Best Cheap USB Flash Drives
Everyone should have a cheap USB flash drive. They're eminently practical and extremely portable. Use one to store a few key work files to be handed over to a colleague, say, or back up important photos and other documents you can't afford to lose. There are USB drives that are large enough to serve as a backup drive, although most people stick to smaller, cheap USB flash drives for quick and easy storage.
Our Top Pick
ADATA S102 Pro Review
Speed is the notable feature of this USB 3.0 flash drive, according to Adata S102 Pro reviews. Many of the more than 200 five-star ratings at Newegg highlight how quickly this drive reads and writes data; one user, though, asserts that read speeds beat the specified maximum while write speeds fall way short. Regardless, reviews award points for value, reliability, durability, and overall functionality. Similar comments show up in reviews at Amazon, where one user goes so far as to say this is the best USB flash drive he's ever used. Reviewers also express appreciation for the sleek design and solid build quality. Some users aren't keen on the flash drive's detachable cap, which they fret is easily lost despite a holding place in the back of the device, and a couple grouse about the accompanying software.
The S102 Pro (starting at $15) is available in four sizes -- 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. It sports a USB 3.0 interface, which is backward-compatible with USB 2.0 connections. The drive has an aluminum body for extra durability and a maximum read speed of 100MBps, compared with 30MBps for USB 2.0 flash drives. (Note: Both are theoretical maximums under ideal conditions. Real-world data transfer rates are slower.) As mentioned above, the Adata S102 Pro sports a detachable cap to protect the business end of the flash drive.
If you need a fast USB flash drive to store larger, more complex files or for larger backup jobs, the ADATA S102 Pro is a very good choice. It's faster than any USB 2.0 drive you'll find, affordable, reliable, and durable. Just keep a close eye on the cap so it doesn't go missing.
Verbatim Store 'n' Stay Review
The varied uses of this tiny flash drive earn frequent mention in Verbatim Store 'n' Stay reviews. It's the size of a dime, making it ideal for tasks where you'd like to plug in an unobtrusive flash drive and simply forget it's there. After being loaded with favorite MP3 files, users often put it to the test in car stereos, according to reviews at B&H and Amazon, further noting that the flash drive is so small it fades from sight when plugged into a USB port. Reviewers also say this tiny thumb drive is a nifty way to expand storage capacity of Xbox game consoles and that data transfers pretty quickly. We did, however, come across a few reviews at Newegg grousing about drives that ceased functioning after a year or so.
This USB 2.0 drive is available with storage capacities of 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB. Because it's so small, there is no retractable USB connector or cap. In fact, the Verbatim Store 'n' Stay (starting at $16) hardly has any "body" to speak of; it looks almost identical to a tiny RF receiver for a wireless mouse.
Most people think of USB flash drives as a way to transport data from one device to another. You could certainly use the Store 'n' Stay for this purpose, but the diminutive design affords a nearly-invisible way to add more storage to all your USB electronics. It's ideal for car stereos and game consoles, but is also a low-cost and easy way to give your laptop a quick, simple backup drive.
Lexar JumpDrive TwistTurn Review
A good value, proclaim Lexar JumpDrive TwistTurn reviews, in part because this USB flash drive can survive some adversity. One review at Office Depot notes how well the folding case protects the USB contacts, and points out there's no cap to lose. At Amazon, a review suggests that over-eager pets wouldn't be able to chew through the case. And at Newegg another user writes that the drive sailed through a complete cycle of the washing machine without any loss of functionality. Contrary assessments emerge here and there, with some Lexar JumpDrive TwistTurn reviews expressing concern about the durability of the plastic body (and keychain loop) and reporting crashes after a short period of use. And while the majority of users describe the JumpDrive as plenty speedy for a USB 2.0 model, some complain about slow data transfers.
Buyers of the Lexar JumpDrive TwistTurn (starting at $14) have a choice of five storage capacities: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. It features a flip-out "switchblade" design and a built-in activity light so you can see when it's reading or writing data.
The JumpDrive is a good choice for users looking for a traditional USB 2.0 flash drive on the cheap. The drive's design is attractive, and its unusual twist opening protects the connector without a cap. Most users say the drive seems to run faster than the average USB 2.0 model, and it's very affordable.
Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0 Review
Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0 reviews award points for a rugged design but hedge when it comes to speedy performance. A review by PC Mag notes that this flash drive can't quite keep pace with other USB 3.0 models although it runs circles around USB 2.0 flash drives. The review also lauds the rubber housing, which protects against moisture and rough handling; a post at Newegg, however, retorts that it takes longer to pull out of a pocket. Predictably, some reviewers grumble about the cap, with the common refrain being "it's easy to lose." Read and write speeds seem to satisfy users although we came across quite a few complaints about limited durability; some Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0 reviews report total failure within weeks and others after about a year. Apparently, this drive isn't as tough on the inside as it is on the outside.
You can find the Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0 (starting at $18) with four different storage capacities -- 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB -- or chose the USB 2.0 version. (The USB 3.0 version is, as you'd expect, the faster of the two by far.) The device is water-resistant and shockproof thanks to its tough rubber casing.
The Flash Voyager would claim a higher spot on our list if it had a better track record for long-term reliability. It's ironic that a drive designed to take a beating on the outside seems inclined to break down so quickly. Still, it's inexpensive enough and while we wouldn't recommend using it to back up your most important files, it's a good choice when you need to move large amounts of data quickly.
SanDisk Cruzer Edge Review
SanDisk offers several versions of its Cruzer line of USB flash drives, but Cruzer Edge reviews suggest this is one version you should pass on. The drive's plastic construction seems insubstantial, reviews at Newegg, assert; one user claims the device failed within a few months. Quite a few posts at Amazon say the SecureAccess software included with the SanDisk Cruzer Edge is a turnoff; reviewers complain that it's tedious to use, the interface is awkward, expected icons don't appear, and files can't be accessed. Others simply confine their critiques to slow transfer speeds and generally say the device is a nonstarter.
The SanDisk Cruzer Edge (starting at $13) is a 2.0 model that's available with storage capacity of 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB. The drive has a sliding mechanism that retracts the USB connector, obviating the need for a cap. The security software creates a password-protected folder on the flash drive for secure access to some of your files.
Two big knocks against this flash drive, according to reviews: the fragile plastic shell and security software that looks good on paper but fails to deliver. There are other low-cost thumb drives on the market that come far closer to meeting, and sometimes exceeding, users' expectations.
PNY Compact Attache Review
This small flash drive from PNY is bargain-priced, but most Compact Attache reviews say it's simply too slow, even for one with a USB 2.0 interface. Despite complaints about read/write speeds, some users who posted comments at Best Buy consider it a decent value. PNY Compact Attache reviews at Walmart express similar sentiments, with some adding that the plastic case is prone to cracking and even falling apart.
The PNY Compact Attache (starting at $10) is a thumb drive with no frills. It has a USB 2.0 interface and is available with storage capacity of 4GB, 4GB, 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. The plastic case is designed with a sliding collar that exposes the USB connector when you need it, so no worries about losing a cap.
It's a well-known fact that USB 2.0 drives aren't particularly fast. But PNY Compact Attache reviews indicate this drive seems slow even by USB 2.0 standards. And with a plastic case that doesn't seem to stand up to everyday wear and tear, that's two strikes against this low-cost device.