Kioxia U301 128GB USB Flash Drive Reviewed

As chance would have it, I had purchased a smaller version of these flash drives in order to act as install media from my laptops.

So, when Kioxia offered to chuck one my way I figured I’d be somewhat prepared to give it a once over.

Of course, I still have to find something to say about what’s effectively a commodity item so thoroughly uninteresting to the average person that I might have difficulty keeping you- dear reader- awake.

In truth there was just one thing that drew me to the Kioxia USB flash drive: the price. Back in August 2020 I paid a whole £3.59 for 16GB (now £3.48 at time of writing). It was the best tradeoff of price and… well… not looking like those crappy ones that get stamped with company logos and handed out like candy. Now 32GB is £3.98, and the tested U301 128GB drive is around £22. At these prices there’s no excuse not to have one handy for file backups or just good ol’ sneakernet. But are they actually any good?

Kioxia’s U301 flash drive makes bold claims of USB 3.2 Gen 1 support which implies a theoretical transfer speed of 5Gbps. That’s 625MB/s and I’ll forgive you for jumping to the conclusion that Kioxia’s U301 drive comes nowhere near this speed… because you’d be right. In practise – tested with CrystalDiskMark writing 2GiB over 5 iterations – the U301 manages a read speed peaking at 224MB/s sequential and an absolutely miserable write speed of 28MB/s. Both of these are sequential speeds that occur when writing or reading large, single files.

The small (4K) speeds top out at 13MB/s read and… basically 0.1MB/s write. If you’re planning to back up – for example – a directory full of code to this drive, you’d better be prepared to zip it first. To put this to the test I copied over a modest – 100MB – local clone of a git repository with roughly 10,000 files and topped out at around 200KB/s with the occasional peak up to 500KB/s (and even very briefly 1.7MB/s) for larger files. The total operation took around 6 minutes- a heck of a wait if you want to copy, grab and go! The same directory zipped (granted it compressed down to 40MB) copied in just under two seconds. This is totally and completely normal for flash memory, but hey- I need to find something to say so here we are! Maybe zip disks need to make a comeback backed with flash?

While it doesn’t meet the lofty claims of “USB 3.2 Gen 1” emblazoned across its surface, Koxia’s U301 flash drive is an unassuming, cheap and cheerful choice for backup, toting files around or using in conjunction with something like Ventoy as a multi-ISO installer for various operating systems.

If you need a flash drive, it’s a solid choice. A decent size, robust, a small lanyard loop and not atrocious performance. To get the best out of scattered file backups you should zip them first. But maybe that’s a sensible thing to do anyway!

As for mine? I filled it with music, ROMs, Pingu and Twirlywoos episodes and used it in the TV for on-demand entertainment without the hassle of negotiating the streaming service menus or being at the mercy for what content the gods of media deigned to make available on any given day.