Buy Cheap USB Flash Drives But Beware Of The Issues

When you’re in the market for USB flash drives and you go out and get various quotes how do you ensure when comparing the quotes that you are comparing “apples to apples”.

Simply asking for quotes on say 500 x 1GB USB flash drives printed with a 2 colour logo on a Twister Style USB flash drive is likely to result in quite a spread of prices. Some of this will be down to the different margins that each supplier works on, some of it will be down to pricing for “extras” like print set up, data-loading, boxes, lanyards etc. but some of the difference can be down to the quality of the flash you’re likely to be supplied with.

Determining the quality of the USB flash drives you are being quoted on can be incredibly tough, particularly if you’ve not bought USB flash drives before. The problem is that from the outside a basic Twister 1GB USB flash drive looks much like any other basic 1GB Twister USB flash drive but if you were to examine the core components inside the flash drive (assuming you know what you are looking for) then you might be surprised at the differences.

The key components inside each USB drive are the flash memory chip, the controller (which is the “brains” and issues instructions to the flash memory), and the capacitor which manager the power. Each of these components are available in from different manufactures and as you might expect there are “cheap” low spec versions available as well as high performance versions.

Some suppliers of USB flash drives will quote prices based on “bottom end” internal components whereas others, recognising the issues they create and being concerned about their reputation and the reputation of their client will only quote for mid-range to top-end components.

It’s not unheard of for some suppliers to also supply “masked” USB flash drives. These are 1GB drives that might only have a real storage capacity on them of 600MB – difficult to spot because when they are plugged into a PC they will show 1GB of space available but if you write more than 600MB of data to the drives these files will fail!

USB Flash Drives

Masked USB flash chips are much cheaper to buy because they are typically chips that have been rejected by the factories that make them because but they are sold in the “grey” market as “B” or “C” Grade chips and then typically find their way into the promotional flash drive market.

If you end up buying cheap USB flash drives that have been assembled using “masked USB flash chips”, a cheap controller and a cheap capacitor then you can expect the drives to have a high failure rate, very poor read/write speeds and a short life span. For some companies who are looking to buy on price and price alone this won’t be an issue because they are willing to accept a high failure rate – typically these are companies buying promotional give-aways where a degree of failure is acceptable.

But, if you are looking to hand your printed USB flash drives out to your staff, your pupils or important clients/prospects and you want the drives to be used and have a reasonable life then you should be aware of these potential issues and you should ask some hard questions of your suppliers based not just on what the flash drives look like on the outside but what components are used on the inside.

Ideally, ensure you get some guarantees on the grade of chipset being used and check the credentials of the supplier.

As with everything in life you get what you pay for and printed and promotional USB flash drives are no exception!

Share story