USB flash drives are flash memories with a limited number of writes, then they are so small that they can be easily lost. If your goal is to store long-term files, it’s always best to use hard drives, perhaps external hard drives which now cost very little and offer a lot of space for data storage.

That being said, if you’re here today and reading this buying guide, it’s because you want advice on which USB stick to buy , right? Then Let’s ban the chatter and let’s see what are the pen drive that currently offer the best value for money. Not before, however, to have analyzed all the features that you should consider before buying a product of this kind.

How to choose a USB stick

When looking for a USB stick , it is natural to think about the price and capacity of the drive (that is, the amount of data that the latter can contain), but in reality there are many more features that must be taken into consideration. Let’s find out immediately in detail.

USB standard

Best USB stick

Since we are talking about USB sticks , one of the first features you need to pay attention to before buying a pen drive is the type of USB standard supported by the latter and your PC (as well as all the PCs on which you intend to use the ‘unit). Each USB standard corresponds to a different data transfer rate, but be careful because it is a theoretical maximum speed. The actual speed with which data is transferred depends on the stick itself and the computer that transfers the information. For example, if you buy a key but use it on a computer equipped with an old mechanical hard disk at 5,400 rpm, this will prevent the data transfer from reaching the maximum speed allowed by the pen drive. Same goes if you buy a USB 3.0 stick and use it on a computer with only USB 2.0 ports, but we’ll talk about this shortly.

Today most computers – and most sticks – support the USB 3.2 standard which promises a data transfer rate of 5 Gigabit / s, which equates to 625 MB per second , at 20 Gigabit / s, which equals well 2,500 MB per second (but no USB flash drives are currently running at these speeds). This is a nice “jump” compared to the previous standard, USB 2.0 , which allows you to transfer data up to 480 Mbits / s (60 MB per second)!

The USB 3.2 standard is divided into several speed specifications:

  • USB 3.2 Gen 1 , known commercially as SuperSpeed ​​USB , can reach data transfer speeds of up to 5 Gigabit / s, which equals 625 MB per second . In the past it was called USB 3.0 .
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2 is instead defined commercially as SuperSpeed ​​USB 10 Gbps and replaces USB 3.1 Gen 2 (even if the specifications are identical). As you can easily guess, it reaches theoretical speeds of 10 Gigabit / s, equal to 1250 MB per second .
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2 is a new standard that defines the connection capacity of up to 20 Gigabit / s, therefore equal to 2500 MB per second . You can achieve such high speeds thanks to the use of two separate 10 Gbps lines and commercially you can find it with the name of SuperSpeed ​​USB 20 Gbps .

As you have noticed I also pointed out the old names of the various USB standards , this is because you can find those on the market. The USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2 standard has no old name because it is new (it was announced in early 2019), but at the moment it is practically impossible to find it on USB sticks.

As mentioned above, if you buy a USB stick that supports a high standard (eg USB 3.0), to fully exploit its potential you must use a computer that supports the same standard and does not include components that can act as a “bottleneck”, for example the mechanical disc at 5,400 rpm to which I referred earlier, castrating the performance of the unit. Another important thing to note is that USB 3.0 / 3.1 are backwards compatible with previous USB standards . This means that you can purchase a USB 3.0 stick and use it on a PC equipped only with USB 2.0 ports, but obviously the data transfer will go at the maximum speed allowed by the USB 2.0 standard (theoretical 480Mbps, 60MB / sec. Real) and not from that USB 3.0.

The same goes of course also the reverse: if you buy a USB 2.0 stick, you can use it without problems on computers equipped with USB 3.0 ports, but the data transfer speed will always be that dictated by the least advanced standard, therefore USB 2.0.

USB connector

Other features that you need to pay close attention to are the type of USB connector used by the stick you are going to buy and the type of USB ports on your computer.

Most USB sticks are in USB-A format (the big one we all know), but there are also USB-C sticks designed for MacBooks, the latest iPad Pro, 2-in-1 and all modern computers that have Type-C ports, Micro-A and Micro-B keys designed for use on smartphones and tablets (via micro-USB port) and Lightning keys that can be used with Apple’s portable devices , such as iPhone and iPad. To better understand the differences between various types of USB ports (and therefore between the various types of connectors to be inserted in them), take a look at this diagram taken from Wikipedia .

Best USB stick

It should be noted that the format of the connector or port does not determine the USB standard supported by the stick or computer . To give a practical example: even if the USB Type-C format is commonly associated with the USB 3.1 standard (because many devices in USB Type-C format actually support the USB 3.1 standard) there may be devices with USB-C ports without support USB 3.1 standard and USB 3.1 drives in standard USB-A format. I hope I was clear.

Speed ​​of data writing and reading

Earlier we said that the USB standard supported by a stick determines the theoretical maximum speed with which it can transfer data, but it is not equivalent to its real speed in copying files.

To find out the real speed at which files are read and written on a stick, you need to check the technical specifications of the drive and look for the maximum read and write speeds . But be careful, sometimes manufacturers make too optimistic estimates and therefore to find out the real performance of a pen drive you need to look for tests carried out by third parties. For example, if you decide to buy a stick on Amazon, often in the comments you will find the tests made directly by the person who purchased the product (which may or may not be true, always better to check different ones before drawing hasty conclusions on the quality of a product).

To influence the speed of data transfer there are also the type of flash memory included in the stick and the controller with which it is equipped. This is why there are keys that apparently look the same, have the same capacity but are sold at different prices and ensure different data transfer speeds: the faster (and probably more expensive) ones are made with better quality components.

Note that the keys of the same brand and the same model often have increasing read and write speeds based on their capacity, so a 64GB key will often be faster than a 32GB key in copying data.

Capacity

There is not much to say about this. Knowing that the “nominal” value of the USB sticks never respects their real capacity (the actual usable space is a few Giga less than that declared by the manufacturer), buy the pen drive that seems more suitable for the types of files that you intend to copy on it. If, for example, you need to transfer text documents, small quantities of photos or other “light” files, also buy an inexpensive key less than 8GB. If, on the other hand, you have to transfer videos, large photo collections, document archives and other rather “bulky” files, buy a key of at least 16GB.

Remember, then, what I told you before: often the more “capacious” USB sticks are also faster in data transfer than the same model of stick with a lower capacity.

Dimensions and shape

Best USB stick

Also this characteristic concerns almost exclusively your personal taste. Now there are sticks of all sizes, shapes and colors. There are even some that follow the form of famous people, animals and more or less funny objects!

The only thing I can tell you about the size / shape ratio is that the ultra-compact and ultra-thin keys are often slower than the “bigger” ones, but as already said the values ​​must be evaluated product by product, you cannot can generalize.

Special USB flash drives

Among the many USB flash drives available on the market, there are also some that stand out from the crowd for some of their peculiarities. Let’s analyze them together.

  • Sticks 2-in-1 mobile – as I said before, there are sticks with micro-USB and Lightning connectors that can be used with smartphones and tablets. I didn’t tell you, however, that many of these sticks are 2-in-1, in the sense that on the one hand they have a micro-USB connector and on the other a standard USB connector that allows you to connect them to your computer (or other devices more “traditional”). This means that the same unit can be used to transfer data from a computer to the smartphone / tablet and vice versa. If you have an Android device, before buying a USB stick for the latter make sure that the device has the OTG function (USB on the go) and that the stick supports the latter. Without OTG you will not be able to use the stick with your smartphone or tablet.
  • Wi-Fi sticks – these are normal USB sticks that can be connected to the Wi-Fi network in order to share files with smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices wirelessly.
  • Rugged sticks – this type of USB stick is designed to withstand shocks, diving in water and other events that would normally end the “life” of a pen drive.
  • Encrypted sticks – some USB sticks have a hardware encryption system that allows you to encrypt the files they contain. In some cases the unlock PIN can be set directly on the key thanks to a special keypad.

Other features to consider

Best USB stick

What we have just analyzed together are the most important features that must be taken into consideration before purchasing a USB stick; but they are not alone. If you want to make an even more conscientious choice, also consider the following features.

  • LED – imagine connecting your stick to a device that at that moment does not give you a visual output (so you don’t have a screen in front of it explaining what’s going on). How do you know if the stick is working and is copying some data? The answer is an LED, a small light with which many pen drives are equipped which, by flashing, lets you know when the unit is running.
  • Wear leveling – this is a technology that avoids the recurring writing of data on the same memory sectors. Considering that the recurrent writing of data on the same memory sectors can lead to damage to the latter, the USB sticks equipped with wear leveling have a potentially longer life as they optimally distribute the writing of the data on all the memory (without “Fatigue” of specific sectors).
  • Cloud backup – some USB flash drives come with an accompanying app that allows you to backup your data to the cloud. This is not an essential function (also because often the space available on the cloud is small, unless you pay for a more advanced account), but it can be useful.

Which USB flash drive to buy

At this point I would say that you have the necessary knowledge to appear a USB stick without making mistakes. So, are you ready to start? Below is a list of some of the best pen drives available on the market today. Obviously I had to leave out some equally interesting products, but there are so many USB sticks that to list them all would have been impossible! Try to find the key that is right for you and, if you like, buy it directly online using the links below.

Best economic USB stick (max 25 euro)

Kingston DataTraveler 100 G3 from 32/128 GB

Best USB stick
At an extremely affordable price and with a compact form factor you can find the Kingston DataTraveler 100 G3 , available in 16, 32, 128 and 256GB storage capacity. It supports the USB 3.1 standard (USB SuperSpeed) and is equipped with a sliding protective cap to protect the key (and data) during transport.

Intense 8GB Micro Line

Best USB stick

If the first things you are looking for are savings and portability, take a look at the Intenso Micro Line keys , which are extremely compact and can be easily transported in any situation. They are available in various memory sizes (4, 8, 16, 32 and 64 GB) and in USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed ​​USB) versions. The cheapest model is the 4 GB USB 2.0 version which ensures a write speed of up to 6.5 MB / s and a read speed of up to 16.5 MB / s. It should be noted that despite the extremely small size, the key is USB-A type, therefore it works with all USB ports in standard format.

Toshiba Hayabusa 32GB

Best USB stick

The 32GB Toshiba Hayabusa is one of the best selling USB sticks on Amazon. This is because with an extremely low price (less than 13 euros) it offers a lot of storage space and supports the USB 3.0 standard (SuperSpeed ​​USB). Unfortunately, the data transfer speed is not very high (70 MB / s in reading and 10MB / s in writing), but for a little intense use and for data storage it is more than good. Then we talk about Toshiba, therefore a well-known and reliable brand.

SanDisk Ultra Fit 32 / 64GB

Best USB stick

An extremely compact USB stick, ideal for those looking for a good quality product at affordable prices. It supports USB 3.1 (SuperSpeed ​​USB) standard and read speeds of up to 130 MB / s, and also includes SanDisk SecureAccess software which allows you to protect your files with 128-bit encryption. It is available in different cuts: starting from 16 GB up to 256 GB. Within € 25 you can buy the 16, 32 and 64 GB variants, all decidedly inexpensive in relation to the quality of the product and other models of direct competition.

Kingston DataTraveler 32GB microDuo 3.0

Best USB stick

Do you have an Android smartphone or tablet with OTG support? Then you may find yourself comfortable with a key like the 32GB Kingston DataTraveler which, as you may have noticed from the photo above, has a double connector: a standard type A for connection to the PC and a Micro-USB for connection to mobile devices. It is not a monster of speed: it reaches about 70 MB / s in reading and 15 MB / s in writing, but given the price I would say that you can’t complain! It also supports USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed ​​USB) standard.

There is also a model of the same USB stick equipped with a USB Type-C connector , which supports the USB 3.1 standard and ensures read performance up to 100 MB / s and write up to 15MB / s. It is available in 16, 32, 64 and 128 GB denominations.

SanDisk Ultra Flair 32/64 GB

Best USB stick

Among the best USB sticks ever, I cannot fail to mention the SanDisk Ultra Flair , available in cuts starting from 16 GB up to a maximum of 256 GB. Under the 25 euros you can find the 16, 32 and 64 GB ones, and below I suggest you the latter two. They offer read performance of a maximum of 150 MB / s thanks also to the support of the USB 3.0 protocol (SuperSpeed ​​USB) and combine good performance with dimensions that we can define all in all reduced.

Transcend JetFlash 790 32GB

Best USB stick

The Transcend JetFlash 790 is a USB stick in traditional format, with retractable connector, which offers excellent value for money. It supports USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed ​​USB) standard and ensures a read speed of up to 90 MB / s combined with a write speed of up to 25 MB / s. It is also available in the “cuts” of 8, 16, 64 and 128 GB but probably the 32 is the one that offers the best value for money.

32/64 GB Lexar JumpDrive

Best USB stick
The Lexar JumpDrive are among the most popular and “traditional” keys available, but they offer excellent performance within a not very small form factor. They can read at 150 MB / s and write at 60 MB / s and are obviously compatible with the USB 3.0 platform (but they can also be connected to a USB 2.0 port, with reduced performance). They support 256-bit AES cryptographic protection and under 25 euros you can find the cuts of 32 and 64 GB of internal storage.

SanDisk Ultra Dual 32GB

Best USB stick

If you have a MacBook, an ultrabook or a 2-in-1 equipped with USB-C ports, I highly recommend you consider the SanDisk Ultra Dual : it is a stick with a double concealed connector that can be connected both to the ports Traditional USB (Type A) and to the USB-C ports of newer computers. It supports the USB 3.1 Gen 1 standard (therefore SuperSpeed ​​USB) ensuring a read speed of up to 150 MB / s and a write speed of up to 80MB / s. 16, 64 and 128 GB models are also available. Those of larger capacity can reach a write speed of approximately 140 MB / s.

128GB SanDisk Cruzer Blade

Best USB stick

If you prefer storage space for performance, you can seriously consider SanDisk ‘s Cruzer Blade which for less than 35 euros offers 128GB of storage space. It has a very compact format and guarantees performance up to 20 MB / s for reading and 14 MB / s for writing on USB 2.0.

Lexar JumpDrive S45 32/64/128 GB

Best USB stick

Lexar is one of the best manufacturers of USB sticks (and not only). Among its most interesting products there is this Lexar JumpDrive S45 mini-stick from 32 to 128GB that supports the USB 3.0 standard and ensures a read speed of up to 150 MB / s and a write speed of up to 45 MB / s. It is available in various colors and thanks to the EncryptStick Lite software it allows you to protect your data with 256-bit AES encryption.

Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth v2 32/64 / 128GB

Best USB stick

As the name suggests quite easily, the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth v2 is a rugged USB stick, i.e. a USB stick designed to withstand bad weather. It has an anodized aluminum body that allows it to resist immersed up to 200 meters of water and external shaped rubber collars that make it resistant to impacts and vibrations. It is compatible with the USB 3.0 standard (SuperSpeed ​​USB) and ensures a read speed of up to 75 MB / s and a write speed of up to 40 MB / s. It is available in the “cuts” of 16, 32, 64, 128 and 256GB.

Kingston DataTraveler 50 128GB

Best USB stick

Compact, robust and capacious: these are the adjectives that best describe the 128GB Kingston DataTraveler 50 . We are in fact talking about a “travel” key (to be kept attached to the key ring) with support to the USB 3.1 Gen 1 standard characterized by a beautiful metal design that allows you to use it freely without a protective cap. Ensures a read speed of up to 110 MB / s and a write speed of up to 15 MB / s. The writing speed is not the best, but remember that we are talking about an ultra-compact device and, as anticipated in the post opening phase, the ultra-compact keys have lower performance than those of standard dimensions.

Best mid-range USB stick (25-50 euros)

128 GB SanDisk Ultra Flair

Best USB stick

With its compact design and its normal performance, the SanDisk Ultra Flair is also available in the 128 GB format, which is one of the mid-range models. Again we have full support for the USB 3.0 standard (SuperSpeed ​​USB) and a reading speed of 150 MB / s. It is also available in blue.

SanDisk Extreme Go 64 / 128GB

Best USB stick

The SanDisk Extreme Go is one of the most interesting pendrives of the American house. Supports USB 3.1 Gen 1 (SuperSpeed ​​USB) standard with a speed of up to 200 MB / sec for reading and up to 150 MB / sec for writing, therefore (equal to the transfer of an entire movie in 4K in less than 40 seconds and 1,000 photos in less than 60 seconds). It has a standard connector in USB A format and is also compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. It is also available in the 64GB format.

Sandisk Cruzer Ultra USB Type-C 128GB

Best USB stick

The ideal solution for those who have a computer equipped with USB Type-C ports and do not want to waste time with adapters of various kinds. This excellent SanDisk key has only a USB-C connector, is compatible with the USB 3.1 standard (SuperSpeed ​​USB) and ensures excellent performance with a read speed of up to 150 MB / s and a write speed of up to 70 MB. / s. It is compact, light and available in various cuts: 16, 32, 64 and 128 GB with increasing performance.

Lexar JumpDrive S75 128GB

Best USB stick

Another Lexar product that I recommend you take into consideration is the 128GB Lexar JumpDrive S75 stick which has support for USB 3.0 technology, a read speed of up to 150 MB / s and a write speed of up to 60 MB / s . The design is not the most original: it is a common key with concealed connector, but the availability of various colors makes it particularly pleasing to the eye. Like other Lexar keys mentioned above, it supports EncryptStick Lite software which allows you to apply 256-bit AES encryption to files. The value for money is really excellent. Same goes for the 64GB model; the 256GB one is perhaps still a bit too expensive.

128 GB SanDisk Ultra Dual

Best USB stick
SanDisk Ultra Dual keys are the most interesting if you intend to share data with the latest generation Android devices. On the one hand they have a full-size USB 3.0 connector (SuperSpeed ​​USB), while on the other they have a reversible USB Type-C connector. The declared write speed is 80 MB / s, while the read speed is maximum 150 MB / s. The 128 GB model is quite inexpensive and falls within the mid-range.

HooToo Flash Drive Lightning 32/64 GB

Best USB stick

If you have an iPhone or iPad and are looking for a USB stick compatible with the latter, take a look at this HooToo pendrive which offers 32GB of space and has a double connector: on one side USB-A for connection to the computer and on the other Lightning for use with Apple portable devices. It has performance up to 10-30MB / s in reading and 7-10MB / s in writing on iPhone and iPad and up to 30-80MB / s in reading and 10-30MB / s in writing on computer. It supports the USB 3.0 standard and is very easy to use (on iPhone and iPad just download the iPlugmate app from the App Store while on the PC it behaves like a normal USB stick). There is also a slightly more expensive variant of this model with 64 GB of storage space.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick 32 / 256GB

Best USB stick

In the introductory part of the article I was talking about USB sticks with Wi-Fi connectivity. Well, here is one that has precisely this characteristic. This is the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick that allows you to store files and share them wirelessly with PC, smartphone, tablet and other devices. It has no constraints related to the operating system to be used (in fact it supports all the main desktop and mobile systems) and supports the simultaneous connection of a maximum number of 3 devices. It works on battery, so after 3 or 4 hours of use in Wi-Fi mode it must be recharged. Its performance, if used as a normal USB stick, is not the best: we are talking about 11 MB / s in writing and 13 MB / s in reading on USB 2.0 standard.

128GB Emtec Lightning On-The-Go

Best USB stick

This particular USB stick not only has the Type-A connector on one of the two ends, but on the other side it has a Lightning connector on a flexible support. It allows you to store any file and share it with your iOS device and, thanks to the USB 3.0 connection (SuperSpeed ​​USB), it also guarantees good performance: the data declared by the manufacturer speak of a reading of 130 MB / s with USB connection and 30 MB / s with Lightning connection, while in writing we have up to 20 MB / s in USB and 10 MB / s in Lightning.

Best high-end USB stick (over 50 euros)

256 GB SanDisk Ultra Flair

Best USB stick

If what you are interested in is having a lot of storage space in a space that can be defined as small, then I suggest once again a SanDisk Ultra Flair , this time in the 256 GB size. Also in this case we have: USB 3.0 (SuperSpeed ​​USB), reading speed of 150 MB / s, but the availability of color is expected only in black.

Corsair Voyager Slider X1 256GB

Best USB stick
This USB stick supports the USB 3.0 standard (USB SuperSpeed) and can read data at a speed of 130 MB / s. It implements a blue LED to indicate the activity and the part with the connector is retractable in order to simplify its transport. Here I propose the 256GB cut, while the warranty is 5 years on all models. The other versions have capacities from 16GB.

128GB SanDisk Extreme Pro

Best USB stick

If you are looking for a USB stick with extremely high performance and you have no particular budget limits, you can point to the 128GB SanDisk Extreme Pro : a 128GB or 256GB USB 3.1 stick that ensures read performance up to 420 MB / sec and write up to 380 MB / sec (equivalent to the transfer of an entire movie in 4K in less than 15 seconds and 1,000 photos in less than 25 seconds). It is characterized by a very resistant aluminum body and is supplied with a file encryption software (SanDisk SecureAccess).

256 GB SanDisk Ultra Dual

Best USB stick

Among the most versatile keys ever we have the 256 GB SanDisk Ultra Dual , able to offer a large storage space within compact dimensions, and to be connected both on any computer (regardless of the operating system in use), both on Android smartphone with OTG function. It offers a reading speed of up to 150 MB / s and has a USB Type-C connector on one side, while on the other a full-size USB connector with support for USB 3.1 Gen. 1 (SuperSpeed ​​USB) protocol.

128GB SanDisk iXpand

Best USB stick

Are you looking for a way to expand the memory of your iPhone or iPad? Did you find it! The SanDisk iXpand is a “hybrid” stick that on the one hand has a standard USB connector (type A) and on the other a Lightning connector compatible with all the latest Apple portable devices. It supports the USB 3.0 standard and has a read speed of up to 70 MB / s and a write speed of up to about 45 MB / s. It also supports automatic backup of photos and other data when connecting to iDevices. It is available in 16, 32, 64, 128 and 256GB denominations.

Patriot Supersonic Rage Elite

Best USB stick
If you do not accept compromises of any kind, I suggest the Patriot Supersonic Rage Elite , with retractable connector and also available in 512GB and 1TB storage capacity. This product can also guarantee top performance: 400MB / s for reading and up to 300MB / s for writing data. Supports USB 3.1 standard (USB SuperSpeed).

128GB HooToo Flash Drive Lightning

Best USB stick

As I mentioned for the lower models in the range, the HooToo Flash Drive Lightning keys are designed for owners of iPhone or iPad with Lightning port, and are used to share files between any desktop system and iOS devices. Here I propose the most expensive model with 128 GB of storage space, capable of reading at 10-30 MB / s and writing at 10-30 MB / s if used on the iPhone and iPad, or 30-80 MB / s for reading and 10-30 MB / s write when used on a computer. On one side we find a Lightning connector, on the other a full-size USB 3.0 port.

Kingston HXS3 HyperX Savage 128GB

Best USB stick
The Kingston HXS3 HyperX Savage 128GB is a USB stick with an “aggressive” look and performance that largely reflects its appearance! It supports the USB 3.1 Gen 1 standard and “travels” at speeds of 350 MB / s read and 250 MB / s write. It is also available in 64GB and 512GB variants. Eye, however, the 64GB variant reaches “only” 180 MB / s in writing.