With the convenience of cloud storage, USB flash drives might seem like old news, but the best are portable, fast, near-indestructible, and offer tons of space—enough that they’re worth having. This week we’re looking at five of the best, based on your nominations.
Earlier in the week we asked you to tell us which USB 3.0 flash drives were the best. Maybe they were super tiny and portable, but packed huge storage for those files that are just too big for cloud storage. Maybe you just carry them around for access to important files on the go that you don’t trust the cloud with. Maybe they were just super cheap and had cool features like regular and mini USB ports.
We got tons of nominees, but as always we only have room for the top five (so make sure to head back to the call for contenders to see more options!) Here they are, in no particular order:
Kingston’s Digital Data Traveler line of USB 3.0 flash drives are affordable, high-capacity, and totally portable. The photo above kind of tells the tale, too. The all-aluminum casing makes it just durable enough to go on a keychain and stand up to the drops and bumps your keyring might take, but it’s small enough to fit smoothly into a USB port anywhere without blocking adjacent ports. It’s fast and backwards compatible, thanks to the requirement that all of our contenders be USB 3.0, and it even comes with a five year warranty. The model above is Kingston’s 64GB version, which will set you back $30 at Amazon. If you prefer, you can grab 32GB or 16GB versions from Amazon for a little less, or head over to Kingston direct to buy their 128GB version—all in the same form factor, of course.
Those of you who nominated the Kingston Data Traveler praised its form factor and portability, and specifically loved the shape and form factor. Many of you said you kept yours on a keyring, others said you just liked how small it was for the amount of storage it offered. You universally loved the aluminum casing, saying that you’ve broken or damaged so many cheap plastic drives over the years that it was refreshing having a drive that last for years without breaking. You can read more personal stories and praises in its nomination thread here.
SanDisk makes some great SD cards, but they also make some of the fastest USB 3.0 flash drives on the market. The SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 64GB flash drive (shown above) boasts transfer speeds of 245 MB/s read and 190 MB/s write; pretty speedy even compared to some of SanDisk’s other drives (and more on that later.) The drive is on the large side, and definitely a stick you’ll want to keep in a bag until you need it plugged in, but the retractable USB port makes sure that it’s never damaged and kept safe for when you need to use the drive. If you’re interested, the 64GB version costs $35 at Amazon, with 32GB and 16GB versions available for a little less.
Those of you who nominated the SanDisk Extreme praised its super high transfer speeds, and its retractable USB plug, both for keeping the port safe and clear of debris while you’re transporting the drive, but also for being a fun little fidget when you have nothing else to do with your hands. Plus, getting those transfer speeds for that price is a welcome thing, especially when you have a lot of data to move around. A few of you noted that you use yours as a USB installation drive, which is a great use case for when that added speed can actually make a difference. Some of you noted that it’s a bit bigger than a lot of drives these days though, so it’s easy to break if you’re not careful, and it might not be for you if you’re rough on your drives. You can read more in its nomination thread here, or this thread here.
PNY is well known for affordable storage and memory, and their USB 3.0 flash drives are no exception. PNY’s Turbo USB 3.0 line of flash drives are portable and tiny, easily stored in a pocket or anywhere in a laptop bag, boast solid and speedy transfer rates, and come in sizes big enough to carry just about anything you might need. We’re highlighting the 64GB version above, which will set you back a mere $20 at Amazon. In reality, it was the $30 128GB version that turned up in the nominations thread, which should point out exactly how price competitive these little things really are. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles here though, which is how the price stays down. It’s simple, affordable storage in a plastic housing with a cap to keep the USB plug clean while you carry it around with you. Either way though, if you need storage on the cheap, this is the way to go. If you’re not interested in the 64GB of 128GB version, there are cheaper 16GB and 32GB versions, and a massive 256GB version for a pretty impressive $73 bucks.
Those of you who nominated the PNY Turbo pointed out that it’s hard to beat storage this cheap, even when it comes with caveats sometimes—some of you mentioned that these drives have failed you in the past, with seemingly-random disconnects and other issues. Others said you’ve had yours for ages with no issues or problems. Some of you noted that this has been so far your first and only USB 3.0 drive, and you’re pleased with the transfer speeds and the form factor—it has all the space of an external drive with none of the space. Many of you pointed out that you’ve frequently seen these on sale via Kinja Deals, and that’s how you pick them up so affordably. In any event, you can read all of those experiences, good and bad, in its nomination thread here.
If you’re looking for a USB 3.0 flash drive that works well with your computer, whether it’s a Mac or a PC, and with your Android phone or tablet, the Corsair Voyager Go is a great option. You get 64GB in a tiny, rugged package with an aluminum case and a carrying strap that can connect to your keychain, or is small enough to fit pretty much anywhere you need to take it. After all, the thing is only about 37mm long. It also comes with an included adapter that switches the USB 3.0 port to micro USB, so any Android device that supports OTG (On-The-Go) will work with it and see it as added storage. Best of all, the cross-compatibility between desktops (and desktop operating systems) and mobile devices, storage, and portability won’t cost you more money—it’s only about $30 at Amazon. If you don’t need as much space, you can save a few bucks with the 32GB of 16GB versions. Hell, the whole thing even comes with extra caps in case you lose the included one. That’s a nice touch.
Those of you who nominated the Voyager Go praised it for offering USB 3.0 and microUSB in the same stick, being small enough to slip in your everyday carry bag or attach to your keychain, and for offering features you just can’t get on other drives without jacking up the price to get it. You praised it for not requiring drivers or apps or anything like that to work on your desktop or your smartphone or tablet. In fact, none of you even mentioned downsides. You can check out the nomination thread here.
For the ultimate in portability—the kind that I remember seeing mockups of on tech blogs years ago wondering if “flash drives could ever get that small,”—the SanDisk Ultra Fit is an amazing option. So small it barely sticks out of the USB drive you plug it into (its size is akin to the Logitech Unifying Receiver, if you’re more familiar with that), the Ultra Fit comes in a variety of storage options, none of which change the basic form factor. The 64GB version shown above is a mere $23 at Amazon, while the more massive (and more popular) 128GB version is only $44. All models are USB 3.0 and boast great transfer speeds, carry a five year warranty, and even come with a little protective cap to keep the USB jack clean when it’s not in use.
Those of you who nominated the Ultra Fit line of drives pointed out that the profile is so low and these drives are so small that many of you just leave them in your laptops and computers for added storage at the cost of a USB port. It’s small enough you don’t even have to take the drive out when you pack up your laptop to travel. Some of you did note that they can be tricky to remove though, especially when flush against a USB port, since there’s nowhere to really “grip” them, as it were, and others of you noted that while USB 3.0 speeds were great, if you’re using this in a USB 2.0 port, it’s unfortunately slow. Others noted that these things get super hot for their size, so take that into consideration too. You can read all about it in its nomination thread here.
Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to put them to an all-out vote to decide the Lifehacker community favorite:
This week’s first honorable mention goes out to Corsair Survivor, a near-indestructible flash drive that will set you back $50 for the 64GB model at Amazon, but mostly because you could run over this thing with a truck or drop it from ridiculous heights and it’d not only survive, but work perfectly. These things board hard-anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum housings, a waterproof seal, shock-resistant housings and bumpers, and the whole thing is backed by a five year warranty. If durability is your primary concern, this is the drive for you—it’s fast and durable. You can read more testimonials in its nomination thread here.
We also want to higlight the SanDisk Ultra USB 3.0 OTG Flash Drive as our second honorable mention, which is SanDisk’s dual-port offering to compare with the Corsair Voyager Go in the top five above. The 64GB version is $23 at Amazon, and while it’s not quite as durable and rugged, it still offers dual USB 3.0 and micro USB ports to connect to your desktop and your Android smartphone or tablet. Plus, it’s still small enough to go anywhere, protects the jacks when not in use, and even has a little slot on the center ring that goes around the body to attach to a keychain or a lanyard for storage. You can read its nomination thread here.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don’t just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.
The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn’t get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it’s a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at email@example.com!