⌚ July 31, 2013
Do you need or want a small USB device for sneakernet data transfers? How about something tiny enough to forget that you are carrying it around? Does it need to withstand dirt and abuse? No moving parts?
The Verbatim Tuff ‘n’ Tiny 32G USB stickmeets these needs! Smaller than a stick of chewing gum, the red 32 GB version from the Verbatim Tuff ‘n’ Tiny line of products is light enough to forget about, and it is compatible with Linux too.
There are other capacities available: 2GB (orange), 4GB (green), 8GB (purple), and 16GB (black), but this review covers my experience with the red 32 GB device in Linux Mint 15.
The Verbatim Tuff ‘n’ Tiny 32 GB is the same size as the other devices in the product line. It measures 3cm long (including the protruding hole) and 12cm wide.
The device is not keyed, so you must pay attention to which way it is inserted into a USB port. It is easy to insert it incorrectly and wonder why nothing is working. No damage is done to the computer or the USB stick, so just unplug it and turn it around.
No Moving Parts
I have seen too many USB sticks break before their time due to size; moving parts, such as sliding doors and flipping motions that reveal the USB plug; and excessive rubber that eventually wears off and exposes the internal circuitry to the elements.
None of this is an issue with the Tuff n Tiny since there are no moving parts. The exposed contacts might pose a risk for static electricity, but I have never been affected by this, and mine continues to function fine despite touching the contacts directly many times.
Another bonus with a design of this nature is that no lint or dust collects inside inside the USB plug because there is no square plug to begin with. Other USB sticks containing the square USB keyed plug would often collect lint balls inside it if carried in a pocket–even with some sort of cover. The result? A faulty contact when plugged into the computer. This results in errors and faulty data transfers. This never happens with the Tuff n Tiny because there is no place to collect lint balls.
Resistant to the Elements
I would not say that this device is bulletproof because it can be broken if enough damage is given to it. However, it can withstand certain brief abuses, such being dunked into water (dry it off before using it), dropping it onto the floor, stepping on it, and getting it dirty. Things can happen, so it is reassuring to know that the device will not become ruined should any of these light events occur.
USB 2, not USB 3.0
The Verbatim Tuff ‘n’ Tiny is a USB 2 device, so you will not see SuperSpeed transfer rates. However, it is compatible with USB 3.0 ports. Transfer rates seem to be about the same for both USB 2 and USB 3 ports, so it does not matter which type of port is used.
Like any other storage device on the market, USB stick or hard drive, the 32 GB size is a decimal quote, not a binary quote. fdisk reports the unformatted capacity at 32.2 GB, 32176472064 bytes. 32 GB in binary, which is also stated as 32 GiB, is actually larger at 34,359,738,368 bytes (2^34).
So, when you read 32 GB on the package, it is closer to 32,000,000,000 (32 billion in decimal), not 2^34.
No matter what the quoted capacity might be on the package, the actual formatted capacity you can use is less. Also, keep in mind that ext and reiser file systems will automatically reserve about 5% of the available space for system use, but this can be eliminated using tune2fs.
Here are some screenshots from the Tuff n Tiny 32 GB properties in Linux Mint 15 after freshly formatted with various file systems.
ext2, 5% reserved
ext2, 0% reserved
ext4, 5% reserved
ext4, 0% reserved
The chosen file system is important. For files less than 4 GB in size, FAT32 is suitable for cross-platform compatibility. For files greater than 4 GB, NTFS is about the only feasible cross-platform option without the need to install additional drivers in other systems to read ext4.
If used solely in a Linux environment, then ext2/ext3/ext4 all perform well.
How Fast Is It?
In everyday usage, this is not going to win any transfer speed awards. I find that reads are average, and writes are a little slower. This is rather vague, so I performed a few read/write tests.
Nothing fancy. Using dd to create a random file exactly 1 GiB in size (2^30 = 1,073,741,824 bytes), I used the command line with the time command to record how many seconds it takes to write to the USB stick.
I also reformatted the stick with different file systems to compare file system performance.
Also, I created an MD5 hash file (data.md5) to verify that the data had been written correctly to the USB.
md5sum -b data.bin > data.md5
Both data.bin (the actual data file) and data.md5 (the hash file) were written to the USB.
Why perform the hashing? Occasionally, with Linux, I have found instances where the cp command would complete but the data would still be writing to the USB. On a USB stick with an LED, the LED would continue to blink during the write. If the USB was ejected during this time (even though Linux said it was okay to remove the device), not all data would be written and the data would be corrupted on the USB.
This happens with almost all USB devices I have tried, so it is not a fault of the Tuff n Tiny. NTFS-formatted devices are the most egregious offenders, so be extra careful that the write process has completed before removing the device no matter what type of USB is used.
Yes, there are options to disable the non-blocking function in Linux, but I wanted to perform the tests using an everyday system with default settings and without making those modifications.
data.bin (1 GiB file)
data.md5 (MD5 hash of data.bin. Created using: md5sum -b data.bin > hash.md5)
The usb was given the label usb and mounted at /media/usb.
time cp data.* /media/usb
The reported real time was used. Only one or two writes were performed per file system.
Verify command in the usb’s mount point:
md5sum -c hash.md5
When using ext2, ext4, and reiserfs file systems, it is important to give everyone access to the device since these file systems honor permissions.
sudo chmod 777 /media/usb
When formatting using the ext2 and ext4 file system, set the reserved blocks to 0 and set the label to usb or whatever you wish to call it. Otherwise, 5% of the space will be reserved and the label will be its UUID (Universally Unique Identifier). The reserved space is fine for system hard drives, but we want to make as much space available as possible for data, and that 5% is a waste.
sudo tune2fs -m 0 -L usb
-m 0 sets the reserved blocks to 0 and makes as much free space available as possible
-L usb sets the volume label to “usb.” This is what appears on the desktop when the volume is mounted.
The Tuff n Tiny was recognized as device /dev/sdc. Your results might vary, so use sudo fdisk -l to check.
To make things as simple as possible, gparted was used to format the device, but the command line works just as well. The only difference is that gparted automatically creates a partition whereas these commands format the entire device.
sudo mkfs.ext2 /dev/sdc sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdc
Keep in mind that root will have ownership of the device after formatting with these file systems.
For reading data, both data.bin and data.md5 were written to a separate test directory located in home and then verified again to ensure that the data was read correctly from the Tuff n Tiny along with its speed. The resulting time reported how long it took to read from the USB.
The files were deleted after each verification.
write to usb: time cp data.* /media/usb verify write: md5sum -c /media/usb/data.md5 read from usb: time cp data.* ~/test verify read: md5sum -c ~/test/data.md5
Enough preparation. Here is a list of my results writing and reading a 1 GiB file of random data to and from the 32 GB Tuff n Tiny. This table also includes the usable, formatted capacities listed under “Free Space.”
File System Write Read Free Space Used Space --------------------------------------------------------------------- ext2 (5% Reserved) 1m 17s 9.9s 30 GB 1.7 GB ext2 (0% Reserved) 1m 17s 9.8s 31.6 GB 45.1 MB ext4 (5% Reserved) 8s 6.4s 29.6 GB 1.7 GB ext4 (0% Reserved) 8s 6.4s 31.5 GB 62.8 MB FAT32 1m 29s 5.6s 32.2 GB 16.4 KB NTFS 10.5s 7.2s 32.1 GB 68.6 MB reiserfs 44.9s 7.9s 32.1 GB 33.6 MB
Important Note: Benchmarks and times are not exact no matter the system and device. Many times, there would be a difference of a few seconds when writing the same file to the same device using the same file system. It was almost impossible to obtain the exact same file transfer times in each test, so differing results were averaged.
This 32 GB Verbatim Tuff n Tiny USB stick is a miniature marvel. The only improvement that would make this device better would be to support USB 3.0 for faster transfer rates. But there is more to a USB stick to consider than its transfer rate.
- Small size
- Reasonable durability
- Somewhat moisture-resistant
- No moving parts
- Dirt resistant
- No lint ball collection
- Light weight
- Linux compatibility
- No annoying flashing lights
These qualities alone increase the value of this device and make it preferable over faster USB sticks despite the USB 2 transfer rate.
Highly recommended for anyone seeking a tough and tiny USB stick.