W.arum a USB stick and not an external hard drive? It fits easily in your trouser or jacket pocket, and some sticks can even be carried around as a key chain. And they are no longer lame storage gnomes. Modern USB 3 sticks are really fast, offer a lot of space and do not cost the world. But which of the many models is the right one? The answer is the test of 24 USB sticks: nine with 128 gigabytes (GB), eleven with 256 GB and four extra-fast and extra-large ones with 512 GB.
The best USB sticks with 128 gigabytes
Complete list: The best 128 gigabyte USB sticks
With a classic plug
The structure of a USB stick is simple: the manufacturers usually mount a small sheet of metal behind the USB connector, on which they plant memory chips and some electronics. The whole thing then comes in an inexpensive housing – the stick is ready. Deviations from this blueprint are rare. Even with the connection, little happens: 20 of the 24 test candidates come with the larger one Type A USB socket. While more and more USB-C sockets are gaining acceptance in notebooks and tablets, they are rare with USB sticks: only the Kingston Data Traveler comes with them USB-C connector. Three sticks (Lexar Jumpdrive Dual Drive D30c, Samsung USB Type-C Flash Drive Duo plus and Transcend JetFlash 930C) have a double plug and thus fit into USB-A and USB-C sockets. This saves an annoying adapter on the new iMac, for example.
Almost all USB sticks tested were fast when reading, but there were huge differences in the writing speed.
Everyone is quick at reading
All test candidates have a fast USB connection – there are differences in the technology used (see “USB standards explained” below), but none in terms of speed: the USB sticks all work at a maximum speed of 5 gigabits each Second. However, a fast connection is no guarantee for fast data transmission – this depends on the built-in memory chips and the control electronics. And so the test showed drastic differences in speed (see graphic below). When reading data, almost all USB sticks managed on average more than 100 megabytes per second. Only the Kingston DataTraveler 80 did not get more than 40 megabytes per second in the test and was the only stick in this category to receive a “poor” rating. The majority, on the other hand, was over 200 megabytes per second on average, four sticks even managed more than 300 megabytes per second (Patriot Supersonic Rage Pro 512 GB, Verbatim Store’n’Go V3 MAX 128 GB, Samsung Flash Drive Duo Plus 256 GB and PNY Pro Elite 512 GB).
Big differences in writing
When writing, the whole thing looked different, because that is more time-consuming than reading with USB sticks, since the sticks have to erase the memory cells before writing. It depends on the built-in control electronics. Some USB sticks almost reach the speed of an external SSD with a USB connection: Six test candidates (SanDisk Extreme Pro USB 3.2 256 GB and 512 GB, SanDisk Extreme Pro USB 3.2 256 GB, Patriot Supersonic Rage Pro 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB GB and Transcend JetFlash 930C 512 GB) delivered here on average over 200 megabytes per second. Four more USB sticks managed at least more than 100 megabytes per second. The rest of the USB sticks are significantly slower to write than to read – a disadvantage, for example when creating backups or when copying large files onto the USB stick. With the SanDisk Ultra Flair 128 GB, for example, the data transfer kept getting stuck while writing (see screenshot below) – that reduced the writing speed to an average of just 27 megabytes per second. Three sticks in the test field are similarly lame (SanDisk Dual Drive Luxe 256 GB, Kingston DataTraveler 80 128 GB and Lexar Jumpdrive Dual Drive D30c 128 GB). These sticks are only suitable as a data store if users only rarely have to write to them. Significantly faster does not mean significantly more expensive, by the way: For the smaller 128 GB sticks, the surcharge for the test winner was around 8 euros on average compared to the slower competitors, and around 15 euros for the medium-sized with 256 GB. Little extra charge for a lot of speed gain. Comparing prices, for example with the price comparison portal idealo, which COMPUTER BILD uses to determine market prices, is always worthwhile with USB sticks – the price differences between the retailers are large. In addition, grocery chains such as Rewe and Kaufland also sell USB sticks – often cheaper in special offers than in electronics stores.
If you switch on the detailed view while copying, you will see an irregular writing speed on many cheap USB sticks.
Protect the USB connector
The Achilles heel of a USB stick is the USB socket. If possible, no key should get caught in it, otherwise the contacts could be scratched. If the USB stick does not have its own pocket, protective caps or a sliding mechanism that can be used to pull the contacts of the stick back into the housing help. This is what 18 sticks offer in the test, the rest of them shouldn’t end up in your pocket with the keychain.
USB standards explained
USB 3.0 was the first variant of USB that could transfer data quickly – there are now three other USB standards:
- USB 3.0: The first USB standard with enough speed for fast USB sticks, a maximum of 5 gigabits per second (Gbps).
- USB 3.1: Can double the speed to 10 Gbps, but this only applies to devices and sockets with the addition Gen2, Gen1 Like USB 3.0, it creates a maximum of 5 gigabits per second.
- USB 3.2: Even more speed with Gen2x2 – With this up to 20 Gbps are possible, Gen1 and Gen2 are as fast as with USB 3.1.
- USB 4: The new USB 4 standard wants to replace the various USB 3 standards and creates with the integrated one Thunderbolt–Technology up to 40 Gbps.
USB sticks are mainly sold based on price – there is little room for extras. Most manufacturers only put the stick in the packaging. Lexar, SanDisk and Transcend also have some software for this purpose – mainly for data encryption, file management and backup. However, only this is absolutely necessary for the supplied programs Lexar FingerTool for the Lexar Jumpdrive Fingerprint F35. With this, the user sets up the built-in fingerprint sensor, with which the data on the stick can be conveniently protected from unauthorized access. The convenience is expensive, however: The sensor drives the price of the stick up to around 70 euros, making the Lexar twice as expensive as the test winner in the 128 GB models. And the technology is not necessary: Encrypting data also works with the free tool Veracrypt – you can find the instructions here. If you want to use a large USB stick to back up your PC or notebook – no problem, it works with the emergency DVD from COMPUTER BILD. It can also make a copy of the operating system (image) or save data. The free emergency DVD 16 Free with instructions.
Supersonic Rage Pro 512GB
- High writing speed
- Fast reading speed
- Protective cap slightly loose
Test result USB sticks with 128, 256 and 512 gigabytes
Double victory for Patriot in the USB sticks with 128 and 256 gigabytes. Here he sat down Patriot Supersonic Rage Pro USB 3.2 Gen1 at the highest speed. Only the SanDisk Extreme Pro USB 3.2 Flash Drive with 256 GB could keep up. Only that is faster Transcend JetFlash 930C, which won the test for USB sticks with 512 GB. If you have to look at the euro and are satisfied with typing less quickly, you can save some money with the Samsung Flash Drive Bar plus and Flash Drive Fit plus (256 GB) and the PNY Pro Elite (512 GB).
Extreme Pro USB 3.1 Gen1 512GB
- High writing speed
- Very fast reading speed
* The cheapest price may be higher in the meantime.