64 GB of USB storage is at the low end by today's USB storage standards but is still very useful and, most of all, can be cheap or fast. This look at the better options is based on what is actually available in Australia and uses Australian prices throughout. Online prices include delivery.
There are many uses for USB sticks that are around 64 GB in capacity. Timeshift style backups. Operating system installs and live boots. Repair utilities. All the little files people backup online into the "cloud" but cannot use in an emergency because a device with a problem does not connect to the Internet.
The smaller USB sticks are cheaper but way slower. They are older technology and have pathetic write speeds, really wasting your time. They are only good for use as giveaways. The larger USB sticks, starting at 32 GB, have newer, better, faster, more reliable chips. The absolute fastest ones start at 128 GB but still have premium prices.
Your use will expand. Given a flash memory lifetime of more than ten years, an 8 GB stick will need to expand to 16 then 32 then... There are good deals on 64 GB sticks. You can easily start at 64 GB.
64 GB is currently the bargain point for the best medium speed devices at good prices, the best investment for your future when you want to copy from a few gigabytes up to 20 or 30 GB.
USB standards are important. USB 2 was first and is too slow, only good for mice and keyboards. USB 3 is fast enough when it works but the USB 3 standard is sloppy. USB 3.1 includes some good new features and, most important, the sloppy USB 3 standard is upgraded to a more precise USB 3.1 standard. USB 3.1 gen 1 with a speed of 5 Gigabits per second, about 550 Megabytes per second, is the minimum.
USB 3.1 gen 2 at 10 Gbps is better for frequent use but is not as common and rarely on sale. I would buy 10 Gbps devices, or faster, for professional use. You need to look at NVMe options to make full use of Gen 2 speed.
Read speeds are consistently good on USB devices because reading flash memory is easy. Write speeds are bad because writing is difficult. You pay top dollar for consistent fast write speeds. Your need for fast writes is the deciding factor.
All USB storage devices have a cache to make the first megabyte of writing really fast. That is the advertised write speed. What you need is a fast write speed for the full length of your write. 2 GB? 10 GB? Toward the end of the write, the flash memory is heating up and may start thermal slowdown. Writes drop from perhaps 100 MBps down to 1 MBps.
Some real examples. Middle price device: 154 MBps for 6 GB then a drop to 10 MBps. Premium price: 287 MBps across 100 GB. (256 GB device.)
When you buy a device, there will be a range of sizes, perhaps 32 GB up to 256 GB. The smallest one may have one flash memory chip and a speed limited by the memory chip. The next size up may have two flash memory chips for twice the write speed. The larger models might have more memory chips but a speed limit imposed by the controller chip. Generally, the smallest size in a range is slower than the others.
Do you use USB type A or USB type C connections. New notebooks have both. Handheld devices have only Type C sockets. You can get USB sticks with both connections, versatility you need when working across many devices. In the future, you will use only Type C connections with an adaptor for the odd rare use of Type A.
USB devices are easy to bump. The device might break or it might break your cpmputer/phone socket, making the expensive device useless. I recommend carrying a small lead to connect your USB storage device when the workspace is crowded or there are any other people around.
For anything over 64 GB, I tend to use an NVMe SSD in a USB 10 Gbps case with a Type C socket and short leads, a Type C to Type C plus a Type C to Type A. The cost of NVMe is dropping rapidly but fast enclosures are still expensive.
You want to put some photographs on USB sticks and hand them out to relatives. You can leave the slow writes running while you eat lunch. They will only read the sticks, not write on them. Buy the lowest cost device from a good brand. Lots of shops have three packs or five packs of reasonable brands.
Online you can get ten packs of unknown brands but you have to wait weeks then. possibly, throw them out. You might test that option when handing out hundreds.
You write a program onto a USB stick for occasional use in diagnostics. Write speed is not important but reliability is. Buy one of the top brands for reliability and spend a little bit more to get a newer model as that will ensure the most reliability. The reliability is worth the extra cost. Buy from wherever you normally shop. The difference in price is usually not worth shopping around.
Every day you backup a bunch of critical files to a USB stick. Save yourself a long wait. Buy the faster models from good brands. You may save only minutes but it is every day. Those premium models are at prices where it is worth shopping around to find your choice where on sale at up to 30% off.
Our local shops used to have excellent deals in their clearance bins. When 32 GB replaced 16 GB as the largest USB stick, there were big clearances of 8 GB and 4 GB sticks. Now the chip shortage has reduced supply to the point where there are few bargains. The chip shortage, caused originally by a water shortage in Taiwan, is now Covid restricted and will be stretched further by China supporting the Russian invasion of eastern Europe.
Several good shops switched from featuring modern technology to just pushing Apple products. You can now choose only Apple products in multiple colours and a few expensive gaming laptops. Most of the other in stock items are obsolete.
Online stores are often the only place to get current technology. The advertised price can be misleading as it is before delivery. There is one popular Web site that is $5 cheaper than all the other Web sites but their delivery charge is $15 and sometimes $25, not $8. You end up paying more.
Amazon Australia is a benchmark for online but they have a bewildering array of products. Their lowest price might be for the previous generation of a device. You find the current generation on another page and that price might be just the same as everyone else.
Sites with low prices tend to have free delivery for orders of $100 or more. Amazon has free delivery set at $40, which means they have to put a higher loading on the purchase price. $40 is close to the price of a good 64 GB USB stick but not the best. Your purchase of a better model will hit the free delivery point. The competition might be cheaper and have $8 delivery. The delivery cost tends to disappear as a consideration when you bundle a few items or look for USB storage from 256 GB up. In one example, Amazon was $77 with free delivery while a competitor was less than $70 even with the delivery fee added in.
There is a local office supply chain with the occasional sale at excellent prices but the catch, they are clearing out something that is only left in some shops. Before the Covid supply chain problems, their technology shelves always had at least one interesting USB storage bargain in every shop. Now it is rare in the shop closest to me.
16 GB is now the smallest size in local shops and it is ancient USB 2 trash, too slow for regular use.
32 GB is almost the same price and includes USB 3.1 options. Good for occasional writes. There are tiny models for storing music then inserting permanently in one of the USB sockets in your car. There are Type A/Type C options. Lots of choice with some having good read speeds but none with a decent write speed when you need to write more than a few GB.
64 GB is a better choice online. Our local shops have the same range as the stock for 32 GB, nothing with a serious write speed. Online shops have a wider choice of speeds in this size and the best place to shop today. My favourite model in my favourite brand no longer have a 64 GB model, you have to start at 128 GB. My future purchases may start at 128 GB for my own use.
There are 64 GB mSATA SSDs left over from upgrades and USB mSATA enclosures are reasonably priced. If you or a friend have a good brand of mSATA SSD spare, buy an enclosure for it instead of a USB stick.
128 GB in our local shops does include devices with excellent write speeds and reasonable prices for professional use. The retail 128 GB USB price is close to the entry point for NVMe based USB storage and worth a look if you have some technical experience.
I had some 128 GB mSATA SSDs left over from upgrades and put them in USB mSATA enclosures for a low price back when USB was stuck at USB 3.0. Some enclosures worked. I threw one enclosure in the bin. The mSATA SSDs are not fast enough to justify a new USB 3.1 Gen 2 enclosure.
NVMe gen 3 SSDs are reasonably priced at 128 GB but enclosures with a matching speed are still expensive, pushing the combination over $100. 256 GB NVMe SSDs are not much more expensive and a better match when you buy the faster enclosures. Looking at the NVMe notebook market, there will be used 500 GB NVMe SSDs spare from people upgrading to 1 TB or more.
Online cloud storage works only when you can go online. Cheap USB sticks are both slow and unreliable because that stupid plastic case keeps the heat in. The medium priced USB sticks include better chips for less heat plus better cases for good heat dissipation plus Type A/Type C combinations. Any good brand at that medium to high price is reliable and faster.
Plugging in direct or through a cable is your choice. I see notebooks and other devices killed by long USB devices bending the motherboard in the device. I recommend a short cable as protection.
An NVMe enclosure is about twice as long and twice as wide as the best USB sticks. There are noThe better brands start at 256 GB. NVMe choices at 64 GB and lots at 128 GB. My purchases after 2022, when the supply chain is working again, will start at 256 GB NVMe drives in at least USB 3.2 Gen 2 or higher enclosures.
mSATA SSDs recycled in USB enclosures are excellent choices today and match USB 3.1 gen 1 speeds, a cheap entry point into USB SSD enclosures. mSATA is an excellent choice when the SSD is a spare or recycled from a machine that was not abused. NVMe leftovers from upgrades are starting to appear but the NVMe speed enclosures jump the price up to far to compete for anything less than professional use, where you would just buy something new.
The file system can be a variation of FAT or NTFS or Ext4. Ext4 is the best choice when working only with Linux. NTFS is the best choice across Linux and Windows up to version 7 but can be a problem with all the tricky settings in recent versions of Windows. FAT is often the only choice for other operating systems and devices outside of notebook computers. I use Ext4 for important work and FAT when the USB stick will be passed to someone else.
SD and microSD cards in USB adaptors are another choice. For SD type cards, look for the A1 or A2 speed rating. Everything else is inferior for file transfers and use with applications. The V30 speed rating is good for writing long video files but not lots of small files. My smartphone has 512 GB microSD card that is faster than the phone for file transfers. When I need to make a bulk copy, for backup, I take the card out of the phone and place it in a USB adaptor.
microSD cards are used for the operating system in Raspberry Pi computers. Continuous use over a year will kill the cheap to medium price cards. The best cards last for years of daily use. microSD cards are an option for storing a mass of reference material you write once then read regularly as it is only the writes killing the cards.
I do not recommend microSD cards for frequent insert/eject use because they are easy to lose and easy to break. SD cards are better for mechanical strength. My previous notebook had an SD card slot and the cards almost disappeared inside the case, giving me lots of removable storage without the danger of a USB stick breaking the motherboard. The only limitation was speed when compared to the fastest USB sticks and things like mSATA in a USB enclosure.
How much is your time worth? I value my time way above USB 2 speeds and dumped all my USB 2 memory sticks. The difference between USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) is worth my while for frequently used devices. I use regular speed devices for backups as I usually walk away while the backup runs.
For any frequent 64 GB copy, my time is worth the extra money to buy the latest generation USB enclosure for a matching NVMe. I will look at a round of upgrades in 2023 when the supply of good enclosures matches demand.
The Sandisk Extreme Pro range starts at 128 GB. Our local shops have that off the shelf for $89 today, something you might buy when buying stationery. A local warehouse has it for $61 + $6 delivery, a good choice when you can wait a few days. Amazon AU has the device list as $77 with $0 delivery if you can wait over a week. This is another example of time versus money.
A professional on the go might not want to wait for the product or stay at home waiting for a delivery. A professional can claim the device as a tax deduction, reducing the difference in price. If you are out on the road each week, you can buy when passing the shop. A good alternative is ePost where they divert the delivery to your local post office when you are not home.
The local warehouse versus Amazon decision is a little different. You have to invest time in shopping around. Some of the Web sites are difficult. I have experience with the main local suppliers which reduces my search time to minutes. I also know their delivery charges. While twenty or more Web sites appear in a Web site search, I know the top three for each type of purchase and which ones to avoid because they have unreliable or difficult delivery systems. If you do not shop regularly online, it can be easier to walk into a shop.
Do you get paid $100 per hour for overtime? Wasting an hour online to save $2 is stupid. Use the fastest option and work an extra hour.
If you cannot earn extra money from working extra time, think about money you can save other ways. Saving an hour per week by skipping extensive online searches might let you mow your own lawn instead of paying someone $55.
That penny saving online search makes more sense when the challenge of saving a dollar replaces brain destroying television time. Cut back on the fakeness of "reality" TV. Entertain yourself with the real reality of shopping.
Devices you might look at
I have numerous benchmarks of Sandisk devices plus some Samsung, Toshiba, and other brands. In USB sticks, Sandisk has a bigger range and some of that range is always on sale at a good price. Most of these examples are Sandisk. The Samsung equivalent USB sticks are usually more expensive in Australia while the Samsung NVMe SSDs are often the best price. Toshiba is the most reliable of the slower brands.
SanDisk Extreme Pro
The SanDisk Extreme Pro SDCZ880 is the fastest straight USB stick but starts at 128 GB. I have a 256 GB model that maintains a continuous write speed of 210 MBps for small files and up to 290 MBps for writing large (GB) video files. The speed matches recycled mSATA SSDs. I recommend this for professional use or heavy daily use.
If you work near other people, use a small extension lead to stop people breaking you USB stick or computer. The stick has a Type A plug. You can get one cable for Type A to Type A and another for Type A to Type C. Note that NVMe enclosures often have both cables. When you add in the cost of cables, you reduce the price difference for an NVMe SSD in a NVMe enclosure.
Sandisk Extreme Go USB 3.1 64 GB
A Sandisk Extreme Go USB 3.1 64 GB flash drive produced a peak write speed of 168 MBps in a small test. A full size test of 60 GB wrote 150 MBps for 6 GB then dropped below 80 MBps. The device is the same size as the Extreme Pro, has all the same usage considerations but slower write speed and lower price. I use one for a frequent small backup that is around 2 ~ 3 GB. The frequent small backups are nearly as fast as on an Extreme Pro.
SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB-C
The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive USB-C has a Type C plug at one end and a Type A at the other. When the slider is in the middle, both plugs are inside the case. This makes the combination really convenient for computer to smartphone transfers when your computer does not have Type C socket. No cables to carry. No adaptors needed. The plugs are not exposed during transport.
Low cost but only moderate write speeds. The case keeps too much heat inside. A test produced write speeds of over 60 MBps for a few GB then dropped down to 50 MBps for a while. A large test produced only 20 MBps after the first burst of speed.
I have one computer left without a Type C socket. When that computer is replaced and all my friends have upgraded, I will dump the dual style USB stick.
SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.1 and SAMSUNG FIT Plus USB 3.1
You want something physically small that can sit in a USB port without being bumped. The SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.1 and the SAMSUNG FIT Plus USB 3.1 both fit that requirement. They both have fast reads and slow writes. I do not have an exact speed comparison of the two choices. The Sandisk device has writes comparable to the Dual mentioned above.
I used the Sandisk version to store music in my car. The weak plastic case failed in the heat. The Samsung is more than twice the price and looks like it is stronger. Before finding the Samsung FIT, I found a similar device with an all metal case from an unknown brand. The writes were pathetic, too slow for regular writes, but the read speed is fast enough to play music and a long hot summer in the car parked outside has not broken the device.
Build your own
Build your own device using an NVMe enclosure and an NVMe SSD. I found Orica USB 3.1 Gen 2 enclosures are currently the best value. I would choose a Samsung EVO NVMe SSD for the storage. USB 10 Gbps is a good match for NVMe Gen 3 storage.
NVMe Gen 4 is faster but expensive, there are no affordable enclosures at a matching speed, and few USB ports are fast enough. My new notebook has a Type C port at USB 4 which can run NVMe gen 4 full speed if I could find an affordable USB 4 enclosure. I will start buying that type of storage when the Gen 4 speed enclosures drop from more than $200 to less than $50.
Not recommended for anything. I had a Corsair Survivor device a few years ago. While the case was impressive, the chip inside failed. I also had another model of rugged Corsair with a bouncy rubber coating but the rubber held in the heat during writes, making the device fail fast. Pick a different brand and put the device in a plastic bag or one of those cheap ring seal containers.
Kingston do not make their own anything. They buy controllers and memory chips from other companies. The result is really varied. Write speeds are often second rate. When a device has a good review, that could be just the first batch with all other batches containing different controllers and different memory. I used one Kingston 2.5 inch SATA SSD for a system disk then replaced it with a second hand Toshiba SSD that was twice as fast for writes. Toshiba, Sandisk (now owned by Western Digital), and Samsung make their own controller chips and are far more consistent for a given model.
My experience of Patriot products suggests you should only every buy them from Amazon as Amazon have a really good returns policy. Amazon might be so used to Patriot devices failing that they never question a Patriot return.
No experience with PNY devices. They appear to be cheap in America but are almost always expensive in Australia.
Samsung T series
The Samsung T series offer interesting choices for professional users but they struggle on speed and price against assembling your own NVMe SSD with a USB enclosure.
Whoa, take everything I said about Kingston then double all the bad points. Slow. Inconsistent. Expensive when compared on write speed.
I tested a heap of other brands. Much the same as my comments for Kingston. They design the case and put something inside. Every batch may be completely different. You cannot buy one as a sample, test it, then expect the next delivery to be the same.
Do you remember writable CDs or DVDs?
A small number of Japanese companies developed optical disk storage. Some released writable disks. You could buy a pack of 100 and write them all without a failure. Send them out. 100 satisfied customers.
Many other brands appeared. You could buy packs of 10 and would have to throw throw out 1 or 3 from every pack due to failures of the disks. You then send the 7 successful writes to your customers and 2 or 5 would not be able to read the disks due to incompatibility. Sure, the other brands were cheaper to buy but that saving was wasted just in the length difficult write process.
The same happens with USB. Some work only in cold climates. Some work only in Windows. They may include encryption software but that is always a dangerous option because you cannot decrypt without exactly the same software.
The good brands are worth the cost for speed, reliability, and predictability. Avoid the smallest capacity in a range. Plan for a few years of use. Value your time.