USB memory sticks (or flash drives as they're often known) are key to how we use our PCs these days. If you want to shift some huge pictures or videos around, then the best option is to throw them on a USB stick.
Need to backup your most important documents? Same again (although the cloud is now gaining ground but useless if you're on the train or on the move). Game saves and even games (we're staying firmly on the right side of the law here)? USB stick. You get the idea.
USB memory sticks are small, spacious and incredibly versatile. We use them in the office all the time, for moving everything from screenshots to benchmark suites. And each of us has several smaller drives littering our desks (thank you PR agencies).
How to choose your USB memory sticks?
- It's not worth looking for memory sticks with capacities smaller than 16GB simply because the price premium you pay for twice or four times the storage is tiny.
- Make sure you include delivery price when doing the numbers as quite often you end up paying more for the postage than the drive itself, particularly for low cost models.
- USB 2.0 is sufficient for smaller capacities but not for bigger ones where write speeds can be sluggish. Larger flash drives (128GB or more) often come only with a USB 3.0 connector.
- If you plan to move files to and from portable devices (tablets or smartphones), consider a memory stick with a microUSB connector and a full size USB one.
- Avoid buying your memory sticks from vendors with few feedbacks on auction websites as these drives might turn out to be fake. All the vendors listed below are tried and trusted ones.
- Above 128GB, you might want to consider a SSD if you want ruggedness, portability, versatility and better performance without the cost.
- Note that all the capacities are likely to be much less than stated when they are formatted and when mounted on an operating system.
Our hit list
16GB Toshiba TransMemory for £3.64. That's a USB 2.0 model which comes with simple security software and a five-year warranty.
32GB Freecom DataBar for £6.99. As the above, this is a USB 2.0 model which features a capless slide design and a two-year warranty.
32GB Kingston DataTraveler for £7.69. Slightly more expensive than the model above but this one supports USB 3.0 and has a five-year warranty.
64GB Verbatim PinStripe for £11.99. This is a USB 2.0 model that comes with a two-year warranty and is ideal for storage and archiving purposes. It has a pull/push sliding feature and offers read/write speeds of 10Mbps and 4Mbps respectively.
64GB MyMemory Red for £12.99. For an extra Pound, this USB drive provides 8x the read speed (but only just over twice the write speed). Note that it comes with a cap and a one-year warranty.
128GB GRIXX for £22.99. Another high capacity USB 2.0 drive best suited for archiving and long term storage. It comes with a whopping five-year warranty and packs a rather traditional form factor. This particular model has the cheapest per GB cost of all flash drives in the UK at 18p.
128GB MyMemory Red for £24.99. This is the cheapest USB 3.0 drive on the market on a per GB basis at 19.5p. It comes with a one-year warranty only and has stated write/read speeds of 14Mbps and 25Mbps respectively.
256GB Verbatim Store 'n' Go V3 for £64.57. Another Verbatim model which features a capless design as well as read/write speeds of 120Mbps and 25Mbps respectively. Note that there are no USB 2.0 drives of this capacity on the market.
512GB Corsair Flash Voyager GS for £251.26. A performance USB 3.0 drive from one of the most established memory players on the market but a relative newcomer to this segment. It has a zinc alloy body with aluminium accent and reaches read/write speeds of 295Mbps and 290Mbps respectively. No slouch and one that comes with a five-year warranty.
1TB Samsung Portable T1 for £385.46. We're solidly in premium territory with this model; not only does it offer absurdly high read speeds of up to 450Mbps thanks to Samsung's own 3D V-NAND technology, it also comes with a three-year warranty. Note that it is much bigger than a traditional flash drive and costs about ten times a spinning hard drive of a similar capacity.
In comparison, a 1TB SSD like the Samsung EVO 850 costs just £264. It comes with V-NAND based like the Samsung Portable T1 and it does boast speeds of 530Mbps and 520Mbps in read/write mode respectively. Note that you will need to get a separate enclosure to get it to work with a standard USB port.