You can find two similar flash drives and asking yourself, Both models are USB 2.0, and got 4 GB of storage. Why does one of them cost more than the other?
The answer is the quality of the components.
Like all types of technology there are products with high quality, while there are others that are more second-rate. In the case of USB Flash drives for the Promotion market, there are no exceptions. The USB industry has its own levels of quality, known as tiers or grades, which define just how good and reliable the USB drive is going to be. Tier 1 is top of the line flash memory, while the lower tiers are more likely to cause errors and other problems with the USB drives.
Of course, all USB flash memory starts out the same; on one giant silicon wafer. Once the wafer is created and etched with intricate circuits, a machine then cuts out each chip. Generally speaking, the chips closer to the edges of this wafer are the ones that tend to be of lower quality. Chips that are cut and do not pass quality control inspections are automatically pushed aside by the machine.
Below are the differences in quality among the USB flash drives.
The top of the line chips are called Tier 1, or grade A, and are the highest quality chips you can possibly get. These chips are found just about everywhere and are always laser etched with a serial number and manufactures name. Currently Samsung and Hynix are the largest producers of tier 1 quality memory chips. Tier 1 chips are the best quality because they have the lowest error rates, longest life spans, and are faster than all the other tiers. Lastly, these chips almost always come with a lifetime warranty.
Tier 2 chips are only a slight downgrade of tier 1 chips, but are still good chips to have. These chips are just as reliable as tier 1, have the second lowest error rates, and generally live about as long as tier 1 too. These chips may be etched with a serial number and name of the manufacturer, but it is not uncommon to see tier 2 chips without the etchings.
Grade C and Below
Remember those discarded wafer parts I mentioned? Well, tier 3 chips and below are made from these discarded pieces. Second-hand aftermarket vendors buy these discarded pieces from reputable manufactures and resell them to end users. These chips have roughly a 30-40% failure rate and have much lower life expectancies. In some severe cases, these chips have been known to cause system instabilities that can adversely affect the device or computer they’re used in.
So what can you do to make sure you only receive Grade A chips?
Well as mentioned above, tier 1 chips almost always come with a warranty. Second choose a vendor that actually has their prices in tune with the current market prices. Some companies advertise tier 1 chips, but offer them at such a low price that they drastically stand out from the market. The reason they’re probably so cheap is because they are tier 2 or 3 chips, not actual tier 1. Lastly you should always talk to the vendor and ask them what the qualities of the chips are. If the salesman is unsure or is hesitant to answer those types of questions, you should probably go someplace else.