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Thread: Best USB flash drive for booting and small files

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    Learning Storage Performance RWIndiana's Avatar
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    Best USB flash drive for booting and small files

    Hey all, I just got the "fastest" USB flash drive I could find, according to a few tech reviews: the Patriot Supersonic Rage 2 (128G), and have been very disappointed with linux boot times and writing of small files. Large files are fine, faster than my other drives, but booting into an OS from the drive is much slower than my several-years-old Sandisk. It is so slow as to be unacceptable for this purpose.

    Any brand or specific drive recommendations?
    Whatever is true is not new; whatever is new is not true. - John Wesley

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    The best advice I can give you is to look at the reviews on Amazon and hope people have posted screenshots of CrystalDiskMark and ATTO runs on the various drives you're interested in in the user submitted pictures. Even then you will have to be careful when looking at the screenshots because some people change the default options and write very small amounts of data to the drives which makes the results erroneous and non-comparable. Amazon will also group reviews for drive different sizes so you'll have to make sure the screenshots are for the same size you're looking at. Also, you can't necessarily compare results across different versions of CrystalDiskMark. There's an explanation on their page here.

    My understanding is that 4k write performance is important for "boot" drive. That seems to jive with what we learned with SSDs in PCs years ago.

    I just bought and tested seven different 32gB uSD cards with the intent of using them as boot drives in RPi3's and other similar ARM based hardware. So far I've tested then all using CDM and ATTO. I plan to benchmark them in the RPi3 and perhaps the Odroid C2 and Pine 64 also with some Linux benchmarks.

    I will say that the 4K write results of the Patriot Supersonic Rage 2 (128G) you bought are abysmal (as shown in the Amazon User Pictures). Every 32gB uSD I test is orders of magnitude faster. Here's the best one I tested (for 4k writes).



    If you're not sweating the size of the drive or the price there are very fast solutions out there. Like the new USB to NVME enclosures. Anandtech has reviewed a few of them. Here's the most recent review they've done so you can see how it compares to other similar products. They've also tested external SSDs which are likewise quite fast. Like this one.

    If those are too big or two expensive off the top of my head I'd recommend the Sandisk Extreme/Extreme Pro USB flash drives. I have a few and they're pretty quick. The SDCZ80 (Extreme) and the SDCZ88 (Extreme Pro) series. I bought them a year or two ago so I'm not sure if they're still widely available or if they've been superseded by something "better". Here's how my several year old non-empty 64GB SDC-Z80 tests.



    CDMx64 - Delkin Advantage 32gB attempt 3.png CDMx64 - Sandisk Extreme 64gB USB 3.0 SDC-Z80.png

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    Learning Storage Performance RWIndiana's Avatar
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    Lots of good information there. Thanks! I wish I had checked a little closer rather than just checking the peak read/write speeds.
    Whatever is true is not new; whatever is new is not true. - John Wesley

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    Quote Originally Posted by RWIndiana View Post
    Lots of good information there. Thanks! I wish I had checked a little closer rather than just checking the peak read/write speeds.
    Run CDM 6.02 on your current drive and post the results. Then you'll have a good baseline to use for comparison for any new drive you look at.

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    I can't believe I'm a Fixture LunarMist's Avatar
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    If performance is important, buy a small M.2 SSD and put it in a little USB enclosure.
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    Learning Storage Performance RWIndiana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LunarMist View Post
    If performance is important, buy a small M.2 SSD and put it in a little USB enclosure.
    I might do that.


    Ok, here's the results from the Patriot drive:
    Capture.PNG
    Whatever is true is not new; whatever is new is not true. - John Wesley

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    Quote Originally Posted by RWIndiana View Post
    Ok, here's the results from the Patriot drive:
    Capture.PNG
    Yep, that's going to be a dog...

    There are numerous options to improve things. It all depends on how much you want to spend and the form factor you can accept. NVME drive in a USB 3.1 enclosure with 10gbps will be the fastest / best performing. A external USB 3.x SSD will be next (depending on the type). Followed by a SATA SSD in an external USB 3.0 enclosure. The standard USB 3.0 flash drive is probably at the bottom, but a drive like the Sandisk Extreme I have should still run circles around the Patriot Supersonic Rage 2.

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    Fixture ddrueding's Avatar
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    This is a Samsung 860 Evo 2TB in a Silverstone MS09 USB3 thumbdrive enclosure.
    Screenshot_1.png
    Work1: i7-8086@5.3Ghz, 32GB, 512GB 970 Pro, 2080ti
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    I can't believe I'm a Fixture LunarMist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddrueding View Post
    This is a Samsung 860 Evo 2TB in a Silverstone MS09 USB3 thumbdrive enclosure.
    Screenshot_1.png
    I use a similar enclosure that is a little smaller. I wouldn't have purchased a 2TB drive just for it, but I had the OEM one from the laptop.
    --Lunar

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    No idea if you're still looking, but Amazon has this Lighting deal going on a USB 3.x M.2 enclosure. It's $17.98 and you can get another $2.70 off with the 10% off coupon making it $15.28. Add in a 1TB Samsung EVO 860 for $127.99 and you've got 1TB of high speed USB goodness.

  11. #11
    NVIDIA> AMD Fixture Handruin's Avatar
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    That's a nice portable drive setup.

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    I can't believe I'm a Fixture LunarMist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Handruin View Post
    That's a nice portable drive setup.
    A case and cable are not all that portable compared to the thumb drive type of case. Maybe I'll put my 2TB EVOs in a USB M.2 case if they ever produce a 4TB drive to replace it.
    --Lunar

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    Quote Originally Posted by LunarMist View Post
    A case and cable are not all that portable compared to the thumb drive type of case. Maybe I'll put my 2TB EVOs in a USB M.2 case if they ever produce a 4TB drive to replace it.
    It's also much faster than a thumb drive type of case. Life is full of compromises.

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    I can't believe I'm a Fixture LunarMist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stereodude View Post
    It's also much faster than a thumb drive type of case. Life is full of compromises.
    It should be the same. There are only a few bridges anyway.
    --Lunar

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    Quote Originally Posted by LunarMist View Post
    It should be the same. There are only a few bridges anyway.
    In what fantasy world is that? Have you seen all the chips on a M.2 2280 SSD? How are you going to miniaturize that into a USB stick?

  16. #16
    NVIDIA> AMD Fixture Handruin's Avatar
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    The NAND implementation and controller is likely different in the m.2 drive when compared to a USB stick and those require more physical space. The added benefit being consistent performance across the range of the drive comes are a cost of a larger physical size and larger amounts of heat produced.

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    I can't believe I'm a Fixture LunarMist's Avatar
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    We are not talking about a native USB thumb drive, but a small enclosure with a USB A plug (e. g., David's link) compared to the USB C enclosure with cable.
    --Lunar

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    Quote Originally Posted by LunarMist View Post
    We are not talking about a native USB thumb drive, but a small enclosure with a USB A plug (e. g., David's link) compared to the USB C enclosure with cable.
    They're the same basic size. I'd rather have a short cable than the the direct USB plug. First it allows connecting to both USB-C and USB-A ports. Second, I don't end up with a large/heavy (relatively speaking) box hanging off the USB port blocking adjacent ports or stressing the USB ports.

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    I can't believe I'm a Fixture LunarMist's Avatar
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    The total weight is low. It works fine on my laptop and I have too many cables already.
    --Lunar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Handruin View Post
    That's a nice portable drive setup.
    The 1TB Samsung 860 EVO finally arrived today after being on backorder for a few weeks. Here's how it tests out in the ~$15 Wavlink enclosure.





    CDM_602_Samsung_860Evo_1TB_USB3.png ATTO_Samsung_860EVO_1TB.png

  21. #21
    NVIDIA> AMD Fixture Handruin's Avatar
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    That's some nice performance for a USB setup. I should have jumped on the deal to make one for myself. I'll have to look up some comparisons of the 860 EVO attached to a motherboard to get an idea of the overhead from USB.

    I ended up jumping on the Samsung 970 EVO M.2 when it was on sale at B&H for $229 to use as a boot drive in a new system. The drive is backordered just like yours so I'm waiting on it to complete my new Ryzen 2700X build.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Handruin View Post
    I ended up jumping on the Samsung 970 EVO M.2 when it was on sale at B&H for $229 to use as a boot drive in a new system. The drive is backordered just like yours so I'm waiting on it to complete my new Ryzen 2700X build.
    Nice, I have a 1TB HP EX920 (NVME) on order for my Dell XPS 13 laptop. It was $167.99 after tax. I'm supposed to have it by Friday.

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    NVIDIA> AMD Fixture Handruin's Avatar
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    Nice, I haven't heard of that HP nvme until now. Quick searching on it looks pretty good especially for the price you got it for. Micron 3D TLC NAND, Silicon Motion SM2262 controller.

    I'll be curious if it throttles with heat like some do. The ASRock Tiachi x470 board I bought comes with a heat sink that sandwiches on top on the nvme m.2 so I'll try to test the 970 evo for extended lengths and see if it throttles early.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Handruin View Post
    Nice, I haven't heard of that HP nvme until now. Quick searching on it looks pretty good especially for the price you got it for. Micron 3D TLC NAND, Silicon Motion SM2262 controller.

    I'll be curious if it throttles with heat like some do. The ASRock Tiachi x470 board I bought comes with a heat sink that sandwiches on top on the nvme m.2 so I'll try to test the 970 evo for extended lengths and see if it throttles early.
    Anandtech recommends that HP as the high performance NVME SSD to buy. They say no one is going to be able to tell the difference between it and the more expensive NVME drives that benchmark a tad better. It's reasonably power efficient and has very low idle power draw with the power management enabled. The WD Black 1TB 3D is slightly more power efficient during heavy workloads, but all the reviews show its low power management apparently doesn't work. I made the guess that idle power draw would be more important for my typical laptop usage.

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    NVIDIA> AMD Fixture Handruin's Avatar
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    I didn't look around that much for different NVMes, so you likely found the sweet spot for 1TB NVMe devices at a nice price. I can't argue against the claim that I would be able to notice the difference between the HP EX920 and the 970 EVO I ordered so that part might be true.

  26. #26
    NVIDIA> AMD Fixture Handruin's Avatar
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    Looks like this drive is back on sale at eBay via Newegg for $152. I might pick one up...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Handruin View Post
    Looks like this drive is back on sale at eBay via Newegg for $152. I might pick one up...
    When I bought mine it was slightly more (after a 10% off eBay coupon). And now I have to pay sales tax from Newegg.

    Here's the exact quote from Anandtech's 2018 Holiday SSD guide:
    The Silicon Motion SM2262EN controller will soon be available in the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, replacing the current SX8200 that uses the plain SM2262 controller. All of these drives are products to watch, because they could easily become the best deal for a high-end NVMe drive in a month or two when they are more widely available. In the meantime, SM2262 drives like the ADATA SX8200, HP EX920 and Mushkin Pilot are much cheaper than other premium NVMe drives but aren't noticeably slower.

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