Ah, the ubiquitous USB key. Many of us get them for free at tradeshows and various events, regardless of what field we’re working in these days, as they’re small and practical. Another advantage is, of course, that they can be re-used, unlike CDs, but who really needs another 512MB or 1GB memory key?
Today, we’re looking at a couple of rather fast and quite large USB keys, one is from Kingston and the other is from Patriot. The drives in question are the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX 8GB and the Patriot Xporter XT Boost 16GB. Although the capacity of the two drives tested, you can get both in larger and smaller sizes. Kingston offers 2, 4 and 8GB at the moment with a 16GB model coming, while Patriot offers 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32GB drives.
The Kingston DataTraveler HyperX has a rather snazzy design with part of the casing being made out of blue metal and the rest being made of black rubber coated plastic. Instead of a cap, Kingston has gone for a retractable USB connector, which means that you don’t have to worry about losing the cap. It’s only supplied with a small strap that has a tiny key ring in one end. You also get a 10-day trial of World of Warcraft, although we’re not sure that this is a reason to buy this USB key.
The Patriot Xporter XT Boost seems to have borrowed more than a few design cues from Corsairs Flash Voyager products, as it’s encased in a solid rubber casing. We like the fact that Patriot has designed it so that the cap can be attached to the lanyard attachment and as such reduces the chance of losing the cap. It comes with a neck strap and a USB extension cable. Patriot also claims that the USB key is water and shock resistant, although this could be said for most USB keys, but at least the rubber casing won’t get damaged in case you drop it.
The most important factor about these two drives is the performance and neither drive really disappointed as such. We ran HD Tach and HD Tune on both drives, as well as doing some manual file copy tests to see what the real-world performance was. Both drives had an access time of 0.8ms, which is very fast and as you can see from the test results below, both drives had very similar results in the read tests. Kingston was slightly ahead on average, but so marginally that it really doesn’t matter.
However, the write tests showed up some unexpected results, as the Patriot Xporter XT came out much slower than the Kingston drive and we can only assume that this comes down to a different type of memory or a different controller used by Patriot, as the read speeds were so similar. Copying a 6.42GB ISO image file to both drives resulted in about 18.8MB/s for Kingston, while Patriot only managed 9.9MB/s.
Copying 2.1GB of images consisting of 678 files in three folders resulted in write speed of about 15MB/s for the Kingston drive, and close to 10MB/s for the Patriot drive. It’s a shame that with such good read results, the unit from Patriot didn’t manage to keep up in the write tests. Looking at the packaging, Kingston claims 30MB/s read speeds and 20MB/s write speeds and from our test results we can say that they got very close to those numbers. Patriot only says their drive has a read speed of 150x which is about 22.5MB/s, but as the test results showed, it’s much faster than this.
Price-wise, you’re looking at about €50-55 for the Patriot Xporter XT Boost 16GB, while the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX 8GB can only be said to be extremely expensive at around €90-95. In fact, you can get the 32GB of the Patriot drive for about the same kind of money. Despite the excellent performance, at that price it’s just impossible to recommend the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX. On the other hand, the Patriot Xporter XT Boost doesn’t really stand out from the crowd, as you can get the Corsair Flash Voyager GT or the OCZ Rally 2 for less money.
Overall, neither product would be a poor choice, it’s just that the pricing is a bit off in comparison to the competition in terms of what you get for your money; this is more so with regard to the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX 8GB than the Patriot Xporter XT Boost 16GB, but as the latter suffers from much lower write performance, some people might not consider it because of this. We'd happily use either of these compared to more basic USB keys which are vastly slower, as sometimes sitting around waiting for data to finish copying can be really frustrating. If you can find either drive for a more competitive price, then don't hesitate to get one if it fits your budget and your needs.