You may have heard the term A Grade Chip when talking about USB Flash drives. Most people think this is a generic or redundant term rather than a genuine description of the product they’re buying. But in fact, A Grade (sometimes also referred to as Tier 1) is an industry term for high-quality USB chips. To explain the concept, you need to know a little background about how USBs are made. Although we all know what a printed USB looks like in its final form, you might not know that they start life on a silicon wafer. Once the wafer is created and etched with intricate circuits, a machine then cuts out each chip. Generally speaking, the chips closer to the edges of this wafer are the ones that tend to be of lower quality. Chips that are cut and do not pass quality control inspections are automatically pushed aside by the machine.
Grade A / Tier 1
Grade A chips are the best type of chip on the market. The main identifying factor is that the chips themselves are engraved with the manufacturer’s name and serial number. At present, the biggest producers of Grade A chips are Hynix, Intel, Micro, and Samsung. The chips they produce are quality tested, have the lowest rate of error, have faster read and write speeds, and have a longer lifespan than other grades of USBs. As you can imagine, the price for these is higher than other grades of chips, but you are paying for a reliable, good-quality product.
Grade B / Tier 2
Grade B chips are hard to distinguish from Grade A as they use chips that are just as reliable and have a similar lifespan. However, they don’t necessarily have serial numbers or the manufacturer’s names engraved on the chips. And as such, they are sold at a lower price than their counterparts.
Grade C / Tier 3
Grade C chips are made from the discarded wafer parts mentioned above. Second-hand aftermarket vendors buy these discarded pieces from reputable manufacturers and resell them to end-users at a low price. On average these chips have roughly a 30-40% failure rate and have much lower life expectancies.
Grade D / Tier 4
These are often known as fake or masked chips, as not only do some unscrupulous vendors engrave Grade C chips with fake serial numbers and manufacturer’s names, but sometimes are also programmed to hide the real memory size of the chip. For example, the drive may show that it is 16Gb, but could actually be a 256Mb chip instead. You would only realise the truth when trying to load data that is larger than the chip’s real capacity. These are also sold very cheaply and are to be avoided at all costs. At USB Makers we only supply A Grade chips and advise our customers to buy from reputable resellers to prevent the risk of purchasing lower-quality chips and wasting money and time on cheap alternatives.