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Okey, I grant you - the title's a bit weird. But while checking out some models of usb sticks and their performance reviews, that's exactly the thought which sprong in my head.

Here's the thing - I'm out looking out for 32Gb or 64Gb usb sticks, models which are likely to have good performance for at least a year to come. And while there is a fine choice of models I cannot find one that would be small enough to fit in an usb port next to a usb port on a laptop (you know how they always put them one next to the other, 2mm too close to one another). So, size matters to me.

Then I go to the some site with performance and general reviews of usb sticks (google's full of them) and in the top 10, I cannot find one that is of smaller dimensions.

So, what I'm asking - is this a coincidence or is there something which makes faster usb sticks larger?

Also, if anyone knows and can recommend a fast usb 3.0 stick model housing at least 32 Gb I'm all ears.

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2 Answers 2

Yes and no - It's not more chips like the previous answer - Almost all "thumb" sized flash drives have two or three physically large chips, depending on what you call a chip (a voltage regulator can be in a QFTN/BGA package or a transistor-like package, for instance). Almost all flash drives will only have one NAND chip - The chip storage size changes, but the size is mostly the same as the others. For instance, this 64gb Sandisk Extreme drive:

Image of a 64gb flash drive inside

In the case of this drive, the 64gb NAND IC is probably a BGA with black epoxy used as insurance against it coming loose(Top left). The USB controller (bottom right) is the smaller QFP, and the larger QFP is the MCU (bottom center) that accesses the NAND and runs the USB controller.

Most flash drives look very similar to this when taken apart, even if the case is much thicker than another. Some of the thickness is from case features (slide interface connectors over the USB), some is for the material of the case (like ABS is a little prone to cracking, so they'll make the walls of the drive thicker to prevent it from being cosmetically damaged).

The speed specifically comes from a few factors - the clock speed and bus width of the MCU and NAND, and the USB interface used (including it's own clock speed and bus width to the MCU). The clock speed is determined by programming and the crystal. They design the chips to run at a certain power dissipation (heat output) to ensure they stay within the recommended values during normal use - Too much speed = too much power used = too much heat = 2 month old drive dying, despite just having it plugged in for a few days straight.

Examples:

On another note, I'd recommend finding flash drives that fit your performance requirements first - You can always buy a cheap USB extender, or just use a USB hub, if you can't find one that is small enough (in height).

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It's not a coincidence. Faster USB sticks have more flash chips in them, which allows them to perform more operations at the same time. This also makes them larger.

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What about flash drives of small capacity? –  ldigas Dec 5 '13 at 19:28
    
Often smaller capacity also means fewer flash chips, but not always. –  David Schwartz Dec 5 '13 at 19:30
    
Anyone care to explain the downvote? –  David Schwartz Dec 6 '13 at 0:12

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