At the end of the day we ended up with some pretty interesting test results. The very first thing that we determined is that there is absolutely no correlation between price and performance.
We expected the IronKey S200 series to perform much better than the Kingston DataTraveler 4000 and Vault Privacy Edition series, but that was far from true. The IronKey S200 series has read speeds of up to 27 MB/s read and up to 24 MB/s write thanks to more expensive SLC NAND Memory. Our real-world testing showed the Kingston DataTraveler 4000 beating that drive in terms of speed with its MLC NAND Flash that was rated as having speeds of up to 18 MB/s read and 10 MB/s write. In fact we found that the Kingston DataTraveler 4000 2GB drive was 12% faster than the IronKey Basic S200! Not bad considering the specifications had the IronKey Basic S200 being more than twice as fast for writing data! We also determined that the Kingston DataTraveler 4000 was faster than the Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy Edition in both our synthetic and real world testing even though Kingston rates the DataTraveler Vault as having higher read speeds.
At the end of the day we found all of the IronKey and Kingston Flash drives to work flawlessly and have very respectable speeds. If you must buy a USB Flash Drive that meets FIPS 140-2 Level 3 requirements then any of the IronKey models that we looked at here today should fit the bill fine and they are the only ones tested with a rating that high. We assume that part of these drives higher price tag is because they meet that higher validation level. The IronKey S200 series use SLC NAND Flash and were found to be much faster than the D200 series that uses MLC NAND Flash. Be sure to stick with the IronKey S200 series if you are looking for speed.
If you are needing a USB Flash drive that meets FIPS 140-2 Level 2 requirements then the Kingston DataTraveler 4000 is the best drive of those that we tested with respects to performance, cost and the warranty. The Kingston DT4000 is at least half the price of the IronKey S200 drives, offers a five time longer warranty and is faster. That choice is simple! If you work for a business that would like to have what would be considered FIPS 140-2 Level 2 security, but don’t want to pay extra for it then the Kingston DataTraveler Vault Privacy Edition is the ideal choice. It costs less than the DT4000 as you aren’t paying for the FIPS 140-2 Level 2 validation, but is basically the same drive with a different housing. It’s a little confusing, but at the end of the day you have drives that are aimed at slightly different segments of the market!
Legit Bottom Line: Kingston and IronKey both make some great USB Flash Drives with 256-bit AES hardware encryption, but the best bang for your buck lies in the Kingston DataTraveler drives!