I checked out this $14 USB flash drive and was in for a quick surprise

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Hands on PNY Elite-X Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 1 Flash Drive

PNY Elite-X Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 1 Flash Drive.

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ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • I am an experiment 128GB PNY Elite-X Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 1 Flash DriveAvailable on Amazon for just $14.
  • Excellent writing speed, solid performer, and powerful enough to stay attached to the keys.
  • The slip-slide cover on the USB-C connector can be difficult, and there’s no built-in hardware encryption.

It’s strange to still think about USB flash drives – let alone in 2024 – but they remain the fastest and most convenient way to transfer data between systems. Sure, I can beam the data through the cloud as a string of zeros and ones, but that soon becomes cumbersome when gigabytes of data need to be moved.

This is why USB flash drives are still relevant. The PNY Elite-X Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 1 Flash Drive It’s a decent drive for anyone looking for one in 2024, and it features an unexpected twist.

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What is that twist? To find out, we need to take a closer look at the packaging.

PNY Elite-X Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 1 Flash Drive

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PNY Elite-X Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 1 Flash Drive

Notice how the packaging quotes the drive read speed at 200MB/s. That’s pretty fast for a USB flash drive, but I usually expect real-world speeds to be less than that. Ten percent less would be acceptable in my books, but I’ve seen much bigger gaps between quoted and actual speeds.

Surprisingly with the Elite-X, during testing, I recorded read speeds that were faster — about 15% faster — than quoted speeds, which was an unusual but rather pleasant surprise.

What is reading speed? This is the speed at which your computer or Android device can access data If the reading speed is too slow, you won’t be able to play media files stored on the drive and accessing large files becomes a chore.

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And it’s not just video. I’ve saved some large image files to the drive — between 100 and 200MB — and they load almost instantly into Adobe Photoshop.

Well done to PNY for quoting realistic performance data and engineering a fast drive.

Benchmarking the PNY Elite-X with the Blackmagic Disk Speed ​​Test

Benchmarking the PNY Elite-X with the BlackMagic Disk Speed ​​Test showed that real-world read speeds were about 15% faster than the quoted 200MB/s.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Writing speed is not that important. It doesn’t matter if it takes a minute or two to load the file to the drive. This is not critical and does not affect the drive’s usability.

But this drive is a slouch at write speeds — don’t let me give you that idea — I copied a 650MB file to the drive in about 13 seconds.

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The drive has a sleek, modern design and fits well with modern devices. It looks like the part is plugged into my MacBook Pro or my Android smartphone or tablet.

PNY Elite-X's sleek design fits well with modern devices.

PNY Elite-X’s sleek design fits well with modern devices.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

PNY has put thought into securing the USB-C connector. Instead of using a removable cap that can get lost, the Elite-X uses a sliding mechanism that covers the connector, protecting it from damage.

The upside is that there’s nothing to lose (I don’t know about you, but I can lose those caps in minutes). The downsides are that the slider can be a bit awkward to use and doesn’t protect the port from dirt.

PNY Elite-X USB-C Flash Drive closeup

The sliding mechanism protecting the USB-C connector is a welcome upgrade to the removable caps that many manufacturers use.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

The drive is encased in hard plastic and has a glossy black piano finish that resists scratches and scuffs quite well. A loop is built into the end to attach the drive to the keys, which is a nice touch. It’s apparently pretty hard, since I haven’t cracked it yet.

PNY Elite-X

The PNY Elite-X has a glossy black finish that does a good job of resisting scratches.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

128GB of storage is also enough for a flash drive. If you need more than that, I’d recommend getting an external SSD, which will provide more flexibility and performance.

Note that there is no hardware encryption built into the drive — you won’t get that for $15! — and if you want that you have to buy something like that Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3NXWhich will cost ten times more.

ZDNET’s buying advice

For $14, PNY Elite-X USB-C A nice flash drive. It’s sleek and modern, and the USB-C connector makes it perfect for running more modern devices where USB-A and microUSB ports are a thing of the past.

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I’m using mine as a repository for Adobe Photoshop files that I transfer between systems. The drive isn’t super fast, but for small edits or tweaks to an image, it’s fast enough that I don’t have to copy files from the drive to use it.

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