Bigger. Faster. Like many consumer electronics, USB flash drives continue to increase in both speed and size (capacity, that is, not physical size). The latest USB keys offer up to 256 GB of storage andincreasingly faster data transfer rates. And then there's USB 3.0, which promises to be faster than ever. The first USB 3.0 devices showed up in January at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and now the reviews are rolling in. Our newly updated report on USB flash drives covers all the new developments in this realm and offers the best picks no matter your budget.
USB 3.0 drives promise read/write rates of about 125 to 300 Mbps (about ten times faster than USB 2.0) and maintain backwards compatibility with USB 2.0. A company called Super Talent has two well-received USB 3.0 thumb drives currently available. The Super Talent RAIDDrive 64 GB (*Est. $330) gets accolades from editors at LegitReviews.com, who are very impressed with its high transfer speeds (300 Mbps claimed), which they test on a number of machines. The more budget-friendly Super Talent Express USB 3.0 (*Est. $130 for 32 GB) earns a recommendation from EverythingUSB.com for its speed, portability and price, though it's not as fast as the RAIDDrive, with a maximum speed of 125 Mbps. Reviews note that a USB 3.0 port is necessary to experience these speeds, though performance with USB 2.0 ports is also impressive.
If you're looking for military-grade security features or ultra-durability, there are USB flash drives designed specifically for those needs. The Ironkey Personal S200 will actually self-destruct (render itself unusable, not explode or anything) if someone tries to tamper with it. On the other hand, Corsair's Survivor GTR can survive just about anything. In expert tests, it remains functional even after being run over by a car, dunked in a pool and thrown repeatedly from a rooftop.
Of course, many of these features are overkill for most people. Many users will be happy with a USB 2.0 drive like the best-reviewed Corsair Voyager GTR or the budget-friendly original model, the Voyager. For more details, see our just-updated report on USB flash drives.