Best USB flash drives in 2020 & 2021

I’m trying to think back to when I first got a USB flash drive. I know it was considerably less than 1gig at the time, maybe 256 meg but man things have certainly moved on.

There is perhaps no greater measure of technology for the masses than in the realms of storage. The capability of flash memory has shot up so dramatically over the past decade we can now comfortably walk around with terabytes of data in our pockets. When you stop and think about it it is all a bit crazy.

Flash Drives are of course the smaller, maybe less reliable version of their external HD brethren. They probably find themselves with a reputation for being more unreliable somewhat unfairly, as they tend to get abused a lot more. Dangled off keychains, thrown onto desks, shoved into the back pocket of your jeans – how are they meant to last an eternity.

They are however a vital part of many everyday lives, we keep important documents on them so losing them should not be an option and as they get bigger in size, the more we stand to lose when we are careless with then.

While we can’t make you a more careful individual, we can tell you which the best USB flash drives are out there at the moment to at least solve half of your conundrum!

How We Picked

We were looking for the USB flash drives that conformed to at least USB 3.0 standards. We also wanted ones that could transfer large files quickly, without it ever feeling like you were waiting forever.

How We Tested

We took our favorite Avatar movie file (about 9 gig worth) and copied it too and from each drive to measure them.

Our Recommended

Best USB flash drives in 2020 & 2021

Best Pick
PROS

Large capacity

Blazing fast

Robust

CONS

With large capacity comes great responsibility

Not cheap

There used to be a time where USB flash drives just came with a model number incorporating their size. Now with the gamerfication of just about everything, may I proudly introduce you to the Supersonic Rage from Patriot. It’s actually the Supersonic Rage 2 we are looking at here and it is extremely fast. I wouldn’t say it was supersonic but it’s definitely one of the fastest pen drives I have come across.

This one is 256GB and USB 3.1 so you are pretty future-proofed in terms of specs and probably storage. It’s not cheap, Patriot is, after all, a big deal in the memory market so you are playing a little extra brand tax here I’m sure.

If you need to regularly transfer large files, say movie files between machines there is no better option than this.

It’s certainly not the cheapest out there, in fact, it’s a tad expensive because of the aforementioned brand tax but when you can see a noticeable difference in transfer speeds you are getting value for money.

256GB is a lot of file to lose though so be prepared to cry yourself to sleep when you misplace it.

Editor's Choice
PROS

Huge capacity

Good protection

CONS

Not that fast considering you will be transferring large files probably

This flash drive isn’t supersonic but it is Turbo so fear not. It’s also coming from PNY, another company well known for their work in the PC memory market so it is perhaps no surprise that they have turned out a little belter of a USB drive here.

It’s a ridiculous 256GB, double the huge size of the Patriot choice above – there’s a point when USB flash drives don’t need to be this big. In fact, this is probably over the point where I would trust anything important on it in case I ever lost it. I like to think of my flash drives as temporary methods of transfer, rather than a long-term storage device, and that is perhaps what we are getting into here.

It comes with a cap to protect the connector and this is a nice smoked plastic that suits the rest of the aesthetic well.

It’s nowhere near as fast as the Supersonic Rage above so if speed, rather than size is important to you, this may not be the one to go for in this instance. If however, you have giant files to transfer, and a lot of them, here you go!

Best Value
Loading...
PROS

Very, very affordable

Design protects the connector

Fast transfer speeds

CONS

Not so robust

Into our budget choice here. You can tell that as this isn’t named as aggressively, with Sandisk settling on the more sedate Extreme.

This is one cheap piece of kit though. Obviously it’s ‘only’ 32GB but this is a good sweet spot for me and peripherals like this. The price is so low it’s negligible and the memory performs well and transfers to and fro at a decent rate of knots.

Personally I also prefer the design of Sandisk’s sticks as I have found them less likely to get damaged as the USB head retracts into the body tortoise-style for a little extra protection. It won’t survive running over it with your car but sitting on it by accident won’t be the end of the world.

You would not know from its performance how cheap it was.

Loading...
PROS

Tiny design offers good protection

Range of capacities

USB 3.1

CONS

Tiny design can be lost easily!

A model up from the Extreme we have this 64GB offering also from SanDisk and also at a great price. The main selling point of this little beauty is its size. It is designed to not stick out from whatever you have it plugged into, and therefore should be safe from knocks and drops that would stress the PCB inside and potentially break the connector.

It comes in a range of sizes, all of which are equally losable down the back of the sofa as it is so small.

It’s USB 3.1 so will blaze past that old USB 2.0 one you have had lying around at the back of your desk for years too.A great option.

PROS

256GB

Four-year warranty

Metal housing

CONS

Not as fast as it’s stablemate

And to finish our friends at Patriot are at it again with the Viper Fang. It is like they have bought a new noun-generating machine and selected the ‘marketing keywords’ option in the software,

The first thing you notice with the Viper Fang is that it has an aluminum casing which makes it a step over most plastic offerings that you find. With that comes some extra cost but the 256GB here isn’t to be sneezed at.

It’s a nice little device but it’s simply not as good as the Supersonic Rage 2, although it does offer greater capacity. Patriot has really burst into the flash drive market with some force here. They are producing desirable, high-quality sticks that are going to challenge the status quo of the likes of SanDisk who have ruled the roost for many years now.

Things To Consider

Losing it!

If you are careless like, say, for example, I am, then these tiny devices always carry the risk of getting misplaced. It’s very easy to do. I, therefore, don’t trust myself to use them are long-term storage solutions, preferring to use them for the original use as convenient file transfer peripherals. If you are the kind of person who always knows where your car keys and wallet are, there’s nothing to worry about.

FAQs

Do I need to get a USB 3.0/3.1 USB flash drive?

Our Verdict

Best Pick

Patriot’s Supersonic Rage 2 wins the day here because it is lightning. I should have said supersonic but thought I’d mix it up a little. Its large capacity is useful but the way it passes it’s contents around feels next-gen. Patriot is onto a winner with this technology if they can keep it going forward.

Well worth the little extra you will pay for it.