[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

USB flash memory drives are now part of our lives. Smaller and with a capacity higher than floppy disks, these devices are the perfect replacement for the old floppies. Hook one of these to your key chain and you have a perfect tool for carrying data wherever you go, especially when you go to places you don’t think you’ll need one (like your best buddy swimming pool party – We’re pretty sure that you’ll want to copy the pictures by the end of the party).

With capacities going higher every day, one question comes to mind: what about speed? Do all USB drives have the same transfer speed? In this review we selected four models from very well known companies for a roundup: Corsair, Kingston, MSI and OCZ.

USB Drive RoundupFigure 1: Models selected for this roundup.

We reviewed the following models:

You may think that is unfair to put the MSI model into this roundup. Yes, you are right. The reason that we included this model is that we wanted a “normal” USB drive with smaller capacity in our benchmarking, so you can compare the performance difference between a regular USB drive and a hi-speed one.

All reviewed models are USB 2.0, so you need to connect them to an USB 2.0 port in order to achieve their highest possible performance.

Note: After we published this review it came to our attention that this model from Kingston is outdated. Kingston is going to send us their latest USB drive, which they say has an outsdanding performance. So let’s wait and see.

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only different device was the USB Drive being tested.

Hardware Configuration

  • Motherboard: DFI LAN Party 925X-T2 (Intel 925X, Sep. 20th, 2004 BIOS)
  • CPU: Pentium 4 3.4 GHz LGA 775
  • Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT
  • Memory: Two 512 MB DDR2-533 CM2X512-4200 CL4 from Corsair memory modules
  • Hard Drive: Maxtor DiamondMax 9 Plus (40 GB, ATA-133)
  • Screen resolution: 1024x768x32@85 Hz

Software Configuration

  • Windows XP Professional installed using NTFS
  • Service Pack 2
  • Direct X 9.0c
  • Intel inf driver version: 6.0.1.1002
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 78.02 (GeForce 7800 GT)

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

[nextpage title=”Results: HD Tach 3″]

On HD Tach we could measure two parameters: the average read speed, listed in megabytes per second (the higher, the better), and access time, listed in milliseconds (the lower, the better).

USB Drive Roundup

Rally USB drive from OCZ was the fastest device in our roundup. On HD Tach 3 it was 39.06% faster than Corsair Flash Voyager, 156.73% faster than Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 and 221.69% faster than MSI Mega Flash. Really amazing. Corsair Flash Voyager was 84.62% faster than Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 and 131.33% faster than MSI Mega Flash.

Using these results, we can make a rough calculation of the time you would spend transferring all data stored in the USB drive to your computer, assuming that it is completely full. The MSI model achieved a better time because its capacity is only of 128 MB. If it were a 512 MB part, its transfer time would be 61.68 seconds.

Product  Transfer Speed  Transfer Time

OCZ Rally 512 MB

26.7 MB/s  19.17 seconds

Corsair Flash Voyager 512 MB

19.2 MB/s 26.66 seconds

Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 512 MB

10.4 MB/s  49.23 seconds

MSI Mega Flash 128 MB

8.3 MB/s 15.42 seconds

USB Drive Roundup

Access time measures the time the time the computer spends accessing the device before starting transferring data. The lower this value, the better, i.e., the fastest the device is. Under this test Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 achieved the best result, 0.5 ms, just 0.1 ms ahead of OCZ Rally. MSI Mega Flash achieved 1.1 ms while Corsair Flash Voyager achieved a very high access time, 18.3 ms, being the worst product in this parameter.

[nextpage title=”Results: Sandra”]

On Sandra we run the File System Benchmark module and used two parameters, the overall performance (called “index” by Sandra), measured in MB/s, and the random write speed, also measured in MB/s. Usually write speeds are lower than read speeds, so it is also very important to know the write speed, not only the read speed of an USB drive.

USB Drive Roundup

In Sandra OCZ Rally also achieved the best reading performance, being 46.67% faster than Corsair Flash Voyager, 144.44% faster than Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 and 175.00% faster than MSI Mega Flash. Corsair Flash Voyager was 66.67% faster than Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 and 87.50% faster than MSI Mega Flash.

USB Drive Roundup

As for writing performance, OCZ Rally and Corsair Flash Voyager were tied with 8 MB/s, being 33.33% faster than MSI Mega Flash and 337.88% faster than Kingston DataTraveler 2.0.

Using these results, we can make a rough calculation of the time you would spend filling up your USB drive, i.e., transferring data from your PC to your USB device. The MSI model achieved a better time because its capacity is only of 128 MB. If it were a 512 MB part, its transfer time would be 85.33 seconds.

Product  Transfer Speed  Transfer Time

OCZ Rally 512 MB

8 MB/s  64 seconds

Corsair Flash Voyager 512 MB

8 MB/s 64 seconds

MSI Mega Flash 128 MB

6 MB/s  21.33 seconds

Kingston DataTraveler 2.0 512 MB

1.83 MB/s 279.78 seconds

[nextpage title=”Silver Award: Corsair Flash Voyager 512 MB”]

Flash Voyager from Corsair is an excellent product, with a performance higher than average. Actually, if OCZ hasn’t released their new Rally USB drive, Corsair model would get our Golden Award seal.

Silver Award: Corsair Flash Voyager 512 MBFigure 2: Corsair Flash Voyager 512 MB.

Flash Voyager has an awesome feature that other USB drives available on the market don’t have: it is water resistant. It is all rubber-covered, which also protects the drive from shocks.

[nextpage title=”Golden Award: OCZ Rally 512 MB”]

If you are a speed freak, OCZ Rally is the USB drive to buy. It is the fastest USB drive available on the market today, so we are giving it our Golden Award seal.

Golden Award: OCZ Rally 512 MBFigure 3: OCZ Rally 512 MB.

How can OCZ model be so much faster than other models available on the market? The trick is that Rally is a dual-channel device, using the same concept used on desktop dual- channel memories. On Figures 4 and 5 you can take a look inside the Rally USB drive. As you can see, it uses two chips.

Golden Award: OCZ Rally 512 MBFigure 4: Inside OCZ Rally USB drive.

Golden Award: OCZ Rally 512 MBFigure 5: Inside OCZ Rally USB drive.