Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why do these small flash drives exist?

Recently I bought two new 16GB USB flash drives. They were bought for a special purpose: to use as install media for Windows.

So, why would I need two drives?

Simple. There is Windows 8.1 and there is Windows 10 Technical Preview. Yes, I did install Windows 10 TP on my main PC, but I'll discuss about that in another post.

Which drives did I buy?

Since these were not going to be used often, speed was secondary. Price was more important. Which 8GB drives were definitely cheaper, the 16GB ones weren't overly expensive.

I did not research much because it wasn't a big deal. I ended up ordering a couple of SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.0 16GB drives. Since SanDisk is a reputed brand, I didn't think I would run Into much trouble.

As usual, I ordered them from Amazon although  Amazon wasn't directly selling. It was some other 3rd party but it did not bother me as everything is taken care by Amazon. Unfortunately, these flash drives weren't available at the time of ordering, thus I had to wait a few more days to actually get the hands on them.

Isn't it amazing how small they look?

True, they look amazing however impractical to say the least. As soon as I held them In my hands, I knew I had made a mistake. They might look futuristic, but one has to jump around cursing everyone to remove the clip. They are so small that it is very hard to get a grip to pull the clip off.

Furthermore, if they were plugged into the USB ports on the rear I/O panel, it would be difficult to unplug the because you can hardly feel them with your fingers especially with the other cables plugged in around it.

Wait. There is more. They cannot be labeled because they are so small. Perhaps one can put a small mark on them to identify them.

Enough complaining. What about the benchmarks?

The specifications suggested that they can read data up to 135MBps. That's pretty high for such a cheap and small drive. There were no mention of write speeds though.


So I ran ATTO to check if they really performed that well. We'll they did, at least in the read speed department. They are not good all at smaller data block sizes but eventually they catch up to the advertised specifications. For some reason, the write speed would drop about 40% after 128KB blocks.


In contrast, this is how my old USB 3.0 which is made by Palit performs.


That's a big difference in read speeds I would say. The Palit drive performs better at lower block sizes though.

Nevertheless, I would use the Palit drive for day to day stuff because it is easier to handle.

Any other complaints?

Of course!

While these drives performed admirably well - for their size - speed wise, they became considerably warmer than the Palit drive after running the benchmark. Obviously there is insufficient surface area to dissipate the heat effectively.

So who are these drives for?

For the stupid, I guess. There is no reason to make these so small. Perhaps they can lower the manufacturing costs. Or because they can. Or this is aimed at people who want to smuggle data out of companies undetected. But you’ll be easily giving away yourself when you try to pull the clip off.

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