By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
Although cloud storage is easy to come by these days, sometimes USB flash drives (also known as jump drives or thumb drives) are more convenient. Whether you're looking to keep a physical backup of important files, transfer a file to a computer in an Internet dead zone, or drop off a document at a store for printing, one of these small storage devices can serve as a vessel. What's more, gone are the days of expensive 1- or 2-gigabyte thumb drives. Consumers can now buy 16GB of storage for less than $20.
Related: Top smartphones for a penny or lessCheap USB Flash Drives
Here are four top picks from Cheapism.com:
The Adata S102 Pro (starting at $14 for 16GB) features a sleek, aluminum body and USB 3.0 technology, which promises faster transfer speeds than the USB 2.0 connections common on older devices. Online reviewers marvel at how quickly it copies their files considering the low cost. We priced out the 16GB version for comparison, but this flash drive ranges from 8GB to 64GB of storage space.
The Verbatim Store 'n' Stay (starting at $15 for 16GB) is much smaller than traditional finger-sized thumb drives. This USB 2.0 unit is designed to stay plugged in and out of the way, so it can act as supplemental storage space. Users have found it ideal for upgrading the hard-drive capacity on an Xbox as well as an easy way to transport music to their cars. Smaller versions are also available.
Related: Inexpensive laptop reviews
The Lexar JumpDrive TwistTurn (starting at $14 for 16GB) rotates into itself (like a switchblade) to protect the USB connector, so owners don't have to worry about losing a cap. This USB 2.0 drive is available in a number of sizes up to 32GB and reviewers generally consider it sturdy, convenient, and reliable.
The Corsair Flash Voyager USB 3.0 (starting at $18 for 16GB) is another option for consumers who desire the rapid transfer speeds that come with USB 3.0 technology, although expert testing shows that this one is not quite as quick as other USB 3.0 connections. The protective rubber design makes the device water-resistant and shockproof, earning it positive feedback in reviews. This is another drive with a capless design, which swivels around and slides into itself for protection. The amount of storage space on these drives ranges from 4GB to 64GB. Not sure how much you need? The 16GB we used for our price comparison is enough for more than 7,500 photos, 3,750 songs, or 30 movies, according to custom flash drive supplier Flashbay.
Related: Best cheap diet plans
The difference between USB 2.0 and 3.0 drives (two of each appear above) is important if you will often be transferring large files or many files at once. The increased speed of USB 3.0 can save you time, but only if you plug into a computer with a USB 3.0 port. While many brand-new computers include at least one, machines that are even just a few years old probably don't. A USB 3.0 drive will still work in a USB 2.0 port, just not at top speed. And a USB 2.0 drive may be the cheaper choice.
More from Cheapism:
Top free job search websites
Cheap eyeglasses buying guide
For more ways to save, follow Cheapism on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.
To stay on top of the latest posts, read the Cheapism Blog.