Slow USB Flash Drives Are All Right As Long As They Are Cheap

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I’ve been doing my best to post quality deals over at Butter, What?!, and several of those deals have been extremely cheap USB flash drives and microSD cards made by Silicon Power. After posting those deals, I noticed that a few of the folks over at /r/buildapcsales are really upset about Silicon Power’s USB flash drives.

As stated on their listing on Amazon, these flash drives have a USB 3 interface. However, the product listing also states that the drives only manage read speeds of 70 megabytes per second and write speeds of a measly 5 megabytes per second.

Presumably, this is because Silicon Power is using old, cheap flash chips. I ordered a pair of the 64 GB drives for $9.99. My tests showed 40 megabytes per second on reads and 19 megabytes per second on writes. That is a good bit faster than USB 2, so these drives are benefiting from the USB 3 interface. They just aren’t benefiting all that much.

Slow drives are just fine, especially when they’re cheap!

When I was young, we used to trade 5.25” floppy disks with our friends. They might bring a save game over to our house, or I might send them home with a copy of the game I just bought. The polite thing to do is bring your own floppies, right?

That didn’t always work out. I was often scrounging around the house for an old, dilapidated floppy disk that could be sacrificed. You didn’t want to waste one of your good disks on an inconsiderate friend!

Skip ahead 10 or 15 years, and we’d be talking about CD-R discs instead of floppies. Skip another 10 years to today, and we’re talking about USB flash drives.

If I discover that I need to send you home with two seasons of a TV show that you just can’t stream from anywhere, I’m going to throw it on a USB flash drive.

You don’t have a USB flash drive with you?! That’s just fine. I’m going to throw it on one of my slow $5 drives. If you forget to return the drive, it is no big deal.

What else do we use flash drives for?

I use mine for small, occasional backups. Sure, most of my backups are stored in the cloud, but there are a few things that I like to keep on hand locally. Specifically, I store a backup of my Bitwarden password vault, my ssh keys, and my GnuPG keys on a flash drive. Slow is fine for this, because the data is so tiny.

Every once in a while, I need to create a bootable USB flash drive. Most of those times, I’m only copying about 700 megabytes onto the flash drive. Even on a slow drive, that will only take a minute or two.

What would I use a fast, expensive USB flash drive for?

I’m struggling to come up with a use case. I don’t even own any fast flash drives. The arrival of Dropbox and similar services probably put the last nails in the USB flash drives’ coffin for me. Why run around with data in your pocket? All my data magically shows up on every computer I own automatically.

Maybe you haven’t caught up to the rest of us. Maybe you’re still manually copying files around and running them from one place to another. I’d rather see you get on board with the convenience and simplicity of file sync than see you buying lots of fast USB flash drives!

The Silicon Power 128 GB USB flash drive made me sad

They aren’t the only manufacturer that I should be picking on. I’ve posted a deal on a slow Kingston drive in the past, too. However, there’s a Silicon Power flash drive that I really want to pick on, though.

Their 128 GB USB 3 flash drive was on sale for $9.99 with free Prime shipping. That’s about as good of a deal as the 2-pack of 64 GB drives from the week before. I almost posted it on Butter, What?!

I couldn’t find anything in the product description about actual transfer rates. There’s a bunch of talk about the huge speeds of the USB 3.0 bus. They might even be implying that their drive is going to make good use of those speeds. There’s no mentions of tested, real-world transfer rates.

There are plenty of customer reviews talking about how slow these drives are.

This is disappointing. I’m happy to buy something that is slow, as long as you tell me about it up front, and the price is right.

In this case, the price is right, but the advertising is deceptive. I don’t like that.


I’m going to keep posting these sorts of USB flash drive sales to Butter, What?!, but only if the product descriptions are honest. I can’t keep buying them, though. I believe I’ve bought every flash and microSD deal I’ve posted so far. I’ll probably buy one more pair of cheap USB flash drives, then I’ll have to stop for a while. My collection is getting too big!

What do you think? Do you agree with me that cheap, slow flash drives are a good value? Do you prefer faster drives? What are you doing with them? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!