Super Talent Express DUO USB 3.0 Flash Drive

Wednesday, 09 February 2011 10:07
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Model: Super Talent Express DUO USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Manufacturer: Super Talent
Provided By: Reader Donations

As the world's sixth largest memory module brand, Super Talent doesn't need much of an introduction. Headquartered in San Jose, California, the company has been designing and manufacturing memory products for more than 20 years. Along with a full range of DRAM memory modules for desktops, laptops and servers, Super Talent offers an assortment of flash-based data storage products including memory cards, solid state drives (SSDs) and USB flash drives.

While computers with USB 3.0 ports are still few and far between, that hasn't stopped Super Talent from embracing this new technology. Over the last year or so, the company has introduced a number of USB 3.0 flash drives. In addition to providing transfer speeds up to 10x faster than USB 2.0, these drives are available with a variety of features including on-board caching and hardware-based encryption.

The latest addition to Super Talent's USB 3.0 family is the Express DUO. Available in capacities ranging from 8GB up to 32GB, the Express DUO offers USB 3.0 performance at a USB 2.0 price. When plugged into a USB 3.0 port, the drive is capable of reading at 67 MB/s and writing at speeds up to 25 MB/s. The Express DUO is also backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and is powered completely off a computer's USB bus. Best of all, the drive is covered by a five-year warranty.

  Super Talent Express DUO USB 3.0 Flash Drive
General Specifications
Capacities 8GB, 16GB, 32GB
NAND Flash Multi-Level Cell (MLC)
Dimensions 67.8 x 17.2 x 7.7 mm
Interface USB 3.0

Performance
Sequential Read 67 MB/s Max
Sequential Write 25 MB/s Max

Reliability
MTBF +1 million hours
Data Integrity 10 years

Environmental
Operating Temperature 0 to 50 ºC
Shock 1500G, 3 axis
Vibration 16G, each axis

Other Features
USB bus powered
Backwards compatible with USB 2.0
Single storage partition
5 year warranty

Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the Express DUO has to offer. To give you an idea of what to expect, we'll take a closer look at Super Talent's new USB 3.0 flash drive and then see how well it performs. Does the Express DUO have what it takes? Is it the best bang for your buck? Keep reading as we find out.


Packaging:

The Express DUO comes packaged in a cardboard blister pack. This type of packaging is not only more eco-friendly than the plastic clamshells that most USB flash drives come in, it can be opened without the need for a sharp knife or razor.

Super Talent has cut costs somewhat by using the same blue and black cardboard backing across all of the drives in the USB 3.0 Express line. As a result there is very little information in regards to the Express DUO's features and specifications.

Physical Features:

While not the largest flash drive to come through the 'Labs, the Express DUO definitely isn't the smallest either. Measuring 67.8mm long, 17.2mm wide and 7.7mm thick, it's about the size of a pack of gum. While you probably wouldn't want it hanging off of your keychain, it easily fits in a pocket or purse.

The body of the Express DUO is constructed of lightweight, blue plastic. The drive also sports some chrome highlights, a bright blue LED and a loop where you can attach it to your key ring. Unfortunately, the cap used to protect the USB connector cannot be stored on the opposite end when the drive is in use.

One thing I should point out is that the build quality of the Express DUO is no where near the drives from companies like SanDisk and Kingston. The USB connector and chrome end piece on my drive were already loose when it came out of the packaging. That being said, the drive has held up fairly well to every day use and the two pieces have not gotten any looser.


Installation:

As with most USB flash drives, the Super Talent Express DUO was very easy to install. Those running Windows XP, Vista or 7 can simply plug the drive into any available USB 2.0 or 3.0 port on their computer. If the computer is already turned on, plug and play will automatically detect the drive.

If installed correctly, the Express DUO should show up in the Device Manager. Under Windows 7, the drive is identified as an "STT USB Device".

The Express DUO comes formatted with FAT32, giving the 8GB model about 7.30GB of usable space. If you plan to store files larger than 4GB in size, you'll want to convert or reformat the drive with NTFS.


Performance:

The test system used in this review was an HP dc7900. The computer came equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz CPU, 2GB of DDR2 800MHz memory, Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250310AS 250GB SATA hard drive, NVIDIA Quadro FX570 256MB PCIe graphics card and Intel 82567LM-3 gigabit network card. For the operating system, I installed a fresh copy of Windows 7 Enterprise.

To test the performance of the Super Talent Express DUO, I ran a series of benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark 3.0, HD Tach RW 3.0.4.0, ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46 and SiSoftware Sandra Lite 2010.SP2. To get a feel for the drive's "real world" performance, I also copied and pasted 500MB of random files and directories in Windows Explorer.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0:

First, I ran a few quick tests using CrystalDiskMark. This benchmark tool measures the performance of a storage device by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its random read and write speeds using blocks 512K and 4K in size.


Super Talent Express DUO - USB 3.0

Super Talent Express DUO - USB 2.0

According to Super Talent, the Express DUO is capable of reading at 67 MB/s when reading. When connected to the computer's USB 3.0 port, the drive had no problems reaching that speed in our tests. Using USB 3.0 didn't have much of an effect on the Express DUO's write speeds though. In both cases, it maxed out at 16 MB/s.

HD Tach RW 3.0.4.0:

Next, I used HD Tach to test the Express DUO's read, write and burst speeds as well as its seek times and CPU usage.

When connected to the computer's USB 3.0 port, the Express DUO had average read and write speeds of 67.0 MB/s and 20.4 MB/s, respectively, as well as a burst speed of 68.6 MB/s. Using USB 2.0 didn't have much of an effect on the drive's write speeds. However, its read speeds dropped by nearly half.

ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46:

I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the Express DUO's sequential read and write speeds. The test was run using blocks ranging in size from 0.5KB to 8192KB and the total length set to 256MB.


Super Talent Express DUO - USB 3.0

Super Talent Express DUO - USB 2.0

When tested with ATTO, the Express DUO's read speeds topped out at about 67 MB/s and its write speeds at 20 MB/s.

SiSoft Sandra File System Benchmark:

While I am not a big fan of SiSoftware Sandra's optical drive benchmarks, it is a great tool if you want to test a system's performance quickly and easily. One of Sandra's more useful tests is the File System benchmark. This benchmark gives each drive an overall score, or "Drive Index," based on the results of its read and write tests.

   Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 3.0
Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 2.0
SanDisk Ultra
Backup
Kingston
 DT Locker+
Drive Index: 53.00 MB/s 30.17 MB/s 17.60 MB/s 18.55 MB/s
Buffered Read: 54.88 MB/s 33.28 MB/s 20.48 MB/s 21.10 MB/s
Sequential Read: 64.00 MB/s 35.36 MB/s 20.00 MB/s 22.23 MB/s
Random Read: 63.22 MB/s 35.12 MB/s 20.00 MB/s 22.00 MB/s
Buffered Write: 11.68 MB/s 9.64 MB/s 895 MB/s 2.30 MB/s
Sequential Write: 15.52 MB/s 15.44 MB/s 11.26 MB/s 6.00 MB/s
Random Write: 1.49 MB/s 1.36 MB/s 2.30 MB/s 1.70 MB/s

SiSoftware Sandra Removable Storage/Flash Devices Benchmark:

Designed with removable storage and flash devices in mind, this benchmark tests a drive's read, write and delete performance using six different file sizes (512 Bytes, 32kB, 256kB, 2MB, 64MB and 256MB).  The results are then given in both operations per minute and the corresponding net transfer rate in MB/second. This benchmark also computes an "Endurance Factor," representing the wear and life expectancy of flash devices.

   Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 3.0
Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 2.0
SanDisk Ultra
Backup
Kingston
DT Locker+
512B Read: 0.339 MB/s 0.284 MB/s 0.811 MB/s 0.806 MB/s
32kB Read: 30.79 MB/s 14.33 MB/s 15.56 MB/s 14.28 MB/s
256kB Read: 58.73 MB/s 30.43 MB/s 20.27 MB/s 19.52 MB/s
2MB Read: 63.00 MB/s 34.47 MB/s 20.27 MB/s 20.00 MB/s
64MB Read: 64.00 MB/s 35.20 MB/s 21.33 MB/s 20.27 MB/s
256MB Read: 64.00  MB/s 34.13 MB/s 21.33 MB/s 21.33 MB/s

The Express DUO was a little slower than the drives from SanDisk and Kingston when reading 32kB files. Nevertheless, it performed very well when reading larger files, reaching a maximum speed of 64 MB/s.

   Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 3.0
Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 2.0
SanDisk Ultra
Backup
Kingston
DT Locker+
512B Write: 0.030 MB/s 0.029  MB/s 0.014 MB/s 0.045 MB/s
32kB Write: 1.63 MB/s 1.17 MB/s 0.86  MB/s 1.20  MB/s
256kB Write: 8.65 MB/s 7.90  MB/s 3.00  MB/s 5.57 MB/s
2MB Write: 7.83 MB/s 6.90  MB/s 2.77 MB/s 3.37 MB/s
64MB Write: 13.87 MB/s 13.87 MB/s 5.33 MB/s 9.60 MB/s
256MB Write: 12.80 MB/s 12.80 MB/s 4.27 MB/s 8.53 MB/s

While there were a few cases where the Express DUO lagged behind the other drives, it had a clear advantage when writing larger files.

   Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 3.0
Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 2.0
SanDisk Ultra
Backup
Kingston
DT Locker+
Combined Index: 97.92 77.73 80.48 58.10
512B Files Test: 134.89 127.37 84.72 242.45
32kB Files Test: 123.68 92.13 73.40 107.52
256kB Files Test: 80.98 58.57 30.03 46.70
2MB Files Test: 10.40 7.97 3.60 4.18
64MB Files Test: 0.48 0.4 0.18 0.25
256MB Files Test: 0.12 0.1 0.05 0.07

As I mentioned above, Sandra also expresses performance in operations per minute. To keep things simple, I've limited the results to the combined index and the total number of read/write/delete operations for each file size.

   Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 3.0
Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 2.0
SanDisk Ultra
Backup
Kingston
DT Locker+
Endurance Factor: 16.80 16.40 64.30 2.20

The Endurance Factor represents the wear and life expectancy of a flash device. According to SiSoft, this number is computed by "dividing the average performance (normal condition, i.e. sequential write) to the lowest performance (high-stress condition, i.e. same block re-write)."

"Real World" Benchmark:

To test the "real world" performance of Super Talent's new flash drive, I copied and pasted 500 MB worth of randomly generated files and directories. All of the files are between 10 bytes and 32MB in size and no more than four directories deep.

   Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 3.0
Super Talent
Express Duo - USB 2.0
SanDisk Ultra
 Backup
Kingston
DT Locker+
Write: 2:48 2:49 3:22 2:50
Read: 13 seconds 20 seconds 32 seconds 31 seconds

The Express DUO performed very well here, taking less than 3 minutes to write our test data and a mere 13 seconds to read it back.

Final Thoughts:

If you're looking for the best bang for your buck, the Express DUO just might be it. While not the fastest USB 3.0 flash drive in Super Talent's lineup, the Express DUO performed very well in our tests, reading at 67 MB/s and writing at speeds up to 20 MB/s. The drive's read speeds dropped by nearly half when plugged into a USB 2.0 port. However, it was still faster than most of the flash drives we've tested.

Aside from the fact that you can't store the Express DUO's cap on the opposite end when in use, my only real issue is the drive's construction. Given, this is a budget priced drive and its not going to be bulletproof. However, things like the USB connector shouldn't be loose right out of the packaging. Thankfully, the Express DUO is backed by a 5 year warranty so if it would fall apart, you should be covered.

The Express DUO is available now in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB capacities with suggested retail prices ranging from $14 to $59 depending on the size.

Highs:

Lows:



Tags: Super Talent  Express  Express DUO  USB 3.0  USB  flash drive  SuperSpeed  review  affordable  

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