The best USB sticks for smart TVs in 2024

Record, rewind and pause live television with the best USB sticks for TV recording

some of the best USB sticks for smart TVs

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

The latest goggleboxes certainly boast features that excite even the least tech-savvy viewers, but they're nothing without one of the best USB sticks for smart TVs. Yes, there are endless ads for exciting new models, but buying one of the best USB sticks for smart TVs should be right on the top of your list when upgrading your TV. Why? Well, don't forget that even the best TVs won't come with a way to store your favourite shows. That's where USB sticks for smart TVs come in.

The menus on a smart TV are very good at shouting about the tricks it can do, but one powerful feature may be hard to find: The ability to pause, rewind and record live television. This amazing feature tends to go unnoticed. Due to their lack of internal memory, smart TVs cannot store any recordings until an external storage device is plugged in.

Best USB sticks for smart TVs at a glance:

• Best overall USB stick for TV recording: Integral 1TB Black USB 3.0 - View at Amazon
• Best budget USB stick: SanDisk 256GB Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C - View at Amazon
• Best secure USB stick: Lexar JumpDrive Fingerprint F35 256GB - View at Amazon
• Best high-end USB stick for speed and storage: SanDisk 1TB PRO USB 3.2 - View at Amazon

Thankfully, extra memory is easy enough to get hold of. Most USB memory sticks - including some of the best USB-C memory sticks - are more than up to the job. These can be plugged right into one of a smart TV's USB ports. You then use the TV to select how you want that stick to be used for your recordings. Some models, including the most common 40 or 50-inch smart TVs, will even offer up the function once it detects the device.

After double-checking that your TV is compatible and has this recording functionality, you'll need to make sure that the stick you choose is up to the job. There are three key features to look for: USB 3.0, speed, and size. We have an explanation of this in our guide below. So, let's dive into our selection of the best USB sticks for smart TVs.

Best USB sticks for smart TVs in 2024

Please note: All prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices, stock and deals are subject to change without notice.

Best overall USB stick

 Integral 1TB Black USB 3.0 Super Speed Fast Memory Flash Drive
Price: £45.31

This USB 3.0 stick packs an astonishing 1TB of storage into a slim and attractive form factor. It even has both USB 3, making it ideal for transferring your media to and from a PC, TV internal memory, or in fact, any device with a USB type 3 port.

While this isn't quite as fast as the latest version of USB 3 - 3.2 - it is more than fast enough for your TV with a 120MB-per-second read speed. Brilliant value, too.

Pros

  • The best capacity for the price that we've seen
  • Compact design and good colour to remain out of sight when attached
  • USB 3.0 for fast data transfer, playback and recording

Cons

  • Not as fast as other, more expensive USB 3.2 sticks

Best budget USB stick for TV recording

SanDisk 128GB Ultra Luxe USB Flash Drive
Price: $12.99
Alternative retailers
B&H Photo Video$12.99View offer
Adorama$12.99View offer
Walmart$16.45View offer

Decisively one of the best value USB sticks for TV recording, the SanDisk 128GB Ultra Luxe USB stick is ideal for watching your favourite movies and shows, largely thanks to its compact size.

Discrete and durable, with a metal casing for accidental damage protection, the SanDisk Ultra Luxe feels like a USB stick triple its price, and with 128GB of storage, it's even more surprising.

It would be almost too easy to store entire TV shows on the SanDisk Ultra Luxe. It has so much storage, but it isn't quite as staggering as 1TB, especially if you're planning to watch TV in 4K.

Pros

  • Great value USB stick for TV recording
  • Durable and compact to endure wear and tear
  • Safe and secure against prying eyes with SanDisk Secure Access

Cons

  • Small storage capacity

The best USB type C stick for TV recording

SanDisk 256GB Ultra Dual Drive USB Type-C Flash Drive USB stick for smart TV recording
Price: $21.99

SanDisk has ticked most boxes here, with a dual connector for USB 3.0 and USB Type C devices. You get a decent amount of storage – 256GB, more than enough for most. Plus, you get that trademark SanDisk reliability at an impressively low price tag.

The read speed for this 256GB capacity stick can reach a read speed of 150MB/s, which is ideal for watching back 4K or HD video and will give your TV plenty of headroom to reach its full potential.

The type-C and type-A compatibility serve a neat purpose, too; they're much more versatile for tablet, laptop, and phone users. An added plus is that a neat slider will retract the port you're not using, keeping it out of harm's way until you need it; it's one of the best SanDisk USBs out there.

Pros

  • Ample storage
  • Fast read speed
  • Smooth performance

Cons

  • Some may find the sliding mechanism fiddly

Best secure USB stick for TV recording

The Lexar JumpDrive Fingerprint F35 is a 256GB powerhouse of speed and good looks. A blistering 300 MB/s read speed is excellent for all your recording and playback needs.

But of course, the real trick up its sleeve is fingerprint recognition. You may wonder why you need this feature, but consider this: you may have one USB stick for everything – your work, documents, photos and, of course, your recordings.

So, imagine if you misplaced it. With the Lexar JumpDrive, your files are encrypted, and the drive can't be accessed until you've used your fingerprint on the USB stick itself. Perfect for the security-conscious boxset binger.

Pros

  • Very fast read speeds thanks to USB 3.0
  • It is extremely secure, so if you need it for work purposes, you can leave it plugged into your TV without worrying
  • Very sturdy and well-designed case

Cons

  • Not compatible with Mac
  • Fingerprint recognition can require patience

Best high-storage USB stick for TV recording

Kingston DataTraveler Max - 1TB - USB 3.2 Gen 2 - Flash Drive

Rrp: $119.99

Price: $85.79
Alternative retailers
Walmart$39.24View offer
B&H Photo Video$43.85View offer

Transfer a library of films and TV shows to your television in moments with Kingston's DataTraveler Max, a 1TB type C USB stick capable of rapidly reading your favourite downloaded movies at a moment's notice.

Designed to endure, this subtle design can fit on a keychain and doesn't become bothersome when used on the back of a smart TV.

Being slightly longer than other USB sticks, anyone planning to use the Kingston DataTraveler Max USB on their TV may find themselves precariously avoiding any knocks to the USB that may eventually rip out of the TV by mistake, so ensure your 1TB USB stick for TV recording is as conveniently positioned as possible.

Pros

  • Excellent high storage
  • Robust yet discrete and compact design
  • Ideal for thousands of movies and TV shows

Cons

  • Unsuitable for older laptops and PCs with no type-C connection

Best compact USB stick for TV recording

SanDisk 128GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 Flash Drive
Price: $37.90
Alternative retailers
Walmart$10.90View offer
B&H Photo Video$36.99View offer
Best Buy$44.99View offer

This drive's staggering 512GB storage capacity from SanDisk isn't the only wow factor here. This is the one for you if the USB port you use for TV recording is front-facing.

There's only a USB 3.0 connector, so there are no dual connection types here. The read speeds are a little slower than some, but the ultra-small form factor offsets that. This will seamlessly slot into any front-facing USB port in your TV and hardly be noticed. Plus, you're not likely to run out of space for quite a while.

Pros

  • Very large and practical storage capacity
  • Ultra-compact design - won't spoil the look of your TV
  • SanDisk reliability and sturdy build

Cons

  • Slow-ish read speed
  • Portable, but so small could be easily misplaced

Best tough USB stick

Corsair Flash Voyager GT, 1 TB USB 3.0 Flash Drive
Price: $159.99

Corsair is a well-known brand in the world of computer peripherals and is known for sturdy builds and reliability. So, this Flash Voyager GT is probably one of the best examples of the brand's know-how. It's a huge 1TB and extremely tough. The rubber casing means your precious recordings will be protected from water – water resistance, not full waterproofing – and drops as it's shock-proof.

This won't exactly blend in when slotted into any front-facing USB port in your TV. But that's probably to be expected on a drive that's meant to be taken out and about. Space-wise, you've got plenty, so if you've ever been stung by a failing drive after you dropped it or left it in the rain, this is the USB stick for you.

Pros

  • Huge storage capacity - ideal for travelling with plenty of your favourite shows
  • Water-resistant and shock-proof rubber housing means taking your recordings with you almost anywhere
  • Mac and PC compatible if you need to use it for transferring recordings between TV and computer

Cons

  • Not as fast as USB 3.2, but good enough

Best 256GB USB stick for TV recording

SanDisk 256GB Ultra Luxe USB Flash Drive

Rrp: $49.99

Price: $14.38
Alternative retailers
Adorama$9.45View offer
B&H Photo Video$10.49View offer
Walmart$13.49View offer

An all-around brilliant USB stick, the SanDisk 256GB USB stick is unbelievably high-quality at its price, with plenty of storage options to choose from that fit any budget.

A solid metal case, the SanDisk 256GB Ultra Luxe USB flash drive is built to last and has plenty of speed to quickly transfer data to your television for a crystal clear movie experience.

If you can, however, we'd recommend picking up at least a 512GB USB stick that'll last you a lifetime. If you need cash in a pinch, however, the SanDisk 256GB USB stick is a great alternative for you to try.

Pros

  • Great sturdy design
  • Good high-speed data transfer
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • Storage is good for TV shows, but could be better

Best retractable USB stick for TV recording

SanDisk Ultra 128 GB USB

Rrp: $14.02

Price: $13.28
Alternative retailers
Walmart$19.25View offer

SanDisk's 128GB USB drive is a bargain for great TV recording, and its tough design ensures that you'll record for years. If you're on the go, avoid any connector warping with its smooth, retractable design, so there's no chance of losing your precious film library due to hardware damage.

Quickly transfer movies to your smart TV, and in less than 40 seconds, you'll be able to watch ultra-HD films how they were meant to be experienced, thanks to the SanDisk Ultra's impeccable 130 MB/s read times.

Pros

  • Solid design made for longevity
  • Fantastic reading speeds for rapid file transfer
  • Excellent value, perfect for recording TV

Cons

  • Storage could be higher

Best dual USB stick for TV recording

For the ultimate USB stick for your TV, you cannot do better than SSK's 2TB dual USB, with both USB Type C and USB 3.2 to utilise. Perhaps one of the best USB sticks on the market, this rapid dual drive stick clocks in at a staggering 550 MB/s, breaking the mould of just what a USB stick is capable of.

Downloading libraries of films and TV shows onto the SSK 2TB USB is quick and easy, thanks to the SSK's sheer boundless space. If we were to nitpick, the SSK is particularly large, which makes sense, but it makes for the USB stick awkwardly jutting out of the TV, leading to some potential mishaps whilst cleaning or on-the-go.

Brief downsides aside, there's no denying just how brilliant the SSK 2TB dual-drive is; it's just that good.

Pros

  • Second-to-none reading speeds
  • Great dual USB design
  • Excellent storage

Cons

  • Perhaps overly technical for some users to fully utilise

Top tip: Always choose USB 3.0 or faster

USB 3.0
Blue internal colour showing tells you that these ports are USB 3.0

The most important thing to look for when choosing USB sticks for smart TVs is USB 3.0. Most USB cables use a USB 'Type A' connector - the usual larger rectangular type you can see in the image above. However, in terms of data transfer speed, they're not all the same.

A USB 3.0 (or USB 3.1) connection is an improvement over the older USB 2.0 connection, as is the latest USB-C which is a different size and shape. The majority of sticks now use the USB 3.0/1 port. Its bright blue colour can identify it, whereas the older USB 2.0 is solid black. If your port or memory stick isn't blue, it'll be USB 2.0 - nowhere near fast enough for smooth recording and playback of TV video files.

If your television only carries a USB 2.0 connection, this will bottleneck the speed of your USB 3.0/1 memory stick. The stick will still work plugged into a USB 2.0 port, but it will only work as fast as a USB 2.0 device. Of course, if you are stuck with USB 2.0, it might be worth considering upgrading your TV - either way, we still recommend opting for a USB 3.0/1 stick below, as it will serve you well into the future and be ready for any future tech upgrades.

Best USB sticks for smart TVs in 2024: Buyer's guide

How to choose the best USB for your smart TV

As mentioned earlier, it's important to make sure that you choose one with a USB 3.0 connection. Even if your TV only has USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 stick will still function - just not at USB 3 speeds.

Consider how much TV you actually want to record and store. Some viewers prefer to record entire seasons of their favourite show and then binge-watch the lot in one go. Others record and then catch up on their show soon after it's been broadcast. For those who like to store several entire series at once, buy your budget's largest storage capacity.

Consider the read speed

This leads us nicely to the second thing to watch out for - read speed. While USB 3.0/1 is fast, not all memory sticks are created equal, with each carrying different performance speeds. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the read speed (measured in MB/s), the better. Avoid anything under 100 MB/s when choosing USB sticks for smart TVs.

USB types explained

USB ports come in a few different shapes and sizes. Sometimes this correlates with the maximum data transfer speeds of the device. Notably, in the case of USB A, this is not true.

USB A

This is probably the most commonly found USB connector. Rectangular, with a colour-coded rectangular plastic tab visible inside. Here the colour difference is very important. If your USB port or connector has blue plastic on the inside, it's a high-speed USB 3.0 type. If it's black or grey inside, it's only going to be USB 2.0 - too slow for TV recording and playback.

USB C

This connection type is becoming more and more common now. It's a small rectangle with rounded edges. A key aspect of this design is it's reversible; you can plug it in any way around. Whereas USB A types only fit in one way. USB C is also lightning-fast, delivering a 10Gbps data transfer rate. This is twice as fast as USB 3 and over 20 times faster than USB 2.0.

USB speeds

As long as your TV and USB memory stick are USB 3.0 or greater, you won't have problems recording your TV programmes. But for those who like the stats, here's how each type clocks in:

USB 2.0: 480Mbps (megabits per second) / 60MBps (megabytes per second)
USB 3.0: 5Gbps (gigabits per second) / 652MBps
USB 3.1 (gen 1): Same as USB 3
USB 3.1 (gen 2): 10Gbps / 10,000Mbps
USB 3.2 (Only used on Type C connections and later): 5Gbps to 20Gbps, depending on the version.
USB 4.0 (Used on Apple's Thunderbolt 3 and 4, and Type C connectors): 40Gbps

Best USB sticks for smart TVs in 2024: FAQs

What is the best format for a USB stick for smart TV?

When you hear the term 'format' with USB sticks, this is not to do with the shape of the device. It's the drive's preferred filing system - in other words, how the data is written and organised on the stick. Common formats are FAT32 and NTFS. It's worth knowing that this isn't worth being overly concerned about. Many TVs will simply detect a newly inserted USB drive and format it accordingly.

What size USB stick for TV recording?

For the average TV user who is recording HD films and TV shows, you'll want at least 128GB. Stay mindful of what you've recorded and regularly delete older content though. We can't say exactly how many hours of TV will be stored as this all depends on the resolution it's being saved at. Sometimes your TV will let you choose whether to record at a high or medium resolution to save space. As always, with the different TV brands and models, your mileage will vary.

If you want smart TV recording to be your primary source of entertainment, it's worth looking into external hard drives. Though physically larger than a simple USB stick (and more expensive), they're far more robust. They're also often faster when reading and writing large amounts of data. Alternatively, Freeview recording boxes have their own hard drives built-in, which means you can skip the TV for recording altogether. Storage capacities usually start at 500GB and climb to around 2TB or more.

How much TV can I record on a 32GB USB?

Firstly, 32GB is probably one of the smallest-capacity USB sticks you're likely to find. With modern TVs capable of some very high resolutions like 4K, you're not going to fit as much as you'd like onto one of these. We'd recommend buying a USB stick with a minimum of 128GB or higher if your budget allows.

William Lobley is the Deputy Tech & Fitness Editor for What's The Best. Here, he oversees, curates and researches listicles and reviews as many products as his home office can handle.

He has spent nearly five years writing about tech, audio, outdoors and fitness and has reviewed everything from smartphones to ice baths. In addition, he's well-versed in sniffing out the best deals and savings the internet offers.

When not at his desk writing, reviewing or deal-hunting, he'll be relaxing with Japanese crime novels, bingeing some classic anime, strolling the countryside or at the gym listening to the heaviest metal Spotify has to offer.

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