A SSD in Your Pocket

I woke up a few days ago and realized I was still carrying the same 32 GB USB flash drive on my keychain that I purchased in 2010. I thought to myself, this is an unacceptable state of affairs. Totally. Unacceptable.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/11/a-ssd-in-your-pocket.html

Them’s chunky numbers sure enough. Just a shame that USB3 ports are still relatively rare.

Is the ‘installing device driver’ and ‘safe to eject’ malarkey still just as slow and clunky with USB3? It strikes me that as transfer speeds get higher latency involved in just getting the thing readable and then off the machine after a transfer gets ever more incongruous.

Wow, cool. Almost makes me wish I went back into the dark ages of keeping around actual media on my own computer!

Wow, those numbers. I didn’t know that was possible with USB 3.0. Taking a 1.76GB file and transferring it in just under 10 seconds? Phenomenal!

I’ll have to take a look at one of those Supersonics. Luckily enough for me, my laptop has one USB 3.0 port. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure everything else I have or come across on a daily basis has all USB 2.0 ports, so can’t take that awesome speed everywhere.

The reviews on Amazon do say that for smaller files, like JPEG photos, the transfer speed is a lot slower, but 30MB/s is still much faster than USB 2.0.

German amazon comments are about some negative points:

  • Fast with big files, slow with small files
  • Opening Windows Explorer gets slow when stick is attached to PC

(The second point may be related to bad driver for USB 3 on Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3 mainboard)

Whats your experience?

Just retired an old laptop with some sw I wanted to keep. 32gb usb3 drive, disk2vhd and virtualbox made my day. Runs even faster on my new hw too. #win

Apple would never do something as visually tacky as use blue USB 3.0 ports. The ports are the appropriate color for the given Mac. For instance on the new mini, they are charcoal to match the rest of the back plate, while on the Macbook pro, they are a tasteful silver.

Run CrystalDiskMark on it. Its a low tech performance test that will show you the random reads as well as the sustained transfer speed. While the sustained transfer speed is what a lot of people look at when it comes to SSDs in practice the random performance at 4K is what makes them feel so much faster than a HDD.

SSDs are only 5x faster in big transfers, but 100x at random access. My problem with USB 3.0 in general has been the generally poor random IO performance, it costs quite a lot of performance to convert to USB 3.0 instead of just using e-sata.

Sorry for being pedantic but shouldn’t the title be “An SSD in your pocket”, assuming it’s read as an acronym and not “Solid-State Drive”?

it costs quite a lot of performance to convert to USB 3.0 instead of just using e-sata.

Wow, I already had USB 3 thumb drives…but I think you are right, if I go look for an eSATA one, which my laptop has a port for, it will be another performance leap. I carry around full development setups on drives to help out at hackathons and the like.

What a timely post! I was reading your 2010 post just the other day as I weighed the options while looking for a new flash drive. I haven’t purchased anything yet, so I will definitely take your quick review into consideration!

Wow, that’s awesome. You know, when USB3.0 motherboards and drives become commonplace, this will open up a whole new possibility which is (to this day) pretty unexplored… you could easily fit a virtual machine on that drive and carry around your own PC in a pocket. When you get to work - just plug it in the stationary machine there, and voila - you’re just where you left off at home. Perhaps the next generation mobile devices will be usable in the same fashion, since they already have an USB port and a built in memory. In fact, you could probably build some kind of “seemless sync” on top of that - basically your phone would be your entire workspace, but when you plug it in your PC via a traditional USB, you suddenly get all the same stuff on your PC that you have on your phone, plus all the power of the PC.

I’ve always been limited by IOPS rather than bandwidth on my USB 2 flash drives.
Sometimes, it can get really bad, something like <10 IOPS, which is terrible if you want to copy photos or source code.
There’s also a limitation on the number of simultaneous IO (but that may be caused by drivers) : sometimes you can’t delete a file while copying another…

How does this device perform in that respect?

Now all you have to do is install this on it.


Bah, Chris beat me to the “Windows To Go” comment.

This may be pretty cool that you can transfer stuff this fast onto something that fits in your pocket, but putting your stuff on a gigabit network and transferring files that way has been around for ages with nearly the same speed.

I’m pretty sure that as WAN speeds are catching up to that, and internal networks will soon be going to 10Gb, the need for any removable storage at all will be almost zero in no time.

The numbers are amazing, surely. But if you don’t have an OS in your flash drive, how rarely are those numbers going to affect your file transfer time? 2 seconds to 1 seconds?

@Glenn Howes: I know you’re just trolling, but Apple changing the color is actually a violation of the USB 3.0 specification, which makes the connector color Pantone 300C. But hey, all in the name of shiny!

I prefer smaller dimension over speed when using USB thumb drive. The only thing that will prompt me to buy fast thumb drive is Windows To Go. It’s a slick concept but I never need it. Btw what is the life time of this when you are writing a lot?

@Glenn Howes: I know you’re just trolling, but Apple changing the color is actually a violation of the USB 3.0 specification, which makes the connector color Pantone 300C. But hey, all in the name of shiny!

You should try reading the specification [29mb zip], Section, which says that color-coding is “recommended”.

Note, not “required”.

Since the justification given in the standards document is that it helps users tell one apart from the other because they may co-exist on a host, it’s easy to see why Apple didn’t - because every Mac is either “no-USB3” or “all-USB3”.

So, by “a violation of” you should mean “in compliance with”, given that the color-coding is in fact optional.

Wow that’s crazy fast!

I’m usually copying a ton of smaller files than one massive file however, how does USB 3.0 stack up on those types of transfers?