|by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig | April 24, 2007|
2GB Flash Drive Roundup
2GB Flash Drive Round Up
Table of Contents:
1- The Competitors
2- Size comparison
4- Subjective, Long-Term Testing
5- Vista Readyboost vs. You
Over the last few years, flash drives have become more and more popular while at the same time increasing exponentially in size. The norm of 256MB and 512MB drives has rapidly given way to drives with a capacity of 4GB, 8GB and now even 16GB. As the size of the drives has increased, so has the speed at which they can read and write information. Microsoft has also taken advantage of this growing trend of flash drives by designing a “Readyboost” feature into their new Windows Vista operating system which basically takes advantage of the accessible memory on a flash drive to increase the performance of Vista. More information can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReadyBoost . Some of the faster flash drives are advertising themselves as “Readyboost Ready” no matter how dubious the actual performance boost may be.
This review will focus on the four 2GB flash drives from Corsair, OCZ, Patriot and Kingston. While 2GB may not be the largest capacity available, it does represent a happy medium of price and storage capacity which is quickly making it the new norm in flash drive capacity. Some of these competitors promise speedy units which will leave all the others in the dust while others offer a basic package for a bargain price. So, this roundup will pretty much run the gamut of what is out there.
1- The Competitors
Corsair Flash Voyager GT 2GB
Product Number: CMFUSB2.0-2GBGT
Corsair’s new GT lineup of flash drives promises extremely fast read / write times backed by Corsair’s 10-year warranty. The unit itself is the only drive in this roundup to have its entire exterior completely covered in soft rubber which makes it both water resistant and shock resistant. These features may seem like a gimmick to many people but when you realize how much abuse these flash drives take on a daily basis, you will come to admire Corsair’s choice of materials.
The Voyager also comes with Truecrypt data encryption software which is extremely easy to use when securing sensitive files.
Believe it or not, with all of these features the Flash Voyager GT is not the most expensive flash drive in this roundup. If its performance backs up Corsair’s claims, then we could really have a winner on our hands.
Corsair has seen fit to include a few extras with this package as well. In addition to the drive itself, there is also a USB data cable and a neck lanyard. The USB cable is convenient if you only have USB ports on the back of your computer but with it being only 22” in length, it may not reach as far as someone might want it to. All in all, this is an extremely complete package.
OCZ Rally 2 2GB
Product Number: OCZUSBR2DC-2GB
Price: $36.00 CAD
OCZ is very well known in the world of memory (RAM) and also produces its fair share of flash-drives. Among them are their tiny Roadster drives, their entry-level Rally drives and their high-performing Rally 2 flash drives. In this review we will be looking at their high speed Rally 2 drive. Right away, we can see that this packaging makes claims about this drive’s high speed and that is supposedly supports Vista Readyboost. In addition, OCZ offers something that is completely unique in this roundup: a full lifetime warranty. This shows that OCZ has full confidence in their product and they should be applauded for that.
The exterior of the drive is finished in a thin layer of dimpled metal which gives the Rally 2 a feeling of quality and durability. Luckily, this does not seem to add too much weight to the drive. Within this roundup, the OCZ Rally 2 was the least expensive by a few dollars.
OCZ does not include any encryption software with their drive.
OCZ includes a few extras with their package as well; both a USB data cable measuring 21” and a lanyard for around your neck (or wherever else you want to put it). While the Corsair’s lanyard has a large metal clip on the end of it, OCZ has only used a puny piece of nylon to attach the drive. This does not inspire much confidence if you choose to actually carry around the drive on the lanyard.
Kingston Data Traveler 2GB
Product Number: DTI/2GBCR
Price: $37.00 CAD
The first flash drive I ever owned was a 256MB Kingston drive which was built like a tank and is still alive to this day. This particular drive is not Kingston’s Data Traveler Elite drive but rather of their original Data Traveler series. The exterior packaging does not claim anything outrageous, nor does it claim much at all outside of some cursory information. This drive comes with a 5 year warranty directly from Kingston.
The drive itself feels nothing like my old Kingston drive which I bought years ago. This one is made out of thin plastic and does not have the same quality feel to it that my three year old unit has. Luckily, the coloring was something of a hit to the person I gave it to test out; more on that later. On the other hand, the white finish on this drive is prone to get very dirty, very fast.
Kingston does not include any encryption software with their drive.
Unlike some of the other units, Kingston does not include a USB data cable in the package. What they do include is a warranty card listing all of the limitations and restrictions pertaining to they 5-year warranty. There is so much fine print; you will give up reading it after a few minutes. The Data Traveler also comes with a lanyard that has the quality of dental floss.
Patriot Signature Line Xporter 2GB
Product Number: PSF2GUSB
Price: $45.00 CAD
Patriot is another memory manufacturer which has branched off into the business of flash drives. This drive is from their Signature (read: value) line and should not be confused with their higher end Xporter XT series. Their Xporter XT drives are supposedly as fast as there are expensive and it is this price ($60+ for the 2GB model) which disqualified them from this roundup. That does not stop this particular drive from being the most expensive in this roundup by a good $5 above the Corsair Flash Voyager GT.
The drive itself feels very well built and is finished in a glossy white finish. Contrary to the white finish on the Kingston drive, this one does not get dirty due it its gloss finish.
Patriot equipped this drive with Windows Security Partition software which is a bit complicated to use but once you get the hang of it, it proves to be a good piece of included software. Just make sure you don’t delete it from your drive before using it.
You may notice there is no picture of the included accessories that come with this drive. That is because there are none. When you buy this drive from Patriot, you get the absolute bare minimum and nothing more. It also includes a 5-year warranty.
2- Size Comparison
Without a doubt the Corsair drive is much larger than any of the other competitors in this roundup. All that rubberized coating used to provide water and shock resistance comes with a tradeoff in the size department. Luckily, while it may be larger than any of the others in this test, it is still an acceptable size which can easily fit in your pocket without you noticing.
The Kingston Data Traveler is very thin but at the same time it is quite wide. While it may not be as physically large as the Corsair, it seems to take up more place in your pocket because of its hard plastic construction. On the other hand, both the Patriot and the OCZ drives are miniscule by comparison. The picture may not show it but the size difference between them and the other two competitors is quite dramatic. While the OCZ may be a bit smaller length-wise, the Xporter is much thinner.
Personally, I found the best of the bunch in terms of size to be the OCZ Rally 2.
Testing flash drives is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them into the Flash Drive folder in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account.
For these tests I used a combination of HDTach and the SIS Sandra Removable Storage benchmark. I plugged each flash drive into the same USB 2.0 port directly on the back plate of the DFI Lanparty SLI DR Expert motherboard.
For this benchmark, HDTach was used.
We can see that the Corsair Flash Voyager GT lives up to its promise and provides absolutely blistering speed. Not only is it head and shoulders above the competition but it completely demolishes the more-expensive Patriot Xporter and the similarly priced Kingston Data Traveler. Meanwhile, the OCZ proved it is also a relatively fast drive by posting respectable numbers, especially in the Burst Speed test. Both the Kingston and Patriot units run neck and neck with each other at the back of the pack.
Random Access Time
Once again, HDTach was used for the benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive.
This time we see both the OCZ and the Corsair drives virtually neck and neck with the other two drives far back in terms of performance in this benchmark. Once again, even though it is the most expensive drive here, the Patriot drive performance numbers are sub-par at best. The Kingston Data Traveler’s results were nothing short of abysmal compared to the similarly-priced competition. While the performance of both the Kingston and Patriot drives is right in-line with more value oriented drives, their pricing brings them into the firing line of the higher-end drives.
ATTO Dish Benchmark
The Atto disk benchmark tests the drives’ read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. Fort these tests, the ATTO program was kept at its default values and each test was run 4 times. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.
Once again, the Corsair runs away with this test and doesn’t look back. Both the read speeds and the write speeds are equally impressive and like all of the other drives its peak performance leveled out at the 32kb mark. Once again, both the Patriot and the Kingston drives are bringing up the rear. The Patriot drive has the lowest write times of the bunch while the Kingston has the lowest read times but not by that large of a margin. The OCZ drive pulled a bit of a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act on these tests; it posted amazingly fast read scores but the primary write tests left a lot to be desired until the file size increased.
Sandra Removable Storage Benchmark
This test was run with the removable storage benchmark in Sandra IX Standard. All of the scores are calculated in operations per second and have been averaged out from the scores of 4 test runs.
After seeing the other tests, the results of this one should come as no surprise. The Corsair takes the crown by a wide margin while the Kingston and Patriot drives can’t even begin to keep up. The OCZ had respectable results throughout the test but it just couldn’t keep up with the raw speed of the Voyager GT. An odd thing happened with the Kingston in this test: while all of the other drives took less than 10 minutes to complete the test, the Kingston took over 20 minutes for some reason. In addition, it returned errors 8 out of 10 times running the test.
4- Subjective, Long-Term Testing
Since people who use these drives will not be running benchmarks their whole lives, the decision was taken to run long-term tests on these drives. They were given to 4 people who would use them on a daily bases to see how the drives stood up to the rigors of everyday usage. They were used and abused for between 14 to 20 days and when the dust settled, the testers' notes were given back to me along with the drives. Just remember, many of the comments here are subjective and may not apply to everyone who is buying these drives.
Susan (Drafting / Design Technician)
Kingston Data Traveler
Since Susan constantly transfers files between her workstation and her laptop, the Data Traveler got a good workout over the 2 week period. At first Susan loved the colors of the drive but that quickly changed when after a few days the white finish began to get dirty. By the end of the test period the white surface had begun to look like it was dragged over 10 miles of highway. Luckily, a few minutes of buffing with some Vim cleaned most of the blemishes off the surface but the problems did not stop there; after two days the cap started getting loose (it made a rattling noise) and eventually would not stay on the drive anymore. Other than those few minor problems, the performance of the drive did not falter in any way.
Nick (Electrical Engineer)
When I received this drive back from Nick it was chalk-full of technical files and mechanical drawings along with a missing cap. This drive was constantly used by Nick since quick access to information is the name of the game in his field of work. With the flash drive, he was able to bring all his information to the job sites without having to bring a laptop (99.9% of the time, the contractor already has a laptop on-site) or large DVDs. Sadly, he thought the 2GB drive just wasn’t enough for him. The drive itself held up extremely well considering the high-impact situations it was put through; suffering only a few minor scuffs even though it was (supposedly) crushed by a metal beam. The case of the missing cap stems from the fact that since the cap cannot be clipped onto the back of the drive it is easily lost. As a side note, NONE of the drives here can have their caps clipped onto their backs. Performance stayed the same throughout the test period.
Serge (Computer Tech)
Corsair Flash Voyager GT
Since Serge is the local computer tech (and klutz) around the office, I decided to give him the fast and heavily-fortified Corsair. He is constantly using an ancient, sad-looking 128MB flash drive to transfer files and upload patches to our computers so he was nearly jumping with joy when I pulled out the Corsair for him. The Corsair’s first initiation to Serge was him mistakenly dropping it off the office’s 5th floor balcony into the street below, where it happened to land smack dab in a puddle. This is what happens when a person puts the drive on the railing so they can pull a cigarette from their pocket. Any lesser flash drive would have been destroyed but the Corsair held up without a problem and performed admirably for the rest of the test period. Heaven only knows what else happened to this drive in Serge’s hands but it did come back to me in working order. Serge also commented that the finish was great even though the drive was a bit large and he would have liked the option to attach the cap to the back of the drive.
OCZ Rally 2
I had to keep one of these drives for myself so I closed my eyes and picked one at random. While I was not planning on putting this drive through any high-impact situations it dropped down the stairs of my condo at least once and was treated by my dog as a chew toy far too often. All things considered, it stood up remarkably well and didn’t have any drops in performance over the 2 week period. To tell you the truth, I am still using this drive on a regular basis (nearly 4 weeks after receiving it) as my normal data transporting device. Yet, along with all this praise naturally comes a few critiques. I really wish that there was some way to attach the cap to the rear of the drive; with the cap being so small it is almost impossible NOT to loose it. Another thing that bothered me a bit is the fact that the orange LED stays on as long as you have the drive plugged in. Most other drives only use their LEDs as a sign that the drive is in use. Other than those two small caveats, I have found the OCZ Rally a real pleasure to work with.
5-Vista Readyboost vs. You
After all the extensive testing these drives went through, the last litmus test was to see if they would actually work with the Windows Vista Readyboost. It should be said straight off the bat that even though some of these drives actually worked with Readyboost, there was no perceptible performance increase. Thus, if you are buying a flash drive solely for the Readyboost feature you may be severely disappointed with the outcome.
So, which drives did Windows Vista actually recognize as Readyboost Capable?
OCZ Rally 2: Yes
Patriot Xporter: No
Corsair Voyager: Yes
Kingston Data Traveler: No
These results should come as no surprise as Readyboost needs a fast flash drive to operate properly.
Corsair Flash Voyager GT: What isn’t there to like about this drive? Throughout all of the performance tests, this drive set itself apart as the one to beat and not one other drive in this roundup was even close to matching the performance figures it put out. Corsair also wrapped it in an ultra-durable exterior which paid for itself in spades during the long-term testing. When you wrap all these things up for the price of about $40, there is really no reason to not recommend the Voyager. With some serious performance muscle, a well-rounded package and an enviable warranty Corsair really has a product to be proud of.
OCZ Rally 2: While the performance of the OCZ drive was nowhere near that of the Voyager GT in the majority of the tests, it nonetheless provided great performance. It also comes with OCZ’s lifetime warranty and an attractive exterior finish. People will tend to gravitate towards this drive over the Corsair because not only is it always found on sale at one e-tailer or another but also it carries a lot less bulk than the higher-performing Corsair. The long-term tests showed this drive to be able to put up with quite a bit of punishment due to its its metal finish. What we have here is a great all-round performer at an extremely attractive price.
Patriot Signature Line Xporter: All in all, I was disappointed with the performance of this drive from Patriot. The performance offered would be completely acceptable if the price of this drive were substantially lower but as it stands, it is the most expensive drive in this roundup. If you could find this drive on sale for less than $25 it would provide a good solution for a cheap storage solution but considering its price and lack of performance, I cannot recommend it above the OCZ or Corsair products.
Kingston Data Traveler: I almost felt bad for the Kingston drive in this roundup. Not only was it completely trounced in the benchmarks but its but its overall build quality left a lot to be desired. While the performance stayed consistently mediocre throughout all of the tests, what the reader cannot see is the trouble this drive had actually RUNNING the tests. The Sandra benchmark showed both errors and long completion times with this drive which I have not been able trace. With lackluster performance, the warranty with more strings you could shake a stick at and questionable build quality this drive finishes at the bottom of the list.
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