What are the best USB flash drives in 2023?

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Do you want to easily store and transport data of all kinds? Nothing more practical than a good old USB key. We have chosen for you the best of the moment.

At a time when fiber is almost everywhere and 5G connections allow you to download several gigs in a few seconds, you might think that the good old USB sticks might be retired, but they are not.

In fact, the latter offer increasing capacities, but also and above all ease of use and remarkable reliability. And as a bonus, its price has never been lower! They are still just as present, both in stores and in e-commerce.

However, choosing the right one is not always easy: in fact, there are hundreds of different references and it can be tempting to choose the cheapest one. However, this is not the angle we chose with this pick. When it comes to your data, it’s better not to make small savings!

so here it is a careful selection of the best USB keys according to different needs.

Still on the subject of storage, we invite you to read our guides on the other options available to you:

Are you sure you have a suitable laptop? If you want to change it, our selection of the best laptops is also at your disposal.

The best USB flash drives to buy:

SanDisk Ultra Flair: The Basic USB Key

Look no further, the basic USB key, not expensive, no specific function, but just as specialized brand, that’s it.

It is very small and can be attached to a key ring, for example, thanks to its plastic appendage. If SanDisk promises write speeds of up to 150MB/s, expect 100MB/s in reality.

The SanDisk Ultra Style and brief

  • usb3.0
  • tiny and aluminum

Kingston DataTraveler Max: The USB-C USB Flash Drive of the Future

Feeling ready to finally go all USB-C? Kingston has you covered with the DataTraveler Max. Main difference with 99% of USB keys on the market: it uses a Type-C connector. No need for an adapter to connect to a recent computer, smartphone, or iPad.

Kingston also had the good sense to use USB 3.2, so we got speeds around 1 GB/s under ideal conditions, making it one of the fastest models on the market. Among the few criticisms that we can make of it, we will remember above all what makes it strong: its USB-C connector will not necessarily be available on certain machines and that it is also more fragile than traditional USB.

If you’re ready to step into the future of the USB key now, there’s nothing better right now, especially at this price.

The Kingston DataTraveler Max in brief

  • incredibly fast
  • Works with PCs and smartphones
  • Attractive price given the performance.

Samsung Bar Plus: a simple and effective USB key

A true flash memory giant, Samsung also offers a full range of USB keys. Among these, we particularly appreciate the Bar Plus. Samsung does offer a simple, effective model with an original design. Made of metal, the key is shock and water resistant.

Its speed leaves us a little divided: for one thing, it’s especially fast to read (225MB/s), but it only writes at 60MB/s, although it will be more than enough for occasional use, particularly given its aggressive price point. In fact, it uses USB 3.1 to guarantee this speed.

The Samsung Bar Plus in a nutshell

  • good speeds
  • Water and shock resistant
  • Good value for money

Sandisk Ultra Dual Drive Go: A Dual Pivot USB Flash Drive

Don’t want to walk around with an adapter? Why not choose a dual connector dongle like the one offered by Sandisk? The concept couldn’t be simpler: we have a classic USB connector on one side and a USB type C on the other. Therefore, it is ideal for not having to take the lead, whether it is connected to a PC or a smartphone.

If the key is practical, however it is not the strongest on the market, unfortunately one of the connectors is still exposed. Speeds aren’t fantastic, around 150MB/s read and 40MB/s write for a USB 3.1 connection. It’s not the fastest drive on the market, but this Sandisk Ultra Dual Drive Go has its versatility and attractive price.

The Sandisk Ultra Drive Go in brief

  • A versatile key with its double connector
  • Works with PCs and smartphones
  • attractive price

Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth: The Solid Edge

Most USB keys are relatively fragile and we recommend that you take care of them. Quite the opposite of what this Corsair Survivor Stealth offers. The design is not new, the brand has offered it for more than ten years, but it is still as effective as ever. In fact, the electronics of the key are protected by an aluminum tube.

Once screwed in, the latter protects not only from shocks, but also from vibrations and will even withstand submersion to a depth of 200m (if you ever throw your USB key into the sea). However, do not drive with a car on you, as aluminum is a relatively soft metal. The speeds are correct, around 180 MB/s in reading and 90 MB/s in writing. Although quite expensive, this Corsair Survivor Flash will appeal to those who don’t want to accidentally lose their data or just aren’t very careful.

Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth Overview

  • A very strong key
  • Raincoat
  • good speeds

Sandisk Ultra Fit: the compact USB key

The Sandisk Ultra Fit arrives with a simple promise: It’s barely bigger than its USB-A connector. This makes it a great option for situations where you’ll be connected to a device for a long time. So we can think of it as a car radio, a laptop, or even as a boot key for an operating system. This small size is also a weakness in the sense that the connector is completely unprotected and also very easy to lose. Avoid leaving it lying in the bottom of a backpack. Without being embarrassing, its performance is pretty average (around 130MB/s read), but given the price, it’s hard to be picky.

The Sandisk Ultra Fit in a nutshell

  • very small
  • Cheap
  • correct flow rates

Sandisk iXpand Flash Drive Luxe: an Apple-oriented USB key

Although iCloud makes it easy to back up your data, it is not possible to use a Micro SD card on an iPhone or iPad. Therefore, it is logically possible to find yourself a bit cramped.

To fix this problem, you can transfer your files to a PC or an external drive. It is this last form that Sandisk offers here with this key that offers a double USB-C and Lightning connector. Usage is extremely simple, but speeds are particularly low on Lightning, on the order of 15MB/s, so you shouldn’t be in a hurry if you want to recover Pro Raw files from your iPhone.

Despite these limits imposed by Apple, this USB key is one of the only ways to easily and cheaply increase your storage on iOS. Note that if you have a recent iPad, it’s most likely USB-C, in which case the Ultra Dual Drive Go from the same manufacturer mentioned above will be more suitable.

The Sandisk iXpand Deluxe in a nutshell

  • Works with iPhone/iPad
  • USB-C connectivity
  • Affordable storage for your Apple product

How to choose a USB flash drive?

Should I use a USB flash drive to back up my data?

In any case, so as not to save your most important data, the ones you want to keep over time. In fact, it can be tempting to save your crucial data on a USB flash drive, which is small, convenient, and inexpensive. Unfortunately, USB drives are also easy to lose (or steal) and, for many, quite fragile.

Therefore, a USB key is a bad backup tool in the long run. Instead, go for an external hard drive or even reliable online solutions along with a NAS if you can.

What capacity (in GB) should I choose for my USB key?

The answer to this question will obviously depend on your usage. Saving hours of movies doesn’t require the same ability as transporting text documents. However, we advise you not to be too sparing as the files tend to get bigger and bigger. It can be nice to have a little extra space for years to come.

Keys with more capacity are also often faster than their smaller siblings, so you’ll also save transfer time.

There is also the question of price, the latter does not progress linearly according to capacity. Thus, sometimes increasing your budget very little, you can double the capacity of the faucet.

Taking all these points into account, 256 GB USB keys seem like a good compromise to us at this point.

What file format for my USB key?

Before using your new key, it is best to format it with the file system that best suits your use. In fact, a large number of keys are formatted in FAT32, an certainly old format, but one that has the advantage of being compatible with absolutely all devices on the planet. Unfortunately, it has many limitations, the most annoying being the inability to use files larger than 4 GB.

To fix this problem, you will need to format your USB key in exFAT format, a format that is compatible with most modern devices and designed primarily for media that uses flash memory. The exFAT will be readable in both Windows and macOS.

NTFS can also sidestep file size concerns, but its support outside of Windows is pretty weak.

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