How we test
Our testing includes two stages: performance benchmarking and a toughness test. We test the performance of each drive by copying two folders - each 5GB in size, but one made up of small files and one containing large files - and time the results. We test each device three times. After each test, we restart the PC to prevent file caching between tests. All the USB Flash Drives on test came pre-formatted with the FAT32 (File Allocation Table 32-bit) file system.
For the toughness assessment we simulate the sort of potentially damaging scenarios a USB Flash Drive could encounter in daily life. Due to their tiny size, USB Flash Drives tend to get carried in pockets and on keychains. They also tend to get dropped, left in clothes that go through the wash; left locked in a car (where interior temperatures can exceed 60 degrees C); and possibly even dropped on a road or in a car park and run over – a scenario that happened to one of our testers recently!
We put all the drives through a simulation of these possibilities. We drop test them repeatedly from 1.5m; put them through a washing machine cycle (complete with detergent) followed by a clothes dryer cycle; bake them in an oven for an hour at 60 degrees C; and then finally run over them with a small car.
Surprisingly, some of the cheaper drives survived all this and some of the “ruggedised” models did not. Of those that survived, some had squashed connectors which, once plied open with a flat-bladed screwdriver, worked ok again. See the Durability table below for full results.
Survivers that didn't
When a product is packed in an ultra-rugged casing and called Survivor, you would expect it to be pretty tough on the inside as well as the outside. However, despite the boastful name, the Corsair Survivor 16GB device proved far less robust than expected. Two Survivor 16GB models “died” during the initial file transfer performance tests - done before any durability testing. The unexpected demise of the first drive prompted us to purchase a replacement from a different supplier, but it also perished during initial file-transfer tests.
To make sure this wasn't an endemic problem, we then bought a third 16GB model and this time the file transfer tests completed. The performance testing results in our table represent this third 16GB model.
Calls to Corsair's support line didn't yield a satisfactory resolution to the issue and, at time of writing, we have not received an official response to our request for an explanation. Our testing shows that it's not just the external casing that must be “rugged” - the internal chipset can still fail during everyday usage.
What about ExFat?
Though all the drives on test are formatted with FAT32 by default, we wanted to see how the performance would be impacted - if at all - by formatting a 16GB USB Flash Drive with the relatively new ExFAT file system. ExFAT, or Extended File Allocation Table, was introduced with Windows Vista to replace FAT32 (File Allocation Table 32-bit) and help handle larger file and volume sizes. The benefits of ExFAT are seen more easily on large volumes (over 32GB) but for this test, ExFAT made hardly any difference to our test drive, being a bit faster in some areas but slower in others.