Best USB flash drive for booting and small files

RWIndiana

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#1
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?
 

Stereodude

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#2
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
 

RWIndiana

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#3
Lots of good information there. Thanks! I wish I had checked a little closer rather than just checking the peak read/write speeds.
 

Stereodude

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#4
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.
 

Stereodude

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#7
Ok, here's the results from the Patriot drive:
View attachment 1285
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.
 

Handruin

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#16
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.
 

LunarMist

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#17
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.
 

Stereodude

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#18
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.
:scratch: 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.
 

Handruin

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#21
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.
 

Stereodude

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#22
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.
 

Handruin

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#23
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.
 

Stereodude

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#24
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.
 

Handruin

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#25
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.
 

Stereodude

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#27
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.
 

Handruin

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#28
I just bought a case from Newegg and also have to pay sales tax there. My dad almost got dinged by their stupid way of reporting everyone to the state of Connecticut. Turns out they didn't for him because the order he made was for me and it shipped to Mass so that means he doesn't pay sales taxes on it.

I was reading through the comments on the Slickdeals page and one of the guys seems adamant to post that this HP NVMe has a firmware issue that reports the temperature incorrectly. It's one guy, so it's probably a non-issue.

Now that these NVMe drives are coming down in price, it creates a problem with the limited number of PCIe lanes on the consumer level platforms. I don't want to spring for an X299/X399 just for more PCIe lanes.
 

Stereodude

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#29
I was reading through the comments on the Slickdeals page and one of the guys seems adamant to post that this HP NVMe has a firmware issue that reports the temperature incorrectly. It's one guy, so it's probably a non-issue.
A poster there was repeatedly trying to hump my leg over a post I made where I stated the TBW ratings on these consumer SSDs meant nothing, were strictly marketing numbers, and that the drives would still be working if they were exceeded. He got all wrapped around the axle because I stated they used the same flash as enterprise drives (which they do in the sense that they're from the same fab, using the same technology, using the same process, same number of layers, etc.) and that the much lower TBW ratings were mainly to keep the consumer models from being used in enterprise applications.

He even tried to use some sort of analogy about car warranties. Because you know the company with the longest warranty makes the most reliable cars. :scratch:
 

jtr1962

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#30
A poster there was repeatedly trying to hump my leg over a post I made where I stated the TBW ratings on these consumer SSDs meant nothing, were strictly marketing numbers, and that the drives would still be working if they were exceeded. He got all wrapped around the axle because I stated they used the same flash as enterprise drives (which they do in the sense that they're from the same fab, using the same technology, using the same process, same number of layers, etc.) and that the much lower TBW ratings were mainly to keep the consumer models from being used in enterprise applications.

He even tried to use some sort of analogy about car warranties. Because you know the company with the longest warranty makes the most reliable cars. :scratch:
Also worth mentioning is even if the lower TBW ratings for consumer drives reflected reality, for the majority of people it would take decades to reach those numbers. By then you likely will have moved on to a larger drive anyway.

The biggest potential problem with flash is data retention. However, even this is less of an issue with 3D NAND which uses larger cells.
 

Stereodude

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#31
Also worth mentioning is even if the lower TBW ratings for consumer drives reflected reality, for the majority of people it would take decades to reach those numbers. By then you likely will have moved on to a larger drive anyway.
I pointed that out too. You can lead the horse to water...
 

Handruin

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#36
Awesome, thanks. Just ordered one since I'm still waiting for my other one to come back in stock at B&H. Total came out to $146.29 for this drive.
 

Handruin

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#40
I got a nice email 15 days after my order from B&H reminding me my NVMe is still back-ordered. The HP NVMe should be here Friday so I can complete my build.
 
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