If you already have USB 3.0 on your shiny new PC then it is time to start adding accessories that take advantage of USB 3.0's speed. There isn't a geek or layperson that I know who doesn't already have at least a small collection of thumb drives. They served their purpose well, but it is now time to start retiring all of those small, slow drives and step up to a single, large, fast USB 3.0 thumb drive.
The current generation of USB 3.0 onboard ports is capable of just over 200MB/s. This will increase as USB 3.0 becomes native to chipsets and eventually we will see the 10x USB 2.0 speeds we were promised. With USB 2.0 topping out at 35MB/s, 200MB/s is a large increase already.
With speeds already at acceptable levels, the next question that comes in is price. Traditionally thumb drives are not all that expensive, unless you start getting into the mega sizes. The product we are looking at today, the Super Talent Express RAM Cache, is available for as low as 59 USD in a 16GB capacity. Our sample drive, the 32GB model, was found for as low as 119 USD and the mega sized 64GB drive tips the scales at 209 USD.
Most casual users will jump right in and spend 60 Dollars for a high speed USB 3.0 thumb drive with 16GB of capacity if it means they can get rid of the many smaller drives cluttering their desk. Users might need to think a little more about the 32 and 64GB drives, but once you realize how nice it is not to have to sort through to find the file you're looking for, the choice becomes much easier.
We are getting a little ahead of ourselves here, though. First we have to see if the Super Talent Express RAM Cache lives up to its reputation and claimed performance.
As mentioned previously, the Super Talent Express RAM Cache comes in three capacity sizes; 16, 32 and 64GB. The drives work best with USB 3.0 ports, but are also backwards compatible with USB 2.0, so you won't find yourself out of luck when taking files to the office or a non-USB 3.0 capable PC. In the past we've seen USB 3.0 drives requiring extra power from another USB port, but that is not the case with the Express RAM Cache, it is powered from a single USB port.
On the specifications sheet we see that the Express RAM Cache has a 32MB cache buffer to smooth write operations - this is something we will have a look at during testing.
The data retention is claimed to be ten years, so there shouldn't any issue with longevity. The warranty only covers five years, though, so keep that in mind as your drive starts to age in a few years.
Super Talent doesn't make any super performance claims about their new Express RAM Cache, but they do have a couple of videos on their website that show the Express RAM Cache delivering 132MB/s read and 60.42MB/s write speeds in Crystal Disk Mark.
CDM is a great general performance benchmark, but it doesn't tell the whole story when testing a product.
To easily take a look at both the sequential read and write speed of the Express RAM Cache we used HD Tach. Here we see read speeds of over 110MB/s across the drive which is very good. What we didn't really like was how the drive writes data. In several benchmarks we observed the shark tooth effect; extreme highs and extreme lows. The average write speed in this test was a very respectable 47.8MB/s with peaks of over 75MB/s. The problem comes with the lows that on one occasion dipped below 10MB/s.
After our synthetic benchmarks it was time for some real world tests. In AS SSD, a true to life file transfer benchmark that copies data to and from the drive, we achieved scores that were lower than expected. The Program Test was the lowest in this round of testing with just under 8MB/s. This is actually slower than the fastest USB 2.0 thumb drive we tested in our Thumb Drive Roundup. This really goes to show that just because a drive can run at USB 3.0 speeds in synthetic tests, it doesn't mean it performs at higher speeds in real world scenarios.
Super Talent has done very well with their USB 3.0 thumb drive products and most have been top performers. The Express RAM Cache when released was the low cost offering and thus the lowest performing USB 3.0 drive in the Super Talent line up. The drive can run at USB 3.0 like speeds in some situations, but when asked to perform at the same pace with small file writes, the Express RAM Cache can slow down to mediocre USB 2.0 speeds.
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