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Massive USB 3.0 read speeds but writes disappointingly slow and no benefit over USB 2.0
on 17 December 2011
Before I get on to the Patriot Supersonic, I'll start by trying to clear up a few misconceptions about USB 3.0:
"10x faster than USB 2.0" refers to the capability of the USB 3.0 standard, not necessarily every USB 3.0 storage device produced.
The limiting factor is the speed of the NAND flash in the devices: yes, USB 3.0 can hit theoretical speeds of 640MB/s, however this is faster than the sequential I/O that all but the most expensive 256GB+ SSDs are capable of -- you're not going to get a 16GB memory stick getting anywhere near that.
When it comes to flash memory, the old adage that you get what you pay for is very true: buy a cheap memory stick and you'll probably only get ~3MB/s sequential writes (even USB 2.0 is capable of 10x that) simply because the NAND flash it contains will be low-grade and slow.
So, the Patriot Supersonic:
USB 2.0: Writing a 1.4GB file took 135 seconds, which is a little over 10.6MB/s but still significantly slower than my old 4GB Sandisk Cruzer Titanium, which managed an average speed of almost 14MB/s.
Reading the same file back over USB 2.0 took 43 seconds: maxing out USB 2.0 as expected, with an average transfer rate of 33.5MB/s.
USB 3.0: Writing a 4.37GB file took exactly 7 minutes, so the same 10.6MB/s as on USB 2.0. Watching the transfer in resmon saw transfer spikes up to 30MB/s, then dips as the flash caught up with the writes.
Reading the same file back took exactly 60 seconds; an impressive average speed of 74.5MB/s
Copying the contents of a Windows 7 x64 DVD to create a bootable USB stick also took about 7 minutes. This totals 3.65GB but involves copying a couple of large files and a huge number of very tiny files, which often bog down cheaper flash memory and controllers. No complaints here.
So, impressive read speeds but disappointingly slow sequential writes. How much this impacts your choice depends on how you use your USB memory stick: if you have a mostly static content which you regularly copy off to a number of PCs, it's very good. If, like me, you copy new stuff to it on a regular basis and want a convenient way to move files between machines, it's not so good (although it still matches a 100mbps LAN for transfer speed).
Overall it's good -- 3x faster than the infuriatingly useless SanDisk Cruzer Blade I purchased recently, while only 2x the price -- but not great -- my three year old USB 2.0 Cruzer Titanium beats it hands down for write speed. It's shameful that a USB 3.0 device is only able to make use of the extra USB 3.0 speed in one direction, however I suspect that to see >30MB/s writes you'd have to pay considerably more for a premium memory stick. As the read speed is genuinely impressive and the price premium over a similar USB 2.0 drive is minimal, the Patriot Supersonic still offers decent value. On the whole I would still recommend it.