Why 1TB flash drives are so expensive

USB flash drives come in various capacities, ranging from 4GB to 2TB, and the larger sizes have remained pricey compared to their smaller counterparts.

In South Africa, a 1TB flash drive goes for anywhere from R2,799 to R7,449, while smaller capacities are available for a fraction of the price.

The availability of 1TB flash drives is also limited in South Africa.

Jess Raftopoulos, director at Dreamware Tech, explained that a possible reason for high prices is that the appeal for flash drives revolves around the ability to transfer small to medium-sized files in a small package.

“For larger files, the consumer considers alternatives, such as external hard drives, or, more recently, external SSDs,” she said.

“They often offer a suitable alternative to flash drives for large file storage or backups.”

External solid-state drives (SSDs) with a capacity of 1TB start at around R2,279.

“Theoretically, an external SSD is very similar to a large-scale flash drive as they use the same file storage technology, but on a much larger scale with some extremely impressive speeds in the external M.2 ranges,” Raftopoulos explained.

MyBroadband’s capacity test results of a 2TB flash drive purchased from Wish. While the operating system recognises the drive to have 1.90TB of storage, testing revealed that the actual capacity was 14.4GB.

“The massive developmental leaps of solid-state drives have resulted in a lowered reliance on flash drives and caused stagnation in that field.”

Enhancements to SSDs over the years have also resulted in smaller form factors, which, combined with web-based file transfer applications, have made flash drives less appealing.

“When one considers purchasing an external solid-state drive (often pocket-sized), a flash drive’s appeal diminishes,” Raftopoulos stated.

“Web applications such as WeTransfer allow for transferring files between devices through the Internet, which can further negate the need for a flash drive in some instances.”

As a result, it seems that flash drive manufacturers have not attempted to develop more cost-effective flash drives with large capacities.

It is important to note that less reputable retailers sell fake high capacity flash drives at much lower prices.

Unscrupulous sellers may advertise 1TB flash drives at lower prices, but there is a good chance these devices do not provide the claimed capacity.

In September 2021, MyBroadband ordered 1TB and 2TB flash drives from Wish. We discovered that the manufacturer had spoofed the drive sizes to fool operating systems into believing they offer these capacities.

Upon further investigation, we determined that the actual capacities of both these drives were 16GB, of which only 14.4GB was available.

Wish advertised the 2TB option for $9 (R136) at the time — a fraction of the cost of a legitimate 1TB or 2TB flash drive, but still expensive for a 16GB drive.

When we alerted Wish about the deception, it refunded the purchase.

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Why 1TB flash drives are so expensive