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Corsair Flash Voyager GTR 32GB Flash Drive Review

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AkG

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With the storage market expanding at a breakneck pace and solid state drives taking center space, people’s focus has very much been on internal storage solutions. There has been very little news regarding one of the mainstays of many users’ daily file transfer needs: the ubiquitous flash drive. The inclusion of USB 3.0 on many motherboards has somewhat restored some interest in these drives simply because of its promise of break-neck file transfer speeds. Unfortunately, at this point the implementation of current hot-running USB 3.0 controllers into small flash drives doesn’t appeal to many companies so they have stuck with USB 2.0. Corsair on the other hand has gone to the next level by releasing their GTR series which supposedly pushes the limits of USB 2.0 technology.

In this review we will be taking a closer look at the newly released Flash Voyager GTR 32GB which actually looks like a class-leading product at this point. Corsair has a long history with all things based on flash memory and has released successive generations of flash drives of which some have a unique focus. Products in their Survivor series are considered to be some of the most rugged drives around and the Padlock series sports data protection through a unique onboard keypad. The Voyager series on the other hand can be considered a jack of all trades with high speeds, near-invincible construction and even a Mini version for those of you who hate bulky thumb drives.

While nearly everyone and his mother may own at least one of these little marvels, this is not to say that all flash drives are created equal. In fact many only have one thing going for them: low price since their capacity, speed and durability are usually sorely lacking. This is where the Voyager GTR 32GB enters the equation since it can not only carry a huge 32GB of data, but has also been designed from the ground up to be as fast as you can realistically get when using the USB 2.0 interface.

Besides the shear profusion of products Corsair offers, the other main thing they are known for is their commitment to customer service and customer satisfaction. In the case of their Voyager line of flash drives this means an amazing (and industry leading) 10 year warranty

Even though this is a relatively new product, it should be fairly easy to find at both retailers and e-tailers alike throughout North America. However, even though it will not be overly hard to find it still a large performance-orientated flash drive so it does come with a bit of a price premium. As of the time of this review it can be found for about $110 CAD / $90 USD, which is not all that terrible. Just remember that if you want larger capacities, you’re going to be paying about $220 Canadian for the 64GB version and an eye-watering $325 for a massive 128GB of storage space.

Speed, size and durability are the main claims to fame this unit has going for it and we intend to find out whether or not this drive deserves these bragging rights.

mfg4.jpg
 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/GTR/specs.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/GTR/mfg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/GTR/mfg2.jpg " border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/GTR/mfg3.jpg " border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


Corsair_GTR_box_f_sm.jpg

As you can see, Corsair has opted for the de facto standard clamshell packaging for their Voyage GTR flash drive. We understand that these style packages are designed with a retail store shelf environment in mind and as such security does have to be a high priority. These are relatively small and easy to carry devices and so we can see the industry’s point in needing to make it a bit more difficult (and obvious) to remove the Voyager GTR from its packaging. It’s just a royal pain in the butt to open these types of blister packs.

Corsair_GTR_box_b_sm.jpg

On the positive side, the cardboard insert which can easily be seen through the clear plastic of the clamshell container does have most of the information you will need to make an informed decision. This is too is fairly par for the course and at least Crosair include the average time it will take the Voyager GTR versus “(a) typical USB Flash Drive” to transfer 37,000 files using each device.

Corsair_GTR_access2_sm.jpg
Corsair_GTR_access_sm.jpg

As you can see the included accessories are certainly above average as not only does Corsair include a Corsair branded lanyard but also a USB extension cable. The majority of these ruggedized drives are over-sized and as such do have a tendency to take up more than one USB slot. With the inclusion of the extension cable this serious issue (which plagued the OCZ ATV Turbo drives we reviewed many moons ago) is rendered moot.
 
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AkG

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First Impressions

First Impressions


Corsair_GTR_top_ang_sm.jpg
Corsair_GTR_bottom_ang_sm.jpg

As you can see the Voyager GTR is a fairly big looking flash drive with a dead sexy colour scheme. Unlike previous models Corsair has gone with a yellow and black colour design that gives this unit a sleek yet utilitarian appearanceand makes it look a bit like the infamous Vespa mandarinia which is commonly referred to as the Giant Asian Hornet

One side of the Voyager GTR has the model and activity LED on it, while the other has the companies url printed on it. With the exception of the red GTR moniker on the top, both sides of the drive use raised lettering which are done in either a high contrast white or yellow. While this does add to the overall style and appearance of the drive is also adds even more grip surface to these two sides.

Corsair_GTR_bottom_long_sm.jpg
Corsair_GTR_top_long_sm.jpg

The colourful and bold outer skin of the Voyager GTR is not just there for looks as it is in fact a thick, yet soft rubber which has protected previous models from all but the most extreme of situations. The slight curve in the center of the drive may give it a chunky appearance but it does help it fit your hand. Honestly, when you first pick up the GTR you will be surprised at how light it feels, yet how robust and comfortable it is in your hand.

Corsair_GTR_cap_sm.jpg
cap2_sm.jpg

As with previous Voyager drives (and most ruggedized flash drives) the GTR has a fixed USB 2.0 port on the front. The port is protected by a small rubber cap which is easily removable but holds on tight via friction grooves in its rubber. The only issue we have with this cap is that unlike the OCZ ATV Turbo line, Corsair has not included a cap holder. This means you could easily loose the cap but there is a simple online form on Corsair’s website ( Corsair’s website that you can fill out and they will send you a replacement one. The only catch is the drive has to still be in warranty, but considering you get 10 years of warranty this is not that big of a deal.

Corsair_GTR_narrow_sm.jpg

There is no getting around the fact that the GTR is on the wide side. As soon as we saw the port extender which Corsair included we knew this was going to be the case. What is interesting is the fact that while it is tad on the wide side, it is also on the thick side when compared to the more typical USB flash drives on the market. However, this increase girth is supposed to make it extremely resistant to all forms of trauma.

drive_sm.jpg

While we are not going to cut open the GTR to look inside we can tell you that the time and effort to protect the internals is for a good reason. Unlike most flash drives on the market which are at best dual channel drives the Voyager GTR is a QUAD channel flash drive. This means that there are at the very least four 8GB chips in this beast.

Reading through the literature that Corsair provides on their website we are confident that this drive uses MLC NAND and not SLC as they mention numerous times 10,000 writes as the life expectancy. Whether or not this unit uses SLC or MLC is fairly unimportant as it uses wear levelling to keep any of the cells from wearing out before the others and is USB 2.0 limited. Even the lowliest of MLC NAND chips these days can handle 30MB/S writes.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a hard drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for SSDs to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our testbed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the XP load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being a WD 320 single platter drive.

For these tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, Crystal Disk Benchmark, h2benchw and Flash Memory Toolkit.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 4GB rar file took to copy to and then from the hard drives, then copy to itself. We also used 1gb of small files (from 1kb to 20MB) with a total 2108 files in 49 subfolders.

Please note to reduce variables the same XP OS image was used for all the hard drives.

For all testing a Gigabyte PA35-DS4 motherboard was used. The ICH9 controller on said motherboard was used.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

Processor:
Q6600 @ 2.4 GHZ
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: Asus 8800GT TOP
Hard Drive: 1x WD 320
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W Performance Testing
 
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AkG

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Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture.

We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and this goes double for SSD based drives. The main reason we include it is to show what under perfect conditions a given drive is capable of; but the more important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.


read.jpg

The Corsair Voyager GTR clearly outclasses the other USB drives in the charts and it is only the Calvary Storage Pelican SSD (which comes with a mini-USB port) which can beat it. In fact, the Voyager GTR acts more like a Solid State Drive that has been hobbled by the USB interface then it does a flash drive.


Write Performance


For this benchmark Flash Media Toolkit Pro was used, specifically we ran the Low Level benchmark. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the Low Level test writes across the full area of the flash drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.

Please Note: FMT is a test suite, which has been designed from the ground up to test flash drives and only flash drive, as such it would not run on the Pelican SSD.


write.jpg

Once again the Voyager GTR is in a class all on its own. The “quad channel” architecture this flash drive sports really does make a huge difference in its performance. It really is a crying shame it only uses USB 2.0 as we are sure that much like a true solid state drive, and not the cheap “flash drive” variants, the GTR is being severely hobbled by the interface it uses.
 
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AkG

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Crystal DiskMark / Random Access

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5. When all 5 tests for a given section were run Crystal DiskMark then averages out all 5 numbers to give a result for that section.

Read Performance


cdm_r.jpg


Once again the Voyager GTR is at the top of the charts, but this time it actually beats not only all the other flash drives but also our lone USB sporting SSD Pelican! That truly is bloody impressive to say the least.


Write Performance​

cdm_w.jpg


Finally we see the mighty Voyager stumble slightly. Though it is not much of a stumble as it still beats the living daylights out of the other flash drives; however the solid state drive, with its higher performance controller (and possibly better NAND) does highlight the difference between a true solid state drive and a flash drive. However, they are each targeted at different markets so we would still consider this a win for the GTR


Random Access Time


To obtain the absolute, most accurate Random access time, h2benchw was used for this benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive. To run this program, one must use a DOS prompt and tell it what sections of the test to run. While one could use “h2benchw 1 -english -s -tt "harddisk test" -w test” for example and just run the seek tests, we took the more complete approach and ran the full gamut of tests and then extracted the necessary information from the text file. This is the command line argument we used “h2benchw 1 -a -! -tt "harddisk drivetest" -w drivetest”. This tells the program to write all results in english, save them in drivetest txt file, do write and read tests and do it all on drive 1 (or the second drive found, with 0 being the OS drive).

random.jpg


These numbers while decent are still a tad on the high side. Unfortunately, we were half expecting this. The reason for this is twofold: firstly you have a quad channel architecture which is more demanding on a controller than a simple single (or even dual channel) setup would be. This by itself would not be overly bothersome but when your combine this increased demand with a controller which has to consume as little power as possible, be passively cooled, and be as inexpensive as possible you end up with a controller which is going to be underpowered for the demands placed upon it. The results of this test back up our musings.
 
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AkG

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

Read


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/GTR/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

The power curve of the Voyager GTR really is extraordinary considering the fact that it is a mere “Flash Drive” and not a USB equipped solid state drive. It starts out good and simply gets better and better. With the surprising exception of the DataTraveler, the Voyager GTR really is in a different league. That has to impress even the most cynical of reviewers of the read performance this drive possess.


Write


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/GTR/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

While the read results were somewhat close between the flash drives, the Voyager GTR’s write power curve is down right amazing. In the small file end of the spectrum (up to about the 8KB size test) things look good but not great. However, once you get into the domain of flash drives (which are not going to be uses as OS devices and thus small file write speed is not as important as large file) the Voyager GTR straps on a rocket booster and starts trading blow for blow with the solid state drive.
 
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AkG

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Real World Data Transfers

Real World Data Transfers


No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 4.00GB contiguous RAR file and a folder containing 49 subfolders with a total 2108 files varying in length from 20mb to 1kb (1.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, timing each process individually to provide an approximate Read and Write performance. Here is what we found.


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/GTR/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/GTR/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

When we started the small file testing stage we were expecting the GTR to do very well, and blow away all but the Pelican and we were not disappointed. The Corsair GTR is an extremely fast and capable Flash Drive, one that puts to shame most drives which use the moniker “flash drive”. In fact we would go as far as saying it can almost give a solid state drive a run for its money in the small file tests. It does lag behind in write speed of those tiny files, but this was to be expected as Flash Drives (and their controllers) are more geared towards large sequential speed than writing tiny files.

When it came to the large file tests we were simply amazed that this drive actually beats the Pelican in write performance. As we stated earlier Flash Drives are geared towards large file transfers, but it still was shocking to see a solid state drive (even one as old as the JM602b based Pelican) being soundly beaten by a lowly flash drive. These results really do perfectly sum up the Corsair GTR: if you need more speed then it can offer you are going to have to give up a lot of portability and go for a 2.5” form factor solid state drive. We once again found ourselves wondering how much the USB 2.0 interface was limiting this drive and how much better it could be if it had the much wider USB 3.0 bus to play on.
 
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AkG

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Subjective Tests

Subjective Tests


Size


One question that many people ask themselves before buying their first drive is “will this block my other USB ports when plugged in?”

The answer to that question is: No, it will not block any laterally adjacent ports, but can block any vertical ones While many motherboards now come with numerous USB ports on their rear I/O panels, careful planning will still be necessary if you want to plug in this drive, a keyboard, a mouse and the other usual peripherals. The same thing can be said about most cases which come with a few USB ports on the front but many times they aren’t exactly well placed. As such, be prepared to sacrifice a lease two USB ports whenever plugging in this drive. On the positive side Corsair is well ahead of the game and they have included the aforementioned extension cable.

ports_sm.jpg


Above is a picture of the Voyager GTR installed in the front of a Cooler Master HAF 932 alongside a Kingston Datatraveler 102.

ports2_sm.jpg


Above is a picture of it installed above a SanDisk Cruzer Micro….or at least a SanDisk Cruzer Micro partially installed.


Pocket Travel


Another factor people take into consideration when buying a flash drive is transportability and how noticeable it is when in your pocket. When you have the Voyager in your pocket, you know that it’s there as it does take up a fair bit of room, especially when (unfairly) compared to the smaller USB flash drives you can get these days. On the positive side this reassuring bulk will make it extremely hard to misplace, but it is noticeable and does have to be repositioned from time to time for comfort. In other words this is not the kind of drive that will go on your keychain and be forgotten about. It is long and it can dig into your leg, especially if you are wearing small pocketed dress pants. If you are into wearing lanyards, or have to for security ID reasons, then the included lanyard will be a nice touch andyou will handily avoid conversations that begin with “What in the world is that in your pocket?”
 
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