Teardown, Test: PGH Bricks & Pavers Promotional USB Key

I guess the fact that this post exists is a proof that promotional USB keys “work”. They serve a useful purpose, and have a decent “lifetime”, thus helping spread the promotional message. I’m no brick and pavers guy, but I managed to have one of these gifted to me, so why not check out what the current state of promotional novelty USBs are like?

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It’s almost universally known that these items are usually made to a price, and while functional, don’t normally excel in any regard. Think of it as the most “generic” of USB keys. It should provide a good benchmark of what to expect from your value-series USB keys.

Teardown

Like many other promotional keys, this one comes within a folded metal shell which is inserted and glued into the rubbery exterior.

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Some have been discovered with microSD card and microSD reader chip inside … lets see what’s inside this one.

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No microSD on this one, but instead, a small PCB. A crystal is visible near the connector, wrapped for insulation. The controller is marked SC908L, which has very little information available but may be an Alcor Technologies unit. There are pads for mounting an activity LED, but that’s not in use in a fully enclosed unit like this.

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On the underside, the flash itself is not marked by the manufacturer, however the plastic package is moulded with Taiwan. Chances are, it’s not too bad. The 4 is marked in Chinagraph pencil and refers to the 4Gb capacity. Chances are, these are made in many different capacities and are “pushed” into the respective outer rubber jackets on demand.

The unit itself is hence, a single channel USB flash drive. You can’t expect miracles of performance – it’s probably an MLC or even TLC flash in use.

Performance Testing

The good thing is that this USB key actually works, and there was no data corruption on a full surface test. HDTune reveals the following sequential read performance test results:

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An average of 14.5Mb/s read – not spectacular, but not bad compared to what was available about 5 years ago when even 5-10Mb/s was something to be excited about.

CrystalDiskMark didn’t think too badly of it, churning out a read speed of 16.17MB/s and a write speed of 5.869MB/s. I suppose it’s better than the 2MB/s sticks you occasionally see from no-brands about 5 years ago. Small block performance isn’t too hot though, especially with writes.

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But it doesn’t corrupt data, which is great news. Another one to add to my small jar of USB sticks for “emergency” data transfers.

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Conclusion

I think novelty USB keys will be a more common thing to see in the future, given the lack of excitement over the normal giveaway staples – e.g. the pen, the notepad, the yo-yo and the stress-ball. While the majority of these USB keys aren’t anything special, at least we know what this one is made of and how it performs. I guess the take-home message is, if your current USB key isn’t as fast as this novelty item, you probably should upgrade … oh and test your novelty USB keys – not all of them will hold your data safely.

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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