Grade A USB Sticks – A Marketing Myth

Would you pay the same price for a car with a 950cc engine as you would for a car that has a 1.6 Litre engine?  Would you pay the same price (or very close to it) if the car with the smaller engine has been manufactured from cheaper components, some of which might have been rejected from another car in a different factory?

Of course the decision will be made much harder if they both will look the same and the performance quoted by the garage selling the cars is identical or very similar. After all, they’ll both have a nice shiny paint finish, the interior will look smart and they’ll both have all the same basic features BUT when you start to drive them you’ll notice a huge difference in performance and efficiency.

If the car with the smaller engine has been put together on the production line using rejected or “cheaper” components then not only will the performance be adversely affected but it’s unlikely to last very long and any warranty is only any good if the garage you’ve bought it from.

The way to avoid these issues is to buy reputable cars from a trusted dealership. Let’s face it most people who buy cars are not mechanics and they rely on the honesty of the dealers and the reviews of 3 party organisations and other customers.

The same can be said about buying promotional USB memory sticks – on the face of it a USB Stick like the popular Twister Model looks the same wherever you buy it from – surely it’s just a case of shopping around and getting the best price?

In reality unless you’re not bothered about the quality and performance of the sticks you’re buying nothing could be further from the truth. It’s also pointless relying on the description “Grade A” because this is a meaningless “marketing label” dreamt up by the industry and now widely abused.

If you accept that externally USB sticks look the same then what you need to know is what “engine” has been used inside the stick and whether it’s a “new engine” or one that’s been clocked. But, even if you know to ask this how can you tell what you’ve been supplied with when the USB sticks arrive?

Here are some basic pointers to help you ask the right questions and to help you to check what you’re buying (and what ultimately gets delivered):

1. There are 3 different types of USB flash memory and controllers that are used in most USB memory sticks and ALL of them tend to be described as Grade A but they are very different in terms of quality/performance.  They are categorised as follows:

  • SLC – Single Layer Cell (Best quality and usually used by Major High Street brands)
  • MLC – Multi Layer Cell (Slower than SLC but pretty good quality and more than adequate for all promotional use)
  • TLC Triple Layer Cell (Cheapest option, often referred to as Grade A, tends to be slow and has much shorter expected life than other options and a high failure rate. Not recommended for photographers or anyone handling large files with complex file structures - quite often “masked” to look like the memory is greater than it actually is!

2. When comparing quotes from various suppliers it’s pointless relying on the description “Grade A” because they all get described as Grade A – you need to know the type of memory used and they type of controller used (this is a chip that sits alongside the memory and controls the read/write function – again these come in different quality grades). Don’t be afraid to ask these questions. Any reputable supplier will know (should know) the answers and if they don’t then alarm bells should ring.

3. When you’re satisfied that you know exactly what you’re being quoted for then you need to think about how you check your order when it arrives. You need to check that you’ve been supplied what you paid for. Don’t be taken in by how good the printed USB sticks look. You can do this by taking a sample of the USB sticks and running the following checks:

  • Plug them into a PC and check the capacity is what you ordered
  • Load data files to the capacity of the drive and then remove the drive and plug it into anther PC – if the data is not there then it’s likely the USB sticks have been masked and don’t contain the amount of storage you’ve bought.
  • Load large video files onto the USB sticks and then run the video files from the sticks – the video should run without the image breaking up or appearing “jerky”
  • Use any of the freely available software on the web to check the speed and performance of the USB sticks.

4. Finally, do some basic checks before you order and before you hand over any money. Some obvious but basic checks include:

  • Check 3rd party review sites for other customer reviews
  • Carry out a basic credit reference check – these only cost a few pounds and are worth it if you’re ordering a reasonable number of USB sticks – it will give you lots of detail about the company’s trading history, its directors and trading address.
  • Check their address on Google Maps – it’s surprising how many businesses look like large, well established businesses based on their web site but are actually operating from a shed in a garden.
  • Read the Terms & Conditions of supply to make sure you are clear what you (and the supplier) are committing to.

Unless you really aren’t bothered about the quality of the product that going to be supplied to you then the onus is on you to ask these question and to do your research. USB sticks described as “Grade A” sound great but so what. The reality is that this is just a fancy “label” dreamy up by marketers to help sell their products.

Top Quality Promotional USB Memory Sticks from USB2U

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