July 2021 Ian Chiu
We tested six 128GB mini USB drives from Kingston, Lexar, PNY, Samsung, Sandisk and Team Group. Unlike their larger counterparts, these compact design units can always be connected as semi-permanent storage, but fast enough for everyday tasks.
If performance is above all else, Lexar JumpDrive S47 i Samsung FIT Plus are the ones to follow as they come out on top compared to other mini USB drives in our tests. The S47, however, has an advantage over FIT Plus when it comes to writing performance, while the FIT Plus is faster in sequential reading. But if you’re looking for massive 512GB, only Samsung and PNY offer it. For those considering the budget, the cost per gigabyte of the two units is also reasonably low considering their zippy performance. Perhaps our only complaint is that the size of the FIT Plus is significantly larger than the JumpDrive S47. The Lexar has a 3-year warranty, while the Samsung is protected with a 5-year warranty.
Who would need such a small unit?
Buyers who want a drive that only protrudes as little as possible from a USB port should consider this. Thumb units generally protrude quite visibly so that they can be easily bent when repeatedly bumped. This could easily result in data loss and perhaps even worse, a broken USB port.
By design, compact units can always be inserted into a USB-compatible car stereo or a laptop as semi-permanent media storage. They can also free up precious space on your laptop’s fast SSD for mission-critical tasks. For this reason, a mini USB drive can be quite handy for some of us who may need an effortless storage expansion option.
Comparison of functions
USB mini drives on Amazon
Our large-format file transfer tests (10GB MP4) have shown that Samsung’s FIT Plus was an undisputed leader in sequential reading and that Lexar’s second-generation mini drive, JumpDrive S47, was the best at writing. Our other test, which consisted of copying JPEG from 5 GB back and forth (most between 4 and 8 MB), revealed similar results showing that Lexar and Samsung outperform the others.
It’s also worth noting that Samsung’s performance ratings vary between different capabilities. 32 GB and 64 GB models can reach up to 200 MB / s while 128 GB and 256 GB versions can reach 300 MB / s. Lexar said that your drive can reach 250 MB / s, which is quite close to what our S47 achieved at this benchmark. Finally, we observed that Sandisk presented performance inconsistencies during write operations. Our Ultra Fit would actually drop to less than 10 MB / s before slowly exceeding 30 MB / s again. The same did not happen with the other units we tested. And for some reason, the team’s C162 Group was hooked up to USB 2.0 speeds.
Note that these two tests focused primarily on sequential performance, as we believe most people relied on a mini drive primarily as intermediate or secondary storage of multimedia data. These mini drives, without a decent flash driver, are inherently incapable of handling applications that require fast random access. For this reason, we did not bother to do additional testing.
Design and construction
The low-profile USB drives that appear are all similarly small, but as soon as they are placed side by side, the tiny size of the Lexar JumpDrive S47 compares favorably with others, even by just a fraction. When inserted, the Lexar protrudes only 5 mm from the edge of a laptop, as shown in the image below. This makes the drive an easy choice for an additional drive for semi-permanent storage on your laptop. In comparison, the second best performance, Samsung FIT Plus, is noticeably higher, probably in favor of heat dissipation. All, except Lexar, have a key gap, if you need it.
In terms of durability, Sandisk took a step back with its soft plastic connector with the latest version of Ultra Fit 3.1. This is a concern that is already being echoed in various user reviews on Amazon. That said, if you intend to leave the unit plugged in at all times, it shouldn’t be such a big deal. We should say that other drives with their metallic USB connectors that protect the components of the flash could probably survive if stepped on.
USB mini drives on Amazon
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