What to Look for in a USB Drive in 2022
The main factor you need to keep in mind when buying a thumb drive (also known as thumb drive) is the amount of storage you will need. Depending on the brand you buy and its power, USB drives can be expensive. As a general rule, it’s best to go for a larger capacity flash drive, so you don’t fill it up and need a replacement so quickly.
Read and write speeds are also essential for a good flash drive. If you regularly handle large files, you’ll want to explore models that have read speeds of at least 100 Mbps. Most USB flash drives on the market today offer read speeds of 150 Mbps and write speeds ranging between 75 and 100 Mbps. Some cheaper flash drives may not reach these speeds, so be sure to check.
Security is also an important factor. Some may appreciate having an extra layer of privacy if the files they store on disk are particularly sensitive, while others might be fine with something less secure that stays with them all the time. Finding a USB flash drive with good encryption and smart features like a fingerprint reader is ideal for any security-conscious buyer.
In our list, we’ve found the best options that offer a great balance of capacity, speed, and price, plus added features like protecting your data from the elements and prying eyes.
- ✓ Compact design
- ✓ USB 3.1
- ✓ Water and shock resistant
- ✗ Not ideal for USB-C users
- ✗ Max speeds require 128GB or 256GB of storage
Our pick for the best flash drive for most people is Fit Plus from Samsung. Featuring an incredibly compact design, this drive offers up to 256GB of storage and USB 3.1 speeds of 400Mbps. Plus, the drive is reasonably priced, with the 128GB model costing just $23.
The Fit Plus is waterproof for up to 72 hours in seawater, as well as shockproof up to 1,500 gravitational accelerations. It is also resistant to magnets and X-rays.
Curiously, Samsung only grants faster storage to the larger capacity 128GB and 256GB models, while the smaller variants will be stuck with speeds well below 400Mbps. Also, this drive is not ideal for those struggling to switch all their devices to USB-C, as this drive has a standard USB-A port.
Overall, though, it’s hard to find such a comprehensive Fit Plus alternative.
Best flash player overall
- ✓ Password protection
- ✓ Low price for the feature set
- ✓ USB3.0
- ✗ Very slow write speeds of 4 Mbps
- ✗ No additional external protection
The SanDisk Ultra Flair is a great option if you’re looking for a budget USB flash drive. Available with up to 512GB of storage, the Ultra Flair is priced below all of most competitors, with the 128GB option under $16.
For the money, you get a player that offers an instantly familiar design to everyone. It has a USB 3.0 port as well as compatibility with the company’s SecureAccess software, allowing you to lock it with a password. Plus, it’s backwards compatible with USB 2.0 ports.
Without additional external water or shock protection, this USB drive won’t be for those who may have gadget-centric accidents more often than not. And while read speeds remain at 150 Mbps, write speeds are at 4 Mbps. If you’re dealing with large files, you’ll want to increase your budget a bit.
If you can live with those caveats, the Ultra Flair offers a solid mix of smart features and simplicity that many will appreciate.
Best Budget USB Flash Drive
- ✓ Two USB-C and USB-A connectors
- ✓ 150 Mbps read speeds
- ✓ Up to 512 GB of storage
- ✓ Reasonable price
- ✗ Slower write speeds of 35-40 Mbps
- ✗ No additional privacy or durability protections
If you’re looking for a flash drive that connects via USB-C, check out SanDisk’s Ultra Dual Drive Go. Not only does it offer a USB-C connector, but it also comes with a secondary USB-A connector in case you need to connect it to a device with older ports.
The Ultra Dual Drive Go offers USB 3.1 speeds, which translates to read speeds of 150 Mbps and write speeds of around 35-40 Mbps. The drive is compatible with SanDisk’s Memory Zone app, available for Android, to automatically back up important data when connected to your device, and you can get up to 512GB of storage if you need it.
Notably, there is no additional external protection against water, shocks or magnets. You also don’t get any additional layers of security, so you have to make sure you don’t lose it.
All in all, the Dual Drive Go is a respectively versatile flash drive that should suffice for anyone trying to use as many USB-C devices as possible.
Best USB-C Flash Drive
SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive Go
With both USB-C and USB-A connections, the Ultra Dual Drive Go is a great flash drive for anyone switching to USB-C who still needs something reliable.
- ✓ Ultra-fast read and write speeds
- ✓ Big capacity
- ✓ USB-C
- ✗ No water or shock protection
- ✗ No additional security features
- ✗ High price
If you need a flash drive that can handle a ton of data, you’ll want to check out the Kingston DataTraveler Max.
This USB-C flash drive is equipped with up to 1TB storage capacity, with USB 3.2 Gen 2 performance for read speeds of up to 1000 Mbps and write speeds of 900 Mbps. It is ideal for those who regularly need to move large files like video projects. It’s also great if you’d rather have something compact like a flash drive than an external solid state drive.
Without water resistance or additional safety features, the Kingston DataTraveler Max might not be for everyone. Storage also comes at a premium, costing a bit more than the other options on our list.
But if what you’re looking for is a flash drive with plenty of storage space that can make managing large files easier, it’s definitely worth considering.
Best High Capacity Flash Drive
- ✓ Aircraft-grade aluminum housing
- ✓ Protection against water and dirt
- ✓ Good performance
- ✗ Lack of additional security and encryption
- ✗ No USB-C option
Looking for something sturdy that can handle an adventurous lifestyle? Meet the Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth. It offers a strong anodized aircraft-grade aluminum casing that is waterproof up to 200 meters. It is also vibration and shock resistant with a molded shock collar.
In terms of specifications, Corsair uses a traditional USB 3.0 connector which offers good read and write speeds of 150 Mbps and 90 Mbps, respectively. It can also be configured with up to 256 GB of storage.
If you want extra security, you won’t find it here because there’s no password protection or other types of encryption. It can survive the elements, but you’ll want to make sure you don’t lose that flash drive if you have sensitive documents on it.
Overall, the Flash Survivor Stealth is great for anyone who might appreciate some extra durability given their lifestyle.
Best Rugged Flash Drive
- ✓ Fingerprint reader
- ✓ Fast read and write speeds
- ✓ 256-bit AES encryption
- ✗ No explicit water or shock proof
- ✗ Fingerprint reader software only works with Windows
If security is a priority for you, you’ll want to check out Lexar’s JumpDrive Fingerprint F35. The flash drive comes with a built-in fingerprint reader which, once configured, encrypts any data you have on it using 256-bit AES encryption. You can register up to 10 fingerprints and unlocking your reader with your fingerprint takes less than a second.
The JumpDrive uses USB 3.0 with read speeds of up to 300 Mbps, while write speeds are slower, although Lexar doesn’t specify what those are.
Unfortunately, the software required to set up the fingerprint reader only works with Windows, so Mac and Linux users will only be able to use it as a standard USB drive. Lexar says it tests each drive for durability on its store page, but the company doesn’t provide further details.
Still, if you’re a Windows user who needs a secure, safe, and easy-to-use flash drive, the JumpDrive is a great choice.
Best flash drive for security
Lexar JumpDrive F35 fingerprint reader
The JumpDrive Fingerprint F35 features a fingerprint scanner that adds advanced encryption to your sensitive data, making it perfect for those who need an extra layer of privacy.