Branded USB Memory – When Is A Chip Not A Chip?

This is the first in a series of top tips to consider when purchasing Branded USB Memory Sticks.

With the growing popularity of Branded USB Memory sticks, there are a number of providers springing up to support this. However, there is a hidden issue that any potential buyer needs to be aware of, that not all providers are that transparent with.

USB Memory Chipsets

In essence there are 3 components to any Branded USB Memory sticks, the flash chip (the brains), the circuit board and the body of the USB Memory stick itself.

Whilst the circuit board and body are pretty standard across the industry, there is a wide variation of USB Flash chips. In summary these can be classified as follows:

Grade A: Original ‘branded’ USB flash chips

USB Flash Memory

These flash chips are made by leading global brands such as Samsung, Hynix, Intel, Micro. They will print their name and unique series number on each chip.

These are tested to a high QA tolerance and come with a full warranty. They are the most reliable, but come at a premium price and are the most expensive USB Flash chips in the market.

Grade B: OEM flash chips

These USB flash chips are made from the main chip providers, but do not carry any branding or warranties. They are as reliable as the branded flash chips, but come at a discounted rate.

Grade C: Downgraded flash chips

There is a wastage of chips from the main manufactures, from a combination of the chip cutting process and QA failures. These are sold in bulk to third parties, who aim to recycle and sell on. There is a high failure rate on these USB Memory sticks, up to 40% in some instances. However the low price also reflects this.

Faulty USB Chipset

Grade D: Masked chips

Finally we have fake / counterfeits USB Memory chips. This is when port quality chips are programmed to mask the real size of the memory. For example, a memory stick may show that it is 1Gb, but could actually be a 128Mb chip. The only way that a user would find out the problem exists is if they try to load data that is over the actual chip capacity. The prices offered are extremely low and reflect the cost of the actual chip set used.

So in summary, ensure the supplier informs you in writing what type of chip they are providing. If it is a mission critical or high profile project, it’s worth paying for Grade A branded chip. However, Grade B would suffice for most promotional campaigns.

One final point if the price for the USB Memory sticks sound too good to be true or out of sync with other quotes then there is a high probability of them being Grade C or D chips.

Next in the series- Tip 2 – The dangers of  loading data onto USB Memory sticks.

Share story