Do you want to transport data quickly and easily? 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 where 5G connections make it possible to download several GB in a few seconds, one could think that the good old USB keys could be retired, but this is not the case.
Indeed, the latter offer ever greater capacities, but also and above all ease of use and remarkable reliability. And as a bonus, their price has never been so low! They are still present, both in stores and in e-commerce.
However, choosing the right one is not always easy: there are indeed hundreds of different references and it can be tempting to choose the cheapest possible. However, this is not the angle we chose with this selection. When it comes to your data, it is indeed better not to make small savings!
Here is a sharp selection of the best USB keys according to different needs.
Still on the subject of storage, we also invite you to read our guide dedicated to external hard drives or our comparison of the best NAS.
Kingston DataTraveler Max: the USB flash drive of the future
Do you feel 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 it to a recent computer, a smartphone or an iPad.
Kingston also had the good taste to use USB 3.2, so we get speeds of around 1 GB/s under ideal conditions, which makes it one of the fastest models on the market. Among the few criticisms that we can make to it, we will remember above all what makes it strong: its USB-C connector will not necessarily be available on certain machines and which is also more fragile than traditional USB.
If you’re ready to move on to the future of the USB key now, we don’t get any better right now, especially at this price.
The Kingston DataTraveler Max in a nutshell
- Incredibly fast
- Works with both PCs and smartphones
- Attractive price given the performance
Samsung Bar Plus: a simple and effective USB key
A real flash memory giant, Samsung also offers a full range of USB keys. Among these, we particularly appreciate the Bar Plus. Samsung indeed offers a model without frills, solid and efficient, and with an original design. Made of metal, the key is shock and water resistant.
Its speed leaves us a little divided: on the one hand, it is particularly fast in reading (225 MB/s), but it only writes at 60 MB/s. However, this will be more than enough for occasional use, in particular given its aggressive pricing. Indeed, it uses USB 3.1 to ensure 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 double connector key like the one offered by Sandisk? The concept could not be simpler: we have a classic USB connector on one side and a USB type C on the other. Ideal therefore for not having to take the lead, whether it is connected to a PC or a smartphone.
If the key is practical, it is however not the strongest on the market, one of the connectors unfortunately still remaining exposed. The speeds are not fantastic, around 150 MB/s in reading and 40 MB/s in writing for a USB 3.1 connection. Not the fastest key on the market, but this Sandisk Ultra Dual Drive Go has its versatility and attractive price.
The Sandisk Ultra Drive Go in a nutshell
- A versatile key with its double connector
- Works with both PCs and smartphones
- Attractive price
Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth: the strongest
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 far from new, the brand has been offering it for more than ten years, but it is still as effective as ever. The key’s electronics are in fact protected by an aluminum tube.
Once screwed, the latter protects not only from shocks, but also from vibrations and will even withstand immersion at a depth of 200 m (if you ever throw your USB key into the sea). However, do not drive with a car on it, aluminum being 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 do not want to accidentally lose their data or are simply not very careful.
The Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth in brief
- A very strong key
- Good speeds
Sandisk Ultra Fit: the Tom Thumb model
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 it will be plugged into a device for a long time. We can thus think of a car radio, a laptop PC 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 it is also very easy to lose. Avoid leaving it lying around at the bottom of a backpack. Without being shameful, its performance is fairly average (about 130 MB/s in reading), but given the price, it’s hard to be choosy.
The Sandisk Ultra Fit in a nutshell
- very small
- Correct flow rates
Sandisk iXpand Flash Drive Luxe: an Apple-oriented USB key
Even though iCloud makes it easy to back up data, it’s not possible to use a Micro SD card in an iPhone or iPad. It is therefore logically possible to find yourself a little cramped.
To get around this problem, you can transfer your files to a PC or an external drive. It is this last way that Sandisk offers here with this key offering a double USB-C and Lightning connector. The use is very simple, but the speeds are particularly low in Lightning, of the order of 15 MB / s. You should therefore not be in a hurry if you want to recover your Pro Raw files from your iPhone.
Despite these limits imposed by Apple, this USB key is one of the only ways to easily and inexpensively increase your storage under iOS. Note that if you have a recent iPad there is a good chance that it is USB-C, in this 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
- Inexpensive 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, not to save your most important data, the ones you want to keep over time. Indeed, it can be tempting to save your crucial data on a USB flash drive, which is small, convenient and cheap. Unfortunately, USB drives are also easy to lose (or steal) and for many quite fragile.
A USB key is therefore a poor long-term backup tool. Instead, go for an external hard drive, or even reliable online solutions coupled 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 use, saving hours of movies does not require the same capacity as transporting text documents. However, we recommend that you not be too sparing, as the files tend to quickly become larger and larger. It can be nice to have a little extra space for years to come.
Keys with more capacity are also generally faster than their smaller siblings, so you’ll also save transfer time.
There is also the question of the price, the latter not progressing in a linear way according to the capacity.
Taking all these points into account, 256 GB USB keys seem like a good compromise to us at the moment.
What file format for my USB key?
Before using your brand new key, it is better to format it with the file system best suited to your use. A large number of keys are indeed formatted in FAT32, a format certainly old, but which has the advantage of being supported by 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 work around this problem, you will need to format your USB key in the format exFAT, a format supported by most modern devices and designed primarily for media using flash memory. The exFAT will be readable on both Windows and macOS.
NTFS can also circumvent file size concerns, but its support outside of Windows is quite weak.
To follow us, we invite you to download our Android and iOS application. You can read our articles, files, and watch our latest YouTube videos.