Reviews You Can Rely On

The 6 Best USB Flash Drives

We tested USB flash drives from SanDisk, Samsung, PNY, and others to determine the fastest and best models
Best USB Flash Drive
Credit: Max Mutter

Our Top Picks

By Max Mutter ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 16, 2022

To find the best USB flash drives, we bought 11 models and tested and compared their data transfer speeds. We tested every aspect of these devices, measuring their speed in transferring large files and folders containing lots of small files, their ability to play movies without lagging, their overall durability, and their portability. Whether you want to physically back up important files, need a way to carry your movie collection with you when you travel, or want a drive fast enough for media editing, we can help you find the perfect product.

Choosing electronics and the storage devices to go with them can be quite perplexing, considering all the options the market. Our comprehensive reviews can help you find essentials from the best wifi extenders and top-ranked microSD cards to the best memory cards, lightning cables and the external hard drives you need to get the job done.


Best for Most People

SanDisk Extreme Go 64GB

Max write/read speeds: 161/208 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 64, 128
Great data transfer speeds
USB connector retracts for protection
Not the cheapest option
On the larger side

The SanDisk Extreme Go 64GB displayed an excellent balance of cost and efficiency and proved to be one of the quickest drives during our testing. It completes numerous tasks rapidly, including moving a single large file or a big folder containing a large number of small files. For example, a 5 GB folder filled with thousands of modest files wrote to the drive in just 7 minutes, proving to double the other models' typical speed. Large media files moved even faster, taking only 31 seconds to write a 5GB HD movie. Topping off this stellar performance is the price tag — the Extreme Go 64GB sells for well under the price of many premium drives on the market. The plastic construction feels relatively sturdy, and a smooth sliding mechanism retracts the connector when it's not in use. It's not super tiny, but the body is still thin enough that it won't be in the way of any other ports while in use — we had no problem plugging in a large cable for headphones in the next port over beside the drive.

The price is on par with the performance, but if you aren't using it regularly, the cost might be more than you're willing to cough up. Also, the drive is a bit large — to the extent that it might bulk up the feel of your keychain. Even though its plastic fabrication seems stronger than others, we are not confident that it would stand up to the everyday abuse that a keychain is often subjected to. That said, if you need to transfer several gigabytes of data all at once, we think you would be pleased with the Extreme Go 64GB.

usb flash drive - best for most people
The SanDisk Extreme Go 64GB offers a great balance of speed, convenience, and price.
Credit: Max Mutter


Best Bang for the Buck

SanDisk Ultra CZ48 32GB

Max write/read speeds: 14/166 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 16, 32, 64, 128, 256
Sturdy build
Decent read speeds
Very slow write speeds

For the ultimate performance per dollar, check out the SanDisk Ultra CZ48 32GB. Even with its budget pricing, it logged an impressive 166 MB/s maximum read speed in our tests, outperforming almost everything else in this price range. The drive allows for a 5GB movie file to transfer to your computer in only 30 seconds. Surprisingly, despite the drive's low price, the plastic material's quality seems reliable and strong.

The write speeds are the obvious disadvantage to this drive, where the top performance only got up to 14MB/s during our tests. When pushing the drive even harder, speeds continued to decline. For instance, the drive took over 12 minutes when writing a 5GB folder full of modest files. However, if speed isn't a concern for you when saving things to the drive, it offers a great cost for a reliable way to save your files and access them fairly quickly when you need to.

usb flash drive - best bang for the buck
The SanDisk Ultra CZ48 32GB packs a lot into a small price tag.
Credit: Max Mutter


Best Keychain Model

Samsung Bar Plus 128GB

Max write/read speeds: 45/312 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 32, 64, 128, 256
Good overall speed
Impressive read speeds
Slim and durable design
Not quite as sleek as other keychain models

The Samsung Bar Plus 128GB perfectly fills the keychain niche for those moments when it just pays to have a USB flash drive on hand. The all-metal construction is super sturdy, and the relatively sleek design allows it to nestle onto even crowded keyrings. It is still long enough to insert it into a USB port without removing it from the keyring. It also provides good overall speed — in our tests, it wrote a 5GB folder with lots of small files in less than 4 minutes. Its read speeds are particularly impressive, meaning you can quickly access files stored on the drive. This makes the Samsung Bar Plus the perfect option for files that you don't want taking up space on your laptop's hard drive, but that you may need to access at a moment's notice.

Our biggest issue with the Samsung Bar Plus 128GB is the hump on the drive's back, where the keyring is attached. While these extra curves lend the drive even more of a space-age feel, they also make it bulkier and less sleek than some other keychain-oriented models. However, the Samsung Bar Plus's speed and performance so far outstrips that of its competitors that it still easily gets our top recommendation for those who prefer to attach a USB flash drive to their keychain permanently.

usb flash drive - best keychain model
The sleek Samsung Bar Plus 128GB is the perfect keychain accessory.
Credit: Max Mutter


Best High Performance Model

PNY Pro Elite 256GB

Max write/read speeds: 249/415 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 128, 256, 512, 10000
Extremely fast write and read speeds
High quality, all-metal build
Protective cover for USB connector

If you're constantly transferring large media files or data sets between computers, you'll love the PNY Pro Elite 256GB. This model is also great for editing photos and videos without moving them onto your computer. It's crazy fast — it wrote our 5GB speed torture test folder in just 2 minutes, a mere fraction of what it took most drives. It also gobbled up a 5GB movie file in only 20 seconds, and the read speeds are even faster. This blazing speed is backed up by a stylish and durable all-metal build. It is one of the few full-sized flash drives that we are confident could survive the wear and tear of living on a keychain.

The PNY Pro Elite 256GB is considerably more expensive than most flash drives on the market. However, the extra speed it affords will be well worth the investment if you're one that continually moves large files around.

usb flash drive - best high performance model
The PNY Pro Elite is the best choice for more demanding users.
Credit: Max Mutter


Best USB Type-A and Type-C Combo

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive 128GB

Max write/read speeds: 47/156 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 16, 32, 64,128, 256
USB Type-A and Type-C compatibility
Good transfer speeds
Both connectors retract into protective sheath
Convenient app for use with phones
Write speeds for lots of small files can be slow
No easy keychain/lanyard attachment

Now that many popular laptops and newer Android phones are moving to USB-C, it can be super convenient to have a flash drive compatible with this new port as well as the common USB-A. The only USB flash drive we have found that hits the mark in this regard is the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive 128GB. Both connectors can be retracted at the same time, allowing it to maintain a slim profile. If you use the drive with a phone, SanDisk provides a convenient app that will enable you to do manual backups by specific file type. Additionally, the Ultra Dual Drive is much faster than other Type-A/Type-C drives that we've tested.

While this drive provides at least average speed for most file transfers, it can sometimes get bogged down when writing many small files. It took 26 minutes to write our 5GB small file testing folder. We also found the lanyard attachment annoying. It sits in the center of the drive body, is too small for a keyring, and requires a master seamstress's skills to thread. Despite these small drawbacks, for those that want both USB Type-A and Type-C connectivity, the SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive is the best option available.

usb flash drive - best usb type-a and type-c combo
The SanDisk Ultra Dual seamlessly switches from USB-A to USB-C.
Credit: Max Mutter


Best for iPhones

SanDisk iXpand 128GB

Max write/read speeds: 35/96 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 32, 64,128, 256
USB Type-A and Lightning (iPhone) connectivity
Above-average USB speeds
Convenient app for use with iPhones
Slower speeds when used with iPhone
Rubber loop feels it could wear out over time

The SanDisk iXpand 128GB is the best iPhone-compatible drive we've found. It offers a quick and easy way to back up files on your phone, wherever you happen to be. The SanDisk app allows you to easily select which files you want to download from or upload to your phone, and it can perform quick photo backups. Most USB/lightning drives that we've tested provide near glacial speeds, but the iXpand 128GB provides impressive speeds when using its USB connection. In our tests, it wrote a 5GB folder full of small files — the most difficult of our speed tests-- in just over 6 minutes, putting it in the top tier.

The biggest disappointment with the iXpand is that speeds are about halved when switching from the USB to the lightning connector, meaning it can take 15 minutes or more to back up 5GBs worth of photos. Also, the flexible rubber/plastic connection between the two connectors must be flexed to plug the drive into an iPhone, and we don't like the long-term durability of that connection. However, for anyone that wants a drive for transferring files to and from their iPhone, we think the SanDisk iXpand 128GB offers the best combination of performance, convenience, and price.

usb flash drive - best for iphones
For Apple users looking for a drive that can work with their mobile devices, the SanDisk iXpand 128GB is a great choice.
Credit: Max Mutter


Best Thumbnail-Style Model

Samsung Fit Plus 128GB

Max write/read speeds: 70/356 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 32, 64, 128, 256
Great overall speed
Blazing read speeds
Tiny form factor
Hard to use on a keychain

If you plan to use a super slim and portable thumbnail-style drive, the Samsung Fit Plus 128GB is sure to please. Despite its small stature, it was one of the fastest drives we tested, writing our 5GB testing folder in less than 4 minutes. Perhaps more importantly, its read speeds are phenomenal — it read that same folder in a mere 41 seconds. This makes it the perfect tiny drive to use as a secondary storage option for your laptop, allowing you to access all of its files with nary a lag. Plus, it provides all this impressive performance at a relatively average price.

The one thing we wish was slightly different about the Samsung Fit Plus 128GB is the keychain attachment point. It is slim enough that most keyrings get clamped down, forcing the drive to sit at a 90˚ angle. This negates this drive's small footprint and makes it very difficult to use without removing it from the keyring. A lanyard would help fix this problem, but we found even thin lanyards difficult to thread. We wish it were easier to attach this drive to something since its small size makes it easy to lose. Still, the Samsung Fit Plus 128GB is the best option we've found for fans of extreme portability of super tiny thumbnail drives.

usb flash drive - the super-fast samsung fit plus 128gb is great for expanding your...
The super-fast Samsung Fit Plus 128GB is great for expanding your laptop's storage.
Credit: Max Mutter


Good Value for Large Capacity

SanDisk Cruzer CZ36 128GB

Max write/read speeds: 20/34 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 16, 32, 64, 128, 256
USB connector retracts for protection
Relatively slow

A good option for anyone looking for a lot of digital storage on the cheap is the classic SanDisk Cruzer CZ36 128GB. In many instances, this drive costs half as much as other models of the same capacity. Perhaps most importantly, it provided consistent and reliable performance in our testing. We have run into many budget drives that fail in the middle of long file transfers, but the Cruzer CZ36 completed every task we asked of it — even if it took a little longer than some other models. The USB connector retracts and clicks solidly into place when extended, making it easy to slide into ports.

The Cruzer CZ36's biggest downside is its speed. Of the drives that receive our stamp of approval, it is one of the slowest. When we wrote a 5GB folder of many small files to this drive — the biggest speed challenge for any drive — it took 15 minutes to complete. While certainly not blazing, this speed is still tolerable for occasional file backups. For those who want to increase their important files' redundancy without spending a bundle, this is an excellent choice.

usb flash drive - it's hard to beat the sandisk cruzer cz36 when it comes to...
It's hard to beat the SanDisk Cruzer CZ36 when it comes to gigabytes-per-dollar.
Credit: Max Mutter


Another Low Budget Option

PNY Turbo 64GB

Max write/read speeds: 25/106 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 32, 64, 128, 256
Very inexpensive
Protective cover for USB connector
Relatively slow
Construction feels less durable

The PNY Turbo 64GB provided very reliable, if somewhat slow, file transfers throughout our testing. It also has a protective cover that slides over the USB connector, a feature that many of the other budget options on the market lack. We found the slim profile to be fairly unobtrusive when hung from a keychain.

The diminished speed is the apparent downside of the PNY Turbo 64GB. It took this drive a whopping 51 minutes to write our 5GB test folder filled with small files. It was much faster in writing a single 5GB video file, taking just over 3 minutes, but that was still toward the back of the pack. Suffice it to say, this drive isn't for people who regularly transfer large amounts of data via flash drives. However, the PNY Turbo 64GB is a good choice at a reasonable price if you just want a model that you know will work for the odd times that you need it.

usb flash drive - we found the pny turbo 64gb to be the best of the lower cost drives...
We found the PNY Turbo 64GB to be the best of the lower cost drives on the market.
Credit: Max Mutter


A Good Thumbnail-Style Option

SanDisk Ultra Fit CZ43 256GB

Max write/read speeds: 47/135 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 16, 32, 64,128, 256
Good overall speed
Super small form factor
Can be hard to remove from ports
Lanyard attachment too small for a keyring

The SanDisk Ultra Fit CZ43 256GB is a classic thumbnail-style drive that offers good write/read speeds in a tiny package. Though not the fastest thumbnail-style model we have tested, we found its speeds acceptable enough for working with both large media files and folders filled with word documents and spreadsheets. Perhaps most importantly, its read speeds are quite good, so you shouldn't notice lagging if you leave it plugged into your laptop all day as secondary storage for important files.

Our least favorite aspect of using the Ultra Fit CZ43 256GB is removing it from USB ports. It fits quite snugly, and the small and somewhat slick plastic body provides little purchase. The lanyard attachment slot is also too small to accommodate most keyrings. Still, for those seeking a super small thumbnail-style flash drive, the SanDisk Ultra Fit CZ43 delivers an excellent overall experience.

usb flash drive - the sandisk ultra fit cz43 256gb provides solid all-around...
The SanDisk Ultra Fit CZ43 256GB provides solid all-around performance in a very small package.
Credit: Max Mutter


Rugged Construction for Less

Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 64GB

Max write/read speeds: 47/135 MB/s | Available sizes (GB): 16, 32, 64,128, 256
Durable, metal construction
Fast large file write/read speeds
Slow small file write/read speeds
Plastic cap is flimsy and easy to lose

If you're looking for a classic flash drive with a more durable metal body, the Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 64GB may be for you. Sporting a familiar design with upgraded materials makes it feel better suited to stand the test of time than the more common plastic fare. It also displayed great large-file speeds in our tests — it wrote our 5GB test movie file in just 47 seconds — making it an excellent device for backing up or transferring large media files.

Like many drives we tested, the Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 64GB got bogged down when transferring large folders filled with lots of smaller files. Our 5GB small file tester folders took over 26 minutes to be written to this flash drive, much slower than what we would consider the average mark. We also don't like the plastic cap that protects the USB connector, which feels flimsy compared to the rest of the drive and is easy to lose. Still, the Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 is a fairly rugged and dependable drive, especially when working with larger files.

usb flash drive - the kingston datatraveler elite g2 64gb's metal body is more durable...
The Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 64GB's metal body is more durable than most, put the plastic cap is easy to lose.
Credit: Max Mutter

Why You Should Trust Us

Lead author and tester Max Mutter is no stranger to USB flash drive data transfers. In his years as a nomadic ecologist, he carried giant data sets stored on multiple flash drives between different remote research stations. At these stations, he often constructed intricate spatial statistical models using that data on outdated computers — a tenuous situation where a slow flash drive can grind everything to a halt. Spending weeks or months in remote locales like these far from the reaches of the internet turns a flash drive full of your favorite movies into an essential commodity. In the last few years as a Senior Editor for GearLab, Max has transferred and edited terabytes of testing footage from camera drones, security cameras, and dash cams using a multitude of flash drives.

To start this review, we researched over 100 USB flash drives before purchasing the most promising models on the market. We then ran a plethora of real-world speed tests using large media files, folders full of songs and photos, and folders stuffed with word documents and spreadsheets. We also spent time assessing each drive's construction, determining how well they would stand up to wear and tear, and evaluating the quality of any sliding mechanisms or swivels. In the end, we whittled the list down to only the top drives we would recommend for a variety of specific use cases.

usb flash drive
Credit: Max Mutter

Analysis and Test Results

Most of our USB flash drive tests focused on write and read (upload and download) speeds. Our three tests utilized different file types and sizes to assess speed. We also ranked the overall user-friendliness of each drive, meticulously evaluating their construction, how well they fit on a keychain, and how easily they slide into and out of USB ports.


We conducted three separate speed tests: a large file transfer test, a small file transfer test, and a video streaming test.

usb flash drive - the py pro elite (below) is one of the fastest drives on the...
The PY Pro Elite (below) is one of the fastest drives on the market. The SanDisk Extreme Go (above) also provided fast file transfers in our tests.
Credit: Max Mutter

Large File Speed

A common use for flash drives is backing up or transferring movie or music collections. We tested each drive's speed in transferring these larger files by writing (saving to the drive) and reading (transferring from the drive) a 5 gigabyte (GB) HD movie file, timing the process. From there, we were able to calculate the exact upload and download speed in megabytes per second (MB/s). Large individual files are generally the easiest for drives to transfer, so these speeds represent the best you can expect from each drive.

Posting field-leading write and read speeds of 249 MB/s and 415 MB/s, respectively, the PNY Pro Elite 256GB was the clear winner in our large file speed tests. The SanDisk Extreme GO 64GB was the only model that could get close to the PNY Pro Elite's write speeds, hitting a pace of 161 MB/s. However, its write speeds were about half as fast at 208 MB/s.

usb flash drive

Though the Samsung Fit Plus 128GB displayed average write speeds in our large file test at 70 MB/s, it showed impressive reading performance, benchmarking an average rate of 356 MB/s. The Samsung Bar Plus 128GB offered similarly fast read speeds, making both models great portable options for storing movie collections.

Small File Speeds

Reading and writing lots of small files is a much different task than doing so with large files, so we tested this ability separately. We constructed a 5GB folder jam-packed with a mix of photos, some songs, and lots of spreadsheets and word documents, and timed transferring that folder to and from each flash drive. Transferring thousands of small files at once can bog down even the best of flash drives, so the results of this torture test are likely the worst speeds you can expect from each drive.

usb flash drive

Also dominating our small file transfer tests, the PNY Pro Elite 256GB wrote at an average of 37 MB/s and reading at 133 MB/s. Both Samsung models stood out in this test as well, achieving write speeds in the mid-20s and read speeds in excess of 100 MB/s.

The SanDisk Extreme Go 64GB hit well above average speeds in this test, achieving 12 MB/s write speeds and 77 MB/s read speeds.

Movie Watching

If we could plug a drive into a computer and watch a full 1080p HD movie stored on the drive without any lagging or dropped frames, the drive passed. This is a vital ability for those that like to keep their movie collection stored on a flash drive but don't want to have to download those movies to their computer every time an opportunity for movie night arises.

Luckily all of the models we tested passed, allowing us to watch and even fast forward an HD movie with no lagging. The PNY Turbo technically passed this test, but it takes 10-15 seconds before it will display a movie file. Once that initial lag elapses, however, it is flawless.

Ease of Use

We spent days using each one of our flash drives, carrying them on our keychains, plugging and unplugging them into multiple devices and USB ports, and extending and retracting their USB connectors.

The Samsung Fit Plus 128GB offers the best balance of portability and durability of all the models we tested, thanks to a super slim profile and sturdy construction. However, it lacks an easy keychain attachment. The Samsung Bar Plus 128GB is slightly bulkier, but it is just as durable and is designed to be carried on a keychain.

usb flash drive - though not the smallest of the keychain models, the phenomenal...
Though not the smallest of the keychain models, the phenomenal speeds of the Samsung Bar Plus makes it our favorite.
Credit: Max Mutter

The SanDisk Ultra Fit CZ43 256GB is a bit difficult to detach from a USB port, but it is super small. It isn't a dealbreaker for us, but it could be annoying if you need to switch out your USB flash drives between devices regularly.

The SanDisk Extreme GO 64GB has one of the smoothest and sturdiest sliding mechanisms for extending and retracting its USB connector. It's plastic, but it still maintains one of the most solid constructions of any device of its type.

usb flash drive - despite being so much smaller than the average drive, the samsung...
Despite being so much smaller than the average drive, the Samsung Fit Plus is impressively fast.
Credit: Max Mutter

The SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive 128GB is the most convenient option for those that want both USB Type-A and Type-C functionality. A smooth sliding mechanism allows you to access either connector easily, and both can be retracted inside the protective metal and plastic body. Our only complaint is that the lanyard attachment hole is extremely small to the point of being useless (we were never able to thread it successfully).

usb flash drive - the sandisk ixpand nestles on the back of your iphone while in use...
The SanDisk iXpand nestles on the back of your iPhone while in use, allowing you to still use your phone without impediment.
Credit: Max Mutter

The SanDisk iXpand 128GB is the slimmest and most simple iPhone-compatible model. Though neither the USB nor Lightning connectors are protected, we like that the drive nestles behind your phone while in use. This makes it much easier to use the phone with the drive attached over models that stick out of the bottom, which just creates an awkward extra appendage.


Though USB drives may seem to be a dime a dozen, some models offer far superior speeds and features than their competitors. We hope our objective testing results have helped you find a flash drive that will serve you well and become an everyday accessory. In addition, we have tested the best USB hubs that accept a wide array of USB drives, USB-C cables, microSD cards, and more.

Max Mutter

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