iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Seven USB Flash Drives In Tests

From ATP, Corsair, PQI, Kingston and Silicon Power.

December 2, 2008

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Real capacity

2 GB
Min. ATP EarthDrive ATP ToughDrive Camo PQI Card Drive U510 Max.
  1953 MB 1906 MB 1922 MB  
2007191552 b 2051145728 b 2000912384 b 2016612352 b 2088820736 b

Interestingly, all drives of this capacity are different today, so we can hope for different element base and different performance results (sometimes it gets really boring -- when we test several identical flash drives in different enclosures). All of these models have relatively low capacity, and ATP ToughDrive Camo is actually below the registered minimum capacity.

4 GB
Min. Kingston DataTraveler 101 Kingston DataTraveler Mini Slim Max.
  3820 MB 3812 MB  
3997696000 b 4003975168 b 3995078656 b 4102348800 b

We have another anti-record broken -- the real capacity of Kingston DataTraveler Mini Slim is low. And the second flash drive from Kingston also has low capacity. But they are different in exterior and interior.

8 GB
Min. Silicon Power Ultima 155 Max.
  7711 MB  
7999635456 b 8070799360 b 8271732736 b

No records or anti-records here: the only contender of this capacity is almost 80 MB as capacious as the minimum value and 200 MB short of the maximum value. It's even interesting to pay attention to the absolute difference between these flash drives -- many users still use 256-MB models, and here we deal with a bigger difference.

16 GB
Min. Corsair Flash Voyager GT Max.
  15484 MB  
16006545408 b 16224436224 b 16019120128 b

We've tested only three 16 GB flash drives up to now, so our database of results for comparison is small. Anyway, Corsair offers the largest model so far: 200 MB more capacious comparing to other competitors.


Testbed configuration:

  • EpoX 8NPA SLI
  • AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (512K L2)
  • 1 GB PC3200 DDR SDRAM
  • System HDD: Western Digital WD1600JS
  • Windows XP Pro + SP2

We used Lavalys Everest Ultimate Edition 2006 2.80 (its disk test to be more exact).

We've selected five flash drives from Verbatim that we have already tested before.

Read tests

We have two distinct groups of the flash drives: three models demonstrated the read rate above 20 MB/s, while the other four performed within 10-20 MB/s. We could expect such results from Corsair Flash Voyager GT, but 'reactivity' of ATP EarthDrive was a total surprise -- no one promised such results. On the contrary, ToughDrive promised high results, but we saw no extraordinary results. Silicon Power Ultima 155 also performs well. However, such results can be obtained in a single-channel mode, so it makes sense to see its results for writing data.

The other four drives perform well, but nothing more. Several years ago such speeds were considered high, but they cannot impress anybody these days -- just ordinary flash drives.

Peace and quiet. Read access times of most flash drives fall within 0.5-1 ms, including our products.

Write tests

Judging by the fact that EarthDrive still puts up impressive performance, ATP just used SLC chips in this model instead of the officially faster ToughDrive. We cannot expect such presents to become a regular event, of course. In case of top capacity models (instead of a 2 GB model we tested here) it won't happen at all. So we can assume that performance characteristics of this series will mostly match those of ToughDrive. And this model offers mediocre performance. However, it's still acceptable in comparison with the slowest drive from our today's shootout. Yep, the only attraction of Kingston DataTraveler Mini Slim is its compact dimensions. However, a single MLC chip (not the fastest model at that) does not promise miracles of performance. PQI Card Drive U510 is not very fast either, but it's no problem -- the company offers U510 Pro for the high performance segment. Corsair is expectedly fast, Kingston DataTraveler 101 and Silicon Power Ultima 155 are rock-solid average performers.

Write access times are either high or very high today. However, our sample of ATP EarthDrive fares very well here owing to the happy accident. PQI Card Drive U510 and Silicon Power Ultima 155 also perform well, the other products do not deserve any praise here. Especially Corsair Flash Voyager GT -- it's far from the good old Flash Voyager GT, when the series was limited by 8 GB. We got higher capacity now, but other characteristics are much worse now.

Power consumption

SLC chips are very good -- they are extremely fast and more reliable than MLC. But they have two drawbacks: lower capacity and high power consumption. Effect of the latter is apparent in our tests -- 2 GB ATP EarthDrive needs as much power as Corsair Flash Voyager GT, which capacity is higher by eight times. The second surprise is very low requirements of Silicon Power Ultima 155: on a par with two drives, which are probably equipped with just one flash memory chip. Model 155 may be the same. In this case we can establish the fact that 64 GBit chips (which appeared a year ago) are very good -- flash drives with these chips are no worse than dual-channel models with chips of lower capacity. And using two channels with these chips gives us 32 GB and impressive performance.


Today we've tested more interesting flash drives than we usually do. That was to be expected. When the review covers only models from the same manufacturer, their number is limited -- they cannot be possibly all outstanding. Especially as these products are designed for common people today, not enthusiasts. The situation changes cardinally, when the review is devoted to several vendors.

In fact, there are no boring products in this review at all -- they are all interesting in some aspects. However, we've chosen three products for our award:

  • ATP EarthDrive for environmental care.
  • PQI Card Drive U510 is pure 'Original Design'. Not only original, but also convenient.
  • Silicon Power Ultima 155. The idea behind this product is not unique, but it's implementation is praiseworthy: it's a good flash drive, no worse than the other devices of its class. Its integrated microSDHC reader will certainly be appreciated.

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