I would like to thank Teamgroup for supplying the review sample.
Flash drives come in all shapes and sizes and tend to serve a single purpose: to give you portable storage. Thus, finding a differentiating element is pretty difficult. No matter how you slice it, it won't really reduce the choice you have. Sliding USB plug, metal housing, water-proof, fast, light, big or small—you can pick from a slew of devices. Teamgroup is trying something else by offering RGB on your stick with the T-Force Spark RGB Flash Drive. The unit is a USB 3.2 (formerly known as USB 3.0) drive and offers a metal housing with a slide-out connector and a very noticeable RGB lighting element at the end of the drive.
A Closer Look
The package is clearly geared towards someone who likes flashier (all the pun intended) devices. The front advertises USB 3.2, which is essentially true, but in reality USB 3.0 (5 Gbit/s). If you would like to read up on the various naming conventions of the third-generation of USB, check out this wiki. Interestingly enough, Teamgroup does not mention performance on the package, which is something many people would be interested in. Their online presence sheds some light on that with 180 MB/s read and 90 MB/s write maximums.
The T-Force Spark RGB is actually quite compact as it is just as tall as an AA battery. Throwing it onto a classic kitchen scale, we get 21 grams, which is slightly less than the 25 grams advertised. Regardless, the metal housing feels sturdy and of high quality, and the sliding mechanism has plenty of grip with a little extra friction in both the open and closed state for ease of operation.
The front of the drive is flush with the USB plug which sports a blue plastic inlay, while the rear metal housing is capped off with a semi-translucent plastic that allows for the RGB LED to shine through.
You may simply slide the plug out to connect it to your computer, and there are plenty of labels from size to serial number on the silver metal connector itself. The backside only holds the CE and FCC logos, but from this angle, you can also see the little looped hole which may be used to attach something to the drive; that said, Teamgroup does not include any such accessory with the unit.
Upon plugging the T-Force Spark RGB in, the stick mounts a virtual ISO in a virtual CD-ROM drive of roughly 140 MB which contains an executable that controls the light. While the rainbow idle effect will work immediately, you will only get the indicator colors if the executable is running at the same time. Without that software, the read/write indicator will remain blue at all times.
The rainbow color effect can clearly be seen, even in bright studio lighting from the rear of the drive. It is not too obtrusive from the front, and would throw a nice glow onto any table surface should you plug the unit into your notebook, for example.
This end, as just mentioned, also acts as an activity LED as soon as there is any read/write activity. With 0%–80% filled, the drive will flash blue. At 81%–92%, the indicator changes to yellow, and from 93% upwards, it will flash red. Sometimes, you see the LED flash in a different color, and I attribute that to the communication between the OS reporting to the app, which then triggers the right light and is not a hardware defect of the T-Force Spark RGB.
Teamgroup mentions on their website that the drive should be capable of 80 MB/s write and 180 MB/s read speeds. We tested the drive on a 2017 Macbook Pro using BlackMagic Disk Speed Test, along with ATTO and Crystal Disk Mark on no less than four independent, different, modern Windows 10 PCs, just to chase down that elusive set of marketed numbers. The results were consistent across all the test systems, with ATTO registering 30 MB/s write and around 130 MB/s read. Crystal Disk Mark showed very different numbers with 30–50 MB sequential write and well over 2290 MB/s read, and numbers taking a hard dive in random read/write tests. Granted, of the two ATTO tends to be a bit closer to what you can expect in reality across the board, which is still quite far from what is being advertised. While Teamgroup does not put any emphasis on extreme performance, but, rather, the unique RGB lighting, the T-Force brand is geared towards the enthusiast, and speed will be appreciated if not expected.
But most importantly, with a price of $28, the unit is right in line with lots of other mainstream drives with similar real-world performance, so you ultimately get a cool drive with some interesting functionality, solid build quality, and adequate performance.