It's easy to forget, but all USB thumb drives are not created equal. There's a difference between the plastic cheapies tech companies are constantly ennuggeting and then crapping their press releases into and, say, a Super Talent 200x... and even amongst the big boys, different file systems get wildly different results.
Kristofer Brozio took nine of the best USB flash drives around and put them in a head-to-head performance test. Overall, the OCZ and Super Talent drives come out ahead. This may all seem pretty useless: you usually don't need a flash drive to do more than transfer a document or two between colleagues. But as someone who has been installing a good chunk of OSes on his Asus 1000HA netbook lately (more to come!), this has me looking to pick up a Super Talent.