Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate 32GB USB3 DTU30

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
October 27, 2010
Manufacturer
Kingston
Product Page
DT Ultimate
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51230
Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate 32GB USB3 DTU30
With read speeds of 80MB/s and writes of 60MB/s, this is the fastest flash drive we have tested.

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Page 1
Introduction

Sure, a flash drive review. What could possibly be so interesting about another flash drive? This one supports USB3 and comes with much faster speeds than USB2. Kingston's DataTraveler Ultimate is their first foray into USB3 and it comes packed with lots of storage. We've got the 32GB version on the bench today and it packs a very large jump in performance over USB2.

About Kingston

Quote

Founded in 1987 with a single product offering, Kingston now offers more than 2,000 memory products that support nearly every device that uses memory, from computers, servers and printers to MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile phones. In 2009, the company's sales reached $4.1 billion.

With global headquarters in Fountain Valley, California, Kingston employs more than 4,000 people worldwide. Regarded as one of the “Best Companies to Work for in America” by Fortune magazine, Kingston’s tenets of respect, loyalty, flexibility and integrity create an exemplary corporate culture. Kingston believes that investing in its people is essential, and each employee is a vital part of Kingston’s success.

Kingston serves an international network of distributors, resellers, retailers and OEM customers on six continents. The company also provides contract manufacturing and supply chain management services for semiconductor manufacturers and system OEMs.

http://www.kingston.com/company/default.asp


Packaging

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Kingston's retail packaging is very distinct for their consumer grade lines. It is very Apple-esque and is bathed in white and silver with the red Kingston dude. The front of the packaging contains the transfer speed expectations. With USB3, the DT Ultimate tops at 80MB/s on reads and 60MB/s on writes. This is better than many traditional hard drives today!

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The back of the packaging contains an additional cable to work with USB2 (more on that later). The DataTraveler is listed to work on Windows, but will work on any OS that has a proper xHCI stack (or USB2 mass storage support).
Page 2
Specification

  • Capacities – 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
  • Requirements – system with USB 3.0 port
  • Fast – data transfer rates for USB 3.0 to 80MB/sec. read and 60MB/sec. write; USB 2.0 = 30MB/sec. read and 30MB/sec. write
  • Backwards compatible*** – with USB 2.0.
  • Dimensions – 2.90" x 0.87" x 0.63" (73.70mm x 22.20mm x 16.10mm)
  • Operating Temperature – 32° to 140°F (0° to 60°C)
  • Storage Temperature – -4° to 185°F (-20° to 85°C)
  • Simple – just plug into a USB port
  • Practical – durable casing with a solid lanyard loop
  • Guaranteed – five-year warranty
  • Newegg Link, Amazon Link


Marketing Summary

Quote

The DTU30 is the perfect solution for easily storing and quickly transferring all your documents, high resolution photos, HD video, and more. It’s exceptionally fast and easy to let you keep data with you wherever you go.

USB 3.0 offers the same ease-of-use and plug and play capabilities as previous generations of USB technologies but with a performance increase and better power management. This USB 3.0 drive is backwards compatible with USB 2.0***.

DTU30 is backed by 24.7 tech support, a five-year warranty and legendary Kingston® reliability.

http://www.kingston.com/flash/dtU30.asp


About USB3

Since this is the first flash drive with USB3 we are reviewing, we'll be going a bit into what makes USB3 different than the older versions. Remember the plug for USB/USB2? It has four conductors on every connector. It has been that way since the first USB devices came out. USB2 carried a theoretical bandwidth of 480Mbit/s which works out to 60MB/s, but it never turned out that high since the protocol overhead comes into play as well as other factors. USB2 supports half-duplex connections. Only the host controller or the device can talk at once, but not at the same time. The host controller determined the direction of data flow.

USB3 is more than just a speed upgrade. It contains new signaling pins. It has an additional 4 used pins (plus a shielded pin for grounding) and uses differential signaling (think of SCSI) to get improved performance. Unlike Serial ATA, USB2 was a dead end for speed. With USB3, the physical connections are the same, but since there are electrical differences, a USB2 extension cable won't extend a USB3 device at USB3 speeds. USB3 has a theoretical bandwidth of 4800Mbit/s which is ten times faster than the older version. In addition, USB3 ups the power for high draining devices to 900mA. Most charging cables and adapters use more than that already (from a power source). If you have an A-B cable for USB3, it will not fit into a USB2 B port. This is pretty much the only physical change with USB3. Host cables (A) will fit fine, regardless of the type.

USB3 is dubbed SuperSpeed. SuperSpeed allows a device to talk to the host controller directly without broadcasting to other devices. This is like Firewire and should help bulk transfer rates. USB3 was probably based on PCIe version 2 since they share many of the encoding and protocol practices. USB3 has a host interface known as xHCI (Extensible Host Controller Interface).
Page 3
Package Contents

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In addition to the DT Ultimate 32GB, Kingston includes a key chain holder, a Y splitter cable, and some literature.

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The Y splitter is just that. Kingston was worried that the DT Ultimate might not draw enough power from the standard USB2 port so they came up with this cable to make sure it'll work. We tested it with all of our USB2 controllers and it worked fine without this cable. There may be some controllers that this isn't the case and it is unfortunate that you may have to carry and extra cable with you just in case. If you are using the drive on your own computers, this isn't a big deal.

DT Ultimate

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It might not be the nicest looking device, but there are a few features of the DT Ultimate that set it apart from the pack. While there are some spiffy drives that use metal cases for nice looks, the DT Ultimate uses the metal sides for heat dissipation since this device pushes out quite a bit of heat. It gets on the upper part of the warm side of the scale while in use. This is probably due to the increased power draw with USB3 that the DT Ultimate uses. The drive is pretty hefty in size. It isn't svelte like thin USB2 drives.

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The other side of the drive contains the Kingston logo on a patterned surface. There is metal surrounding the entire drive for heat dissipation.

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One of the visible characteristics of USB3 is the blue connection for the plastic. We're pretty sure that this will only be on the first few initial devices until manufacturers want to differentiate themselves from the rest, but it is nice to see blue and to know USB3. In practice, there are blue USB2 ports, so this doesn't work so well.

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The physical connection is nearly the same. There are extra conductors that allow the SuperSpeed specification to work.

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Like we said earlier, it isn't the thin and small USB2 drives. This one is for speed and performance. The comparison to the standard CD shows it size.

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The DT Ultimate has a nice blue glow when it is on and blinks when a transfer is happening. It isn't blinding bright and looks pretty nice.
Page 4
Testing

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You get a bit less than 30GB of usable space. It is good for companies to use the power of 10 system instead of base 2 as it makes the drive seem bigger.

The DT Ultimate was scrutinized for weeks since we encountered a few things that made us scratch our heads. The DT Ultimate was used with a generic NEC based USB3 PCIe v2 controller card. These cards are supported well in Linux and the drive popped up on insertion in Kubuntu 10.04. In Ubuntu 10.10, the device wasn't recognized until we removed/added the xhci_hcd kernel module. This happened on each boot, but we were using the system for another things and it wasn't a true clean install. USB2 was no problem with the DT Ultimate. It worked just fine in all of our systems when plugged into a single USB2 port. We never needed the Y splitter.

When testing the DT Ultimate, I had a very good use for the drive as I'm in the middle of two houses right now. Copying my home directory between computers was a good initial test. The first two times this was done was fine. The transfer speed was around 45 to 50MB/s. After the contents were deleted and more documents placed, the transfer rates dropped to half. We tried running benchmarks on the drive to determine where the slowdown is, but the benchmark itself causes more issues. Each time we ran a write benchmark, the performance of the drive suffered until it was used normally for a bit. In real world use, this type of workload wouldn't occur like the benchmark.

To really see if it was a problem with small file writes, we took about 100,000 1KB files and wrote them to the drive which took a bit of time. Bulk transfers work well for very large files, not so much for smaller ones. This was expected. We wrote so many files to a folder that we couldn't even list the directory contents and had to format the drive. The performance of the drive was still good.

Needless to say, the slow down we encountered was an anomaly that we couldn't reproduce. Read speeds were consistently good at just above 80MB/s, regardless of file size. You could use this drive as a boot drive in a pinch since the access time is better than a magnetic hard drive. The drive already endured many write and erase cycles from our testing and it is still performing well.

There are two types of transfers that would be common. The first is copying a document directory full of text files and pictures and maybe a few video files. In this scenario, the DT Ultimate performed well. For a 15.8GB (16554052KB) home directory, it took 366 seconds. This comes out to about 44 MB/s for writing lots of files of varying size. We also found that EXT4 was the best file system to use.

The drive was formatted as exFAT, which is a Microsoft, patented, file system. The new SDXC specification calls for the use of exFAT and most OSes will be able to read and write to it. Linux has support through FUSE and there are beta kernel modules, but since this is a block device, we opted to remove exFAT and put an open source file system. As we said, EXT4 proved to be the best performer for this particular flash drive. XFS was a good performer for large files.

On large file transfers, we copied a Starcraft 2 ISO (7330272KB) to the DT Ultimate and it took 119 seconds. That yields write speeds of a bit over 60MB/s. This is were the performance writes come into play. You need big file transfers for this drive to flex its muscle. Using iotop showed the drive peaked at 65MB/s. When using USB2, it maxes out at 31MB/s. This is still pretty respectable and it probably maxing out USB2 real world bandwidth. Reads were the same.

All in all, the DT Ultimate performed very well and USB3 is a very worthy upgrade for the speed.

Conclusion

The DT Ultimate comes in a few different sizes. We reviewed the 32GB variant and it retails for $100 (Newegg Link, Amazon Link). This is a premium price for a flash drive. Like all new technology, you pay to get cutting edge performance and the Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate delivers on that promise. Bulk transfers times are cut in half with USB3 and the DT Ultimate and makes copying files more tolerable. We've seen the future and USB3 is it. Kingston's DataTraveler Ultimate is a good first step into the USB3 flash drive market.

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