USB memory disks surfaced late in 2000. IBM sold the first models with a capacity of 8MB. It took several years for prices to fall but in 15 years the price deflator has been brutal. As of 2015, USB sticks are available in 32 GB for under $20.
USB sticks adopted USB 2.0 circa 2003 on mass which offered 35MB/s of practical bandwidth. Transfer rates may be given in megabytes per second (MB/s), megabits per second (Mbit/s), or in optical drive multipliers such as “180X” (180 times 150 KiB/s). In time, capacity became the only material value.
USB sticks have completely replaced floppy disks and removable hard disks etc. The mass produced semiconductor flash memory has managed to overwhelm rival technologies completely. We have accumulated so many USB sticks that we have resorted to using a recycled postal box to store them.
These make a good choice for a gaming rig to attach to an available USB port. Performance varies widely and USB sticks are now more of a commodity than ever. Of the sticks we have, they are all slower than the hard disk.
Kingston, in January 2013, offered a 1 TB USB 3.0 stick. We expect that the capacity will increase as the USB form factor has more room than the smaller SD card etc. USB 3.0 sticks will work with USB 2.0 ports at the lower speed.
|SEQ RD||SEQ WR||RAND RD 512KB||RAND WR 512KB|
|CBM 1GB||10.007 MB/s||2.135 MB/s||10.036 MB/s||1.237 MB/s|
|SanDisk Cruzer 2GB||18.998 MB/s||6.300 MB/s||19.024 MB/s||1.894 MB/s|
|SanDisk Cruzer 4GB||17.906 MB/s||4.253 MB/s||17.803 MB/s||0.706 MB/s|
|SanDisk Cruzer 16GB||23.81 MB/s||4.439 MB/s||23.60 MB/s||2.427 MB/s|
|SanDisk Cruzer 32GB||23.45 MB/s||3.651 MB/s||23.28 MB/s||1.965 MB/s|
|SanDisk Cruzer 64GB||25.11 MB/s||6.977 MB/s||24.89 MB/s||1.520 MB/s|
|DataTraveller 112 4GB||16.565 MB/s||3.667 MB/s||16.557 MB/s||1.352 MB/s|
|Lexar 8GB||22.441 MB/s||9.886 MB/s||22.450 MB/s||0.871 MB/s|
|Lexar 32GB||26.50 MB/s||17.05 MB/s||26.240 MB/s||0.421 MB/s|
|Transcend JetFlash 2GB||17.931 MB/s||5.909 MB/s||17.888 MB/s||1.945 MB/s|
|Transcend Jetflash 790K 128GB||45.41 MB/s||51.34 MB/s||34.88 MB/s||3.454 MB/s|
|Store & Go 8GB||25.41 MB/s||12.34 MB/s||24.88 MB/s||1.454 MB/s|
|Seagate ST3750525AS||71.668 MB/s||66.229 MB/s||45.901 MB/s||70.850 MB/s|
We used CrystalDiskMark with a small 50 MB size and 1 pass to determine the performance. The hard disk is shown to compare with the USB stick’s performance. The performance of a USB stick is relatively poor as they are used mostly as a floppy replacement.
Android mobile phones, Windows and Android tablets can use an OTG cable to connect a USB device such as flash storage. This makes it possible to copy files back and forth easily. OTG cables are low cost and are ideal for leveraging USB flash storage and other peripherals.