Review: Two USB Type C thumb drives -- one from Lexar, one from SanDisk -- go head to head

USB Type-C thumb drives

The Lexar JumpDrive M20c USB Type-C (right) and the SanDisk Dual USB Drive Type-C (left).

Credit: Lucas Mearian

The SanDisk thumb drive is smaller and has a better overall design

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Even though the USB Type-C connector specification was released more than a year ago, you'll still be hard pressed to find smartphones or laptops with compatible ports.

While USB Type-C compatible devices are still rare, you can expect all devices to eventually adopt it, the Thunderbolt spec or both. USB devices, however, have vastly outpaced the others, with more than three billion USB ports shipped every year.

USB Type-C connectors use the USB 3.1 data and power delivery specification, which is twice as fast as USB 3.0 (up to 10Gbps) and offers up to 5 volts of charging electricity. While the first iteration of USB 3.1 will have a 5-volt power transfer rate, future products are expected to deliver up to 100 watts for higher power applications, such as powering televisions.

Another benefit with USB Type-C is its ease of use -- the connector and cables are reversible, so orientation isn't an issue.

USB type c slide Intel

The USB Type-C cables and port.

Companies making flash drives using Type-C connectors began announcing products in March.

SanDisk vs. Lexar

SanDisk (soon to be a Western Digital company) and Lexar (a Micron subsidiary), were both among the first companies to ship USB flash drives using the Type-C connector. Both companies offer 32GB of capacity and also offer a USB 3.0 connector for compatibility with common computer systems. Additionally, Lexar offers a 16GB and 64GB version of its drive.

Lexar has the JumpDrive M20c USB Type-C flash drive; SanDisk offers the Dual USB Drive Type-C.

dual drive type c SanDisk

SanDisk's Dual Drive Type-C thumb drive

SanDisk's thumb drive retails for $65, but it can be bought for $50 at B&H; the Lexar drive retails for $33.63, but it's not widely available. I was able to find it on sale at B&H for $21.35.

Right off the bat, I liked SanDisk's design better than Lexar's. SanDisk's thumb drive allows either a Type-C or USB 3.0 port to rotate on a hub out of a protective casing. Lexar's drive uses a thumb slide mechanism that extends either a Type-C or USB 3.0 out of either end of a grey case.

One advantage Lexar has is you can retract both connectors into the case, offering a level of protection from physical damage, But, the slide is flimsy and does accidentally extend one or the other connector while in your pocket.

Lexar's drive is also about twice as wide and about a third longer than SanDisk's thumb drive. SanDisk's drive dimensions are 1.7-in x .5-in x .7-in. Lexar's drive is 2.3-in x .9-in x .6-in in size.

Lexar's drive comes with a three-year warranty; SanDisk's has a two-year warranty. Both drives work natively with Windows or Mac OS.

Speed tests

Lexar's specifications show its JumpDrive has maximum read/write speeds of up to 150MB/s and 60MB/s, respectively. SanDisk's specifications don't reveal its read/write speeds.

To test the upload and download speed of the drives, I used a 1.8GB .mpeg file (Star Wars). I tested the two thumb drives using a new MacBook with a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor.

Lexar USB Type-C thumb drive Lucas Mearian

JumpDrive M20c USB Type-C thumb drive.

The Lexar uploaded the file to the MacBook in a blazing 12 seconds. I then downloaded it from the MacBook to the drive, which took considerably longer: 45 seconds.

The SanDisk drive's read/write speeds were more alike. The drive needed 26 seconds to upload the movie from the drive to the MacBook, and 31 seconds to download it from the laptop to the drive.

The Type-C USB port is expected to be available on 12% of smartphones in 2016, according to research firm IDC. So, I also tested the thumbdrive by downloading the 1.81GB .mpeg file to a Nexus 6P smartphone, which uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1 processor.

I was surprised at how slow the transfer was; it took the Lexar 4 minutes and 47 seconds to move Star Wars onto the smartphone. The transfer speeds varied between 4.4MB/s to 7.8MB/s, considerably slower than USB 3.1's 10Gbps advertised speed. The SanDisk took 4.49 seconds to upload the movie and ranged from 4.3MB/s to 10.3MB/s transfer speeds.

Overall, the Lexar easily outperformed the SanDisk drive in upload times, but was slower on the downloads. I did like the design of the SanDisk thumb drive more than the Lexar, but that's personal preference. When it comes to price, Lexar has SanDisk beat by a mile. While both thumbdrives appear to be high quality devices, based on cost and performance, if it were my money I'd be laying it down for the Lexar thumbdrive.

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