Beware Cheap Promotional USB Flash Drives

If you’re in the market for some promotional USB flash drives then you’re likely to be shopping around and getting a few quotes from the numerous suppliers of flash drives that have sprung up over the last year or so.

Getting a few quotes for comparison purposes is exactly the right thing to do but the big challenge is how do you know when you get the prices back that you are really comparing “apples to apples”. On the face of you’d expect a 1GB USB flash drive from one supplier to be the same as a 1GB flash drive from another supplier but actually nothing could be further from the truth.

Within the promotional flash drive market the memory sticks supplied come in a wide range of grades and standards and unless you know what to ask for you could find that one supplier is quoting for USB flash drives that use top quality Grade A original flash whilst another (likely to be significantly cheaper) is quoting for USB flash drives that use Grade D cheap and cheerful “masked” or fake flash chips.

Of course when the printed and boxed USB flash drives arrive it’s incredibly difficult to tell whether the flash drives have been produced with Grade A or Grade D flash chips – they might look fantastic, the print job could be excellent and the packing might be exactly as you specified but how do you tell if you’ve been duped and supplied with inferior goods.

Ideally the time to deal with these questions is at the start of the procurement process by spelling out to the suppliers you approach exactly what you expect from your USB flash drives. If you need a high performance product that uses named original flash drive memory chips from companies like Samsung, Hynix or Micro then you need to specify this.

If you simply ask for a price for say 100 X 1GB USB flash drives then you leave it up to your supplier to interpret what standard of flash you either need or they can get away with quoting you for!

If you do end up with USB flash drives built around Grade D flash chips and cheap flash controllers then you can expect the following:

  • The flash drives are highly unlikely to have the amount of storage on them that you have purchased. In other words they will be something like a 512MB made to look like they are 1GB (masked) – when you insert them into the PC and check the “properties” of the flash drive they will appear as 1GB disks but if you try and load over 512MB onto the sticks and then take them out and re-insert them, then anything over say 500MB won’t appear.
  • The read/write speeds will be very slow which may be a problem if you are loading large amounts of data onto the drives before you hand them out to your customers.
  • The expected life (the number of read/write cycles) of the flash drives will be poor and the failure rate will be high.
  • The customer experience using them will be disappointing, they may not work, if they do work they will be slow and they won’t have the amount of space of the drive that they were expecting – not the sort of experience you want to associate with your brand.

So, when deciding whom to place your order for promotional USB flash drives with don’t just be lead price unless you do so in the full knowledge of the possible consequences. Ideally choose a company that has an establish pedigree and can point to lots of repeat business and will offer guarantees and warranties on their products that have some meaningful recourse.

Buying on price and price alone is an easy option but to do so is to ignore the complexities and risks of what should, on the face of it, be a simple and safe transaction.

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