“a consumer reports for the cheap” — the new york times
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap USB Flash Drives
  2. USB Flash Drive Reviews
  3. USB Flash Drives Storage and Design
  4. Discount USB Flash Drives Features Comparison Table

Cheap USB Flash Drives Buying Guide

Everyone should have a cheap USB flash drive. They're eminently practical and extremely portable.

Related Guides:
Ereaders and External Hard Drives
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.

Even a cursory online search turns up scores of USB thumb drives in the under-$20 territory. (All the starting prices noted in this buying guide refer to models with 16GB of storage capacity.) Most are simple, utilitarian devices but some add a dash of whimsy with novelty designs featuring favorite cartoon characters or the shape of a surfboard or snowboard.

The best cheap flash drives on our list are the ADATA S102 Pro (starting at $15), a speedy USB 3.0 device that's pretty durable thanks to its aluminum body, and the Verbatim Store 'n' Stay (starting at $16), which is no bigger than a wireless mouse receiver and can hold several gigabytes of data. Sitting in second place are the Lexar JumpDrive TwistTurn (starting at $14), which sports an attractive, capless design and is relatively fast for a USB 2.0 model, and the Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0 (starting at $18), which is a tough cookie, owing to its rubber, shockproof case, and far faster than any USB 2.0 drive but not quite as peppy as other USB 3.0 devices.

We also identified two budget thumb drives that can't compete with the best: SanDisk's Cruzer Edge (starting at $13), whose included software security seems to annoy users and whose build quality feels flimsy to many. PNY's Compact Attache (starting at $10) is a 2.0 model that takes heat from users for being slow and for a plastic case that cracks easily.

Cheap USB flash drives are very simple products without lots of features. The two most important are speed and storage size. USB 3.0 drives are faster and often cost more than USB 2.0 drives, but the price difference is hardly prohibitive. The size of a flash drive has a far greater impact on price. You'll find plenty of smaller drives in the 2GB to 8GB range that cost less than $10 while those in the 64GB range typically cost $30 or more. (Very large drives, 128GB and up, may cost more than $100.) Flash drives with 16GB of storage are ample enough for everyday needs and priced to appeal to budget-conscious users.

The performance of a USB flash drive depends on its interface (USB 2.0 or USB 3.0) and the number and size of the files you're copying. Quick data transfers are important for some users, especially if they want to copy large files (such as video) or many files to a thumb drive. For those users, a USB 3.0 flash drive is essential. However, if you simply want to back up basic files, such as documents or a few photos or songs, one of the best cheap USB 2.0 flash drives will do just fine.

Review continues below

by Michael Sweet (Google+ Profile)

Back to top »

Best Cheap USB Flash Drives

ADATA S102 Pro
Gold Medal

ADATA S102 Pro

ADATA's S102 Pro has everything you could want in a cheap USB drive. It's reliable and runs at USB 3.0 speeds. Best of all, it costs about the same as USB 2.0 models.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Verbatim Store 'n' Stay

Some situations call for a tiny USB drive that you plug in and leave alone. The Store 'n' Stay fills the bill -- a tiny USB drive for car stereos, game consoles, and laptops when a bit of extra storage is called for.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Good Cheap USB Drives

Lexar JumpDrive TwistTurn

The Lexar JumpDrive TwistTurn features a cool, capless design and runs pretty fast for a USB 2.0 model. It's fairly durable (though hardly indestructible) and priced just right.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0

Corsair's Flash Voyager is a little slow for a USB 3.0 drive but still blows the doors off USB 2.0 models. With its rugged outer shell it can take more of a beating that most other flash drives.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
 

Don't Bother

SanDisk Cruzer Edge

The Cruzer Edge left many users with buyer's remorse owing to a plastic housing that isn't very durable and the included security software that doesn't seem to work very well.

Read more »

PNY Compact Attache

Some users consider the Compact Attache to be a good value, but many complain about slow workings, even by USB 2.0 standards. Also, its plastic case is prone to breaking.

Read more »

Cheapism.com on Facebook
 
Is It Cheaper to Buy a Printer or Go to the Copy Shop?

Investing in a printer is worthwhile for anyone who prints fairly often. Save photo printing for providers with the right equipment.

What to Buy in April

April is an excellent month to take advantage of sales on car parts, laptops, cookware and more!

Weekly Update: Best Cheap Desktops, DIY Car Repairs & More

Halloween will shortly be whisked away by the holiday season. ...