USB Thumb Drives: Some Fast, Some Slow

When it comes to buying USB flash memory thumb drives it is a gamble when it comes to the speed of the ‘drive’.

I recently bought two Lexar 8GB thumb drives. I thought by buying Lexar I could not be making too big a mistake. Bzzzzzt. Wrong!

They are so slow to copy files to.

I can copy 8GB onto my Sony 16GB USB thumb drive in 8 minutes. To copy the exact same set of files to the 8GB Lexar thumb drive takes just over an hour—that is almost eight (8) times longer!

It has been suggested to me that they are probably USB 1.0 and not USB 2.0 thumbies but this seems unlikely to me. I doubt if any 8GB USB thumb drives made in the last couple of years are USB 1.0. I could be wrong. I have not researched this.

USBhiSpeedThe other point is that USB 2.0 comes in two speeds. There is USB 2.0 Hi-Speed and USB 2.0 Full Speed and I can’t really remember which is the faster of the two but I think it is USB 2.0 Hi Speed.

USBSuperSpeedComing soon we have USB Super Speed which is the new USB 3.0 standard built into Windows 8, but that is a whole other article.

My thinking is that more than likely the Lexar ‘drives’ use much slower (cheaper) flash memory and that this is the cause of the much slower write speed compared to the Sony stick. The problem is that, unlike for SD cards and Compact Flash cards, there is no standard grading or classifications for the speed of the flash memory used in USB thumb drives; at least none that I am aware of anyway. They very carefully tell you the potential speed of the connector as USB 1.0, USB 2.0 Full Speed, USB 2.0 Hi Speed, or USB 3.0 Super Speed (not that I have seen any of these yet), but they don’t tell you the speed of the flash memory used in the actual thumb drive.

Neither the slow Lexar 8GB thumb drives or the much faster Sony 16GB thumb drive show any markings on them that hint at the relative speed of each ‘drive’. The only possible tiny hint maybe is that the Lexar drives are black and the Sony drive is ‘racing’ red Smile.