External Hard Drives

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Western Digital VelociRaptor Duo External Hard Drive Review

Western Digital, a familiar name in the external hard drive arena, now ships high-performance EHD solutions. After the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo that touted amazingly blazing speeds for users with Thunderbolt-compatible systems who required a blend of bulk capacity together with rapid throughput in a portable drive, now it is the turn of the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo to carry on that tradition. The VelociRaptor Duo goes a step further in taking EHD performance by dramatically enhancing the write/read speeds when compared to its predecessors. As the name suggests, the only difference in this current Duo variant would be that it utilizes a pair of 1TB 10,000 RPM VelociRaptor WD hard drives in the My Book enclosure, thus enhancing the drives’ performance to almost 400MB/s. So here is yet another Thunderbolt-ready drive that has been added to the ever-growing successors of My Book desktop storage gadgets. The significant performance boost has been made possible by ditching the WD Green drives for the VelociRaptor mechanisms, as mentioned above. The 10,000-rpm drives in the enclosure together with the 10 Gbps Thunderbolt connectivity is the driving force behind the VelociRaptor Duo that challenges the performance of an SSD.

It would be apt to call this VelociRaptor Duo as a power-user’s dream. Well, it isn’t easy on the pocket, but then you cannot expect speed to be inexpensive can you??? It is possibly the fastest drives out there without having to shell out an atrocious number on some 6-drive array and it sure won’t take over your workstation. So if you are on a graphic or scientific deadline, then this is definitely your best bet.

Now, WD sure did make a late entry to the Thunderbolt game with their Thunderbolt Duo (in tossing in a thunderbolt-version of two 3.5-inch WD Caviar Green drives in the My Book chassis), but guess they caught up in the race with the introduction of the VelociRaptor Duo that performs decently well in comparison to the existing rival dual-drive gadgets, not to mention their attempt in keeping SSDs at bay.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise if there is this feeling lingering on your head that the drive looks awfully familiar. Well, it might look pretty much similar to its big brother (Thunderbolt duo), but in reality this is an entirely different beast beneath the jet black container that has two 10,000RPM VR drives spinning inside the enclosure. WD has also been kind enough to include a 50-dollar worth accessory in the box, a Thunderbolt cable (that was missing in the My Book Thunderbolt Duo), so that goes easy on the pocket. Also on board are two Thunderbolt ports that help in daisy-chaining the drive with other My Book devices or gadgets. In addition, there is also a provision to include a display port monitor to the chain’s end.

Even as the VelociRaptor Duo flaunts its rapid transfer speeds, there are quite a number of other noteworthy features too that it is capable of. For starters, the drive is shipped preformatted as Mac OS X HFS+ with the RAID o configuration in order to take thorough advantage of the drive’s speed and thus it is also Time Machine compatible right outside the box. Secondly, it comes with a Thunderbolt cable too (while most other Thunderbolt drives lack one), which makes it ready to be used instantly and is incredibly easy too. Again, the drive’s Thunderbolt ports can be easily incorporated into any Thunderbolt daisy chain. And last but not least, there is a WD Drive Utility application that comes in extremely handy when it comes to registering/ deleting / performing diagnostics / setting a sleep timer for the drive or even configuring RAID 0/1/JBOD settings, all within a couple of mouse clicks. It is worth mentioning here; however, that though users are allowed to change the format to JBOD or RAID 1, that doesn’t really make any sense as one would be compromising on the blazing speeds of the 10,000RPM drive in RAID o. Well, if you are too keen on the RAID 1/JBOD configuration, then might as well settle in for the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo as the VelociRapter would be overkill.

The VelociRaptor is user serviceable too, meaning the internal drives can be replaced. You just got to open the lid with a gentle press and yank the handle, straight up, of the perforated metal cover and voila – there lies both the drives gleaming at you.

Once you manage to expose the drive cage, all you need to do is unscrew the thumbscrew and lift out another panel, and there you will be greeted by the two VR drives. This comes in fairly handy especially for those who often burn out HD mechanisms, video editors for instance. As the drives are pre-equipped with slide-in sleds, it is seconds before you replace the drives and you wouldn’t even need a screwdriver to do so.

However, you might want to be aware of the warning label put in there by WD that instructs that the drives have to be replaced ONLY with WD VelociRapter drives. Well, if it makes you feel any better, there is always a 3-year warranty on the drive that covers any problems relating to the unit. One can always claim replacements from WD during the 3-year span.

Western Digital My Book VelociRaptor Duo

Though the benefits are in abundance with barely any notable downsides, one might want to be apprised of a couple of hitches too. The drive lacks both USB and FireWire interfaces and hence is compatible only with Macs that are Thunderbolt-ready. Then again, you can get around this issue with an Apple Thunderbolt Display (available @ Apple Stores for $100) that allows to hook up both FireWire 800 as well as USB 2.0 drives simultaneously to your Thunderbolt-compatible Macs/PCs. The most evident negative would be the drive’s pricing – one would have to shell out a hefty $900 for the 2TB model. While the performance offsets the price, there is; however, a school of thought that feels it to be way too heavily priced as a 4TB from the same company can be had at $600 (My Book Thunderbolt Duo). Guess, this should give a more clear picture of the same – while the VelociRaptor Duo is priced at 44 cents/Gb, the My Book Thunderbolt Duo comes at a meager 15 cents/Gb. On hindsight, the VelociRaptor still works out cheaper than SSDs like the Little Big Disk 240GB SSD from LaCie that comes at 900 dollars, which would be $3.75/Gb.

First impressions

Getting to the chassis of the black VelociRaptor Duo, well it is no different from any of its big brothers of the My Book lineage. A single white LED lamp plays the role of an activity/power indicator towards the front. There is no power button of any sorts. Getting to the rear, one can have a glimpse of a Kensington lock port together with a pair of dual-channel 10Gbps Thunderbolt ports along with a DC input that originates from the power adapter. WD takes pride in the fact that they have kept the access to the drives as simple as possible. As mentioned above, a button click is all that is required to unscrew the chassis and the top plate, after which each drive can be yanked out. The VelociRaptor Duo will accept only VR drives, akin to the other drives of the My Book family.

The VR Duo seems kind of heavy at 4.18 lbs with both drives installed, which is actually a good thing given the fact that this is a desktop unit and is in no hurry to go anywhere. Again, with the sturdy rubber feet underneath and its weight, one wouldn’t have to worry about the VR Duo getting knocked down nor sliding around a workstation.

Elsewhere, WD provides users with a simple management utility that aides with rapid reconfiguration of the RAID either as two independent drives or to mirror the same. While the utility can be used to execute basic tests on the drive, it unfortunately lacks an extensive SMART reporting, for which one might have to procure a third-party tool.

Thermals

Speaking of thermals, thanks to both the 10,000RPM drives, the enclosure idles at 21.2W and with load, you might want to be ready for a number as high as 25.6W. Now, isn’t that a lot of heat awaiting to be dispelled. This is something expected from all of these 3.5-inch HDD, where the thermals can pose to be a problem with continuous reads/writes. On being plugged without the Thunderbolt cable attached, the drive idles at 11W, with the figures rising to 15W upon being connected to a PC and goes on to 17-18W with both drives being used at full speed for a write operation. During operation, it is not just noisy, but generates a lot of heat too with the top grill evidently warm to touch and the Thunderbolt connector and the area surrounding it getting downright sizzling to such an extent that it can be annoyingly hot to touch fore more a couple of seconds. Well, noisy and hot would best suit a summer rock recital possibly, but not a portable unit, we guess. Thankfully, all of the above is handled well by the VR, as it is amply ventilated. There are rubber feet to keep the chassis slightly elevated, that lets in cool air via the grill at the bottom and tosses out the warm air through the top. Additionally, the enclosure has a fan on the insides that helps with circulation of air. Now, the best way to test the thermal performance (if you are the explorative kind, that is) would be to fill the VR up till its full 2TB capacity and check out for yourselves.

The internal fan of the VR Duo doesn’t really whine in a high-pitched tone, but there is indeed an audible groan. Again, it isn’t the drives that are loud, unless of course you choose to do more of random IO, wherein there comes a quick reminder that there are two 10,000 RPM spindles spinning in there. But then the drive/chassis easily looks to be the noisiest combo that one can have on their desktop. It, indeed is frustrating, but doesn’t really come in your way though. Especially, if you are someone into audio mixing, you are better off tuning your monitors up loud or simply put on your headphones. After all, you’ve got to pay the price for the speed that you get out of spinning those drives, ain’t it??

Performance

The VelociRaptor Duo’s speed gives the rival SSDs a run for their money. The drive approximately paces at less than 11 seconds to transfer a 1.2GB folder, beating the SSD-powered 120 GB LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt drive (at 17 seconds) and is in part with the 240GB LaCie’s Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD (at 11 sec), and almost equal to the 6 TB LaCie 2big Thunderbolt Series (at 12 seconds). The drive literally shines at the AJA System test with drive transfers which is a routine with the video editing industry. The VR Duo blazes at 343 Mbps write speed and 374 Mbps read speed and beats hands down the 2big drive that boasts of read and write speeds of 320Mbps and 304Mbps respectively with the Little Big Disk boasting of read and write speeds of 476Mbps and 252Mbps respectively.  So, we guess the Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt and Little Big Disk (200MBps write, 380MBps read) would be a wise choice when all you have to do is to read huge chunks of data, but the VR Duo would be your best bet when you are looking at shuffling huge chunks of data to and fro the drive. Long story short, the VelociRaptor Duo looks to be the best friend in terms of speed for all those in the creative content arena like video editors graphic designers, and scientific experts.

Now it might not be as capacious as LaCie’s 2Big Thunderbolt, but it definitely is a speed demon. Again, it has decent write speeds with volumes too in comparison to SSD-powered alternatives like the Little Big Disk from LaCie and Rugged Thunderbolt solutions. However, the Promise Pegasus R6 is a BEAST in terms of speed and capacity, but woaaah check out its price tag. Again, the 1TB IoSafe Solo is nowhere near comparison as it clings on to its title of being rugged, fire-proof and let’s not forget the data recovery service, now! All said and done, the VR Duo is indeed a wise choice for any specialty-oriented PC users and Mac professionals whose priority is speed of a Thunderbolt.

Quick Specs:

Capacity: 2TB (Two RAID0/1 10,000 1 TB RPM WD VelociRaptor drives)
Dimensions: 6.50 x 6.20 x 3.90 in.
Weight: 4.18 Pounds
Interface: Thunderbolt X2
2 Thunderbolt ports to aid in daisy-chaining the device
Operating Temp: 5° C to 35° C
Non-operating Temp:-20° C to 65° C
Warranty: 3 years

Pros

  • User serviceable
  • Amazing Read/Write performance
  • Read operations on par with an SSD
  • Faster Write operations in comparison to an SSD
  • Thunderbolt cable included
  • Out of the box Time Machine compatible
  • Dual Thunderbolt ports are daisy-chainable
  • Simple RAID configuration options
  • User-friendly bundled software

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Lacks USB/FireWire compatibility /visual capacity indicator

To Conclude

The unit manages to successfully deliver the promised performance of RAID o configuration on a Mac. Now, comes the question if the performance is on par with a hi-end SSD? Not really, then again not far off either. The fact still remains that one gets an awfully capacious 2TB storage hitting raw bandwidths of around 350MB/sec.

Beyond doubts, the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo is indeed the fastest portable storage unit for the Mac platform in the current market. So, if we were to bring about a balance between capacity and speed, then a single VR drive should suffice, whereas the VelociRaptor Duo boasts of two of them. Hence, the drive would be perfect for creative personnel that require both lots and lots of space and high transfer speeds, but for the current lack of RAID o support for Windows.

In terms of design, well WD has kept it simple and humble, a rectangular box. One might not be a great fan of the plastic-y feel to it, but then the company has been smart enough to offset it by offering an easy way to gain access to the drives and scores high there. However, they could do better on the noise part and the heat of course.
Getting to the warranty, doesn’t a 3-year warranty sound like music to the ears. It sure will be appreciated by those possessing an personal storage device for a long time now. Agreed that your data is precious, but at least the hardware has been taken care of!  Mac patrons desiring data redundancy can always reconfigure to a RAID 1 configuration if that can give you some peace of mind and not to worry Windows patrons, matter of time before RAID support is offered for Windows too, hopefully!

Last but not least, would be the most glaring issue – price. Well, agreed that it is awfully steep, but given the fact that while majority of the other external storage are offered with 7200RPM drives, the VR Duo comes with 10,000RPM drives. So aren’t we better off thinking of it as a premium that we pay for the new Thunderbolt interface and the additional throughput that brings about blazing transfer speeds.

Aside from a couple of gripes and the glaring high cost, it is very evident that WD has designed the VelociRaptor Duo for a particular segment and specific user in mind by offering amazingly speedy external storage via the quickest possible external PC link offered in the current market.  Video patrons with a Mac backup would be all over this drive, i.e., if they can justify the price; Well, that is up to people and their needs!

Specification Table

Manufacturer Western Digital
Model Name My Book VelociRaptor Duo
Type of Drive 3.5-inch dual-bay external hard drive
Colours available Black
Capacity 2TB
Dimensions(HWD) 6.5 x 3.9 x 6.2in
Weight 4.18 lb / 1.9 kg
Drive speed 10000 RPM
Interface Thunderbolt
OS Mac
Configuration Pre-configured RAID 0 for maximum speed
Configurable to RAID 1 for data protection/mirror or
use the drives individually in JBOD mode
Software Included WD utilities
Sustained Data Transfer Rate Thunderbolt: 10Gbps (max)
System Requirement Computer with Thunderbolt connector
Mac OS X 10.6.8 or higher
Other Features Data Encryption
RAID Support
Kensington Port
Time Machine Compatible
Sleep Mode
Warranty 3-year limited warranty

Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive 500GB

Now for those of you who believe in the old saying “it’s what on the inside that counts” might want to change your opinion when it comes to choosing your hard drive, especially the Verbatim Store n Go USB 3.0 Portable 500 GB HDD, as the company has decided to splash some extravagant colours to the otherwise dowdy storage needs. Oh yes, the 500GB Store n Go drives are fairly standard, but come in dashing colours like the Caribbean Blue, Sunkissed yellow, Volcanic orange, Eucalyptus Green, Hot Pink, Violet, Graphite grey, Silver and Black that sure does pair up well and can be hauled around all your fancy computer peripherals. Global leader of data storage technology – Verbatim is famous for its line of products which include portable hard disks, CDs, memory cards, USB flash drives and Blu-ray discs who have now decided to attract all PC junkies with their storage products.

Verbatim a pioneer in data storage solutions aim at delivering customers needs without compromising on anything, be it rapid transfer speeds, reliable back-up or sleek aesthetics, and the Verbatim Store n Go USB 3.0 hard drive is no exception to the above. This drive doesn’t just impress users with its lightning fast speed and ability to provide reliable backup anytime anywhere, but also thoroughly seduces users who are on the look out to get the best of both – function and form. Along with storing, saving and sharing your photos, videos and music, it also doubles up as a vibrant accessory to the existing gizmos.

Again the drive is compatible with any USB port and also includes the Nero BackItUp & Burn Essentials software that takes care of all backup and restoration process along with scheduling an automatic backup based on time/date. There is also a provision for password-controlled backup option (encrypted). Additionally, there is also an optional software onboard – the Green Button Software that comes with 3 sleep/suspend settings in an effort to save energy (with the drive being idle) together with a Formatter Software that aides in changing the drive’s format from FAT32 to HFS+ or NTFS, thus maximizing the flexibility of the drive and covering a wide range of users.

Pack Contents

  • 1 x Store ‘n’ Go Portable Hard Drive USB 3.0
  • 1 x USB 3.0 cable
  • 1 x User Guide and Nero BackItUp/Burn Essentials software which has been included in the drive
  • 1 x Quick Start Guide (in 27 language)
  • Green Button Software User Guide and Green Button Energy Saving Software also included on the drive

System Requirements

  • Windows XP/ 2000 / 7 / Vista
  • Mac 10.1 or higher
  • USB 2.0/3.0
  • Linux Kernal 2.6 and higher

Features

  • Super Speed USB 3.0 data transfer.
  • Securely stores and backs up all files from a laptop/PC.
  • A stylish sleek design that is compatible with desktops and can also be transported effortlessly.
  • A quick start guide that is available in 27 languages.
  • Includes the Nero BackItUp/Burn Essentials software that helps with creating your own back up both from a PC or Laptop’s hard drive to a portable hard drive.
  • Easily transfer files/data from both home and office.
  • Plug n Play USB that requires no additional power.
  • Green Button software helps with saving energy while not in use.

Specifications

  • Available in dashing colours like Caribbean Blue, Sunkissed yellow, Volcanic orange, Eucalyptus Green, Hot Pink, Violet, Graphite grey, Silver and Black
  • Data Transfer Rate: up to 4800 Mbits per second – USB Bus Speed
  • Power: Bus powered via USB 3.0 cable
  • Cache: 8MB or more
  • Interface: USB 2.0/3.0 port
  • Rotational Speed: 5400rpm
  • Almost compatible with any USB port
  • High capacity storage of 500GB
  • A whopping 7-year warranty

First Impressions

A single glance at the package is all it takes for one to realize that the drive is a USB 3.0 device with a 500GB capacity. It carries a whopping 7-year warranty which indeed is the key selling point of the drive. Getting to the rear, you will be greeted by a graphic of the hard drive along with a chart that provides info on the speed gains that the USB 3.0 is capable of. Additionally, there is a bonus of a 5GB 60-day trial of Norton Online Backup, which is Norton’s cloud backup that allows for uploading as much as 5GB of data that is ready for retrieval at any given point in time (in the active subscription period).  Towards the side of the package would be stuff like the package contents and system requirements in both French and English. And Yes! it is compatible with both a Mac and PC that has an USB port on offer. Again, the disc is backwards compatible too such that both High Speed USB 2.0 and Super Speed 3.0 can be used.

Getting to the insides of the package, lies a single brown box that houses the hard drive with an USB 3.0 cable measuring about 1 meter (3 feet 3 inches). It is also safely wrapped using a protective film thereby safeguarding the outer shell from scratches. It is advisable to retain this film on the drive if users are looking at keeping fingerprints at bay as the glossy outer shell looks to be a magnet for fingerprints.

So looking at the above cable, it would be hard to ignore the blue connector on it as against the conventional black/white; it is because it is a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 cable that has been designed to be congruent with the latest USB 3.0 technology. Also the blue colour is to hint that one needs to hook it up in to the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port in a computer, which comes blue coded too. Again, it is not an issue if you do not have one, as it is backward compatible too with USB 2.0 ports, but then you will have to put up with USB 2.0 speeds at about 30MB/s.

So, let us get to the main attraction of the drive shall we? This Verbatim 500GB Store n Go portable hard drive comes in the measurements of 121 x 80 x 15 mm and weighs a bare 150g and is an easy fit into anything, be it a purse or a pocket or a laptop bag. Then again, as mentioned, the glossy enclosure would be both a boon and curse as it turns this elegant drive into a magnet for fingerprints.

Getting to the back, the drive’s interface starts to get evident (USB 3.0), with the connector not just coming in handy to transfer data, but also serves as a power for the drive.  So once the drive is plugged in, a plain blue LED glows (as show in the image above) indicating that it is powered and flashes every now and then making it evident that the drive is in use. Well, for those of you all who are anti-LED’s, the only way out to escape it would be to tape it away. Again, the hard drive doesn’t require any secondary power cable as the USB interface feeds it with all the power needed, as mentioned above. This Verbatim hard drive has a Seagate Momentus 5400.6 spinning inside of it with an 8MB cache and SATA 3.0Gbps with a rotational speed of 5400 RPM. Again, the Store n go comes in the FAT32 format offering a space of 465GB to be utilized of which 419MB is eaten up by the Mac and PC software that has been bundled with this hard drive. Also Verbatim’s got their very own disk formatting utility onboard this drive wherein the VHD Formatter offers the option of formatting the drive via NTFS or FAT32 or even the possibility of converting it from a FAT32 to NTFS, all without any loss of data.

Additionally, the Store n Go comes bundled with the BackitUp & Burn Essentials suite from Nero that includes disc burning, backup and file recovery software, of which the main component (Nero BackItUp) takes the responsibility of protecting data with a backup to the optical disc, hard drive, network share, memory card or an FTP server. Together with a simple single-click Autobackup option, BackItUp is also capable of performing a differential, full and incremental backup of either the entire hard drive or selective files.

Again, the Nero RescueAgent comes to your help in case you end up deleting a file that you forgot to do a backup of. This is done via advanced data recovery technology that traces and recovers deleted files from CDs, hard drives, flash storage devices and DVDs. Then there is the Nero Express that takes care of the disc burning duties, a software that walks you through the process of burning audio, video or data to a DVD, CD or Blu-ray disc.  Together with the BackItUp & Burn, the Store n Go is also loaded with a handful of Verbatim’s very own applications.

Moving on, lets us find out what exactly happens upon hooking the drive with a computer – Mac/Windows detects the drive and instantly by default installs all drivers required. It will further be displayed as a Mass Storage Device and thus can be accessed at any point in time. Upon exploring the drive, you will get to see one .EXE together with 3 folders that contain the necessary files for the .EXE to install all the backup software on your PC. One can also find the files containing the manual that can be accessed from the drive’s root via the “Start PC” launcher. Now in order for one to ensure that they don’t lose these files upon running the setup program, just click on the “Save Verbatim Files”.

Upon launching the program, the Verbatim software installer greets users and is fairly straight forward. Just by clicking the right-sided tabs you are allowed to read manuals, install bundled software or have an idea of the support offered by Verbatim on its other products. As mentioned above, there is a 7-year warranty offered on this product and this info can be accessed by clicking on support. Well, it doesn’t require any registration as such, but you might want to cling on to the original invoice, as it comes in real handy should there be a need to service the drive for any reason. Also, the drive is fairly silent while it functions or during any backup process and barely gets warm to the touch. It takes roughly about half hour for a 65GB backup to be processed.

Verbatim has been thoughtful enough to keep environment in mind when they designed this drive with a Green Button energy saving software that suspends the drive from spinning when not in use, thus saving energy as well as increasing its efficiency. And how exactly is this done, well for starters there are 3 Sleep setting options. Users can set the suspend mode to be active after 10 minutes of using the disc or in 10-minute increments going as far as 120 minutes. The drive can be set in two different ways – either have it suspended immediately by double clicking the Green Button icon on the desktop or set it in the Never Suspend mode.

Performance

Performance-wise, the Verbatim 500GB USB 3.0 Store n Go manages to reach a read and write speed of 81.71 MB/s and 79.68 MB/s respectively. When it comes to USB 2.0, the read and write speeds drops down drastically to a 33.47 MB/s and 33.01 MB/S respectively, thus making the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 141% faster on the write test and 144% faster on the read test. Now this doesn’t look that shabby for 5400 RPM USB-enclosed drive. When it comes to the read performance, it manages to pull an average speed of 64MB per second with the burst speed touching 113MB per second and access time of 18.8ms.

Final Take

There is abundant storage space offered by this Verbatim Store n Go SuperSpeed 500GB USB 3.0 for any extensive media collection, and is only too happy to stockpile on photos or full length movies. Available at a street price of about 75 Euros it indeed manages to balance out well on the performance-price ratio. The blend of lightning transfer speeds and simple operation packed in a simple two-colored casing with a robust outer hull is indeed impressive. On the flip side, the disk’s reliability is kind of questionable on each interface owing to its high booting energy consumption. So it is recommended only for those users whose interfaces are powerful enough to provide the disk with such kind of power. Otherwise, if you are on the lookout for a pocket-friendly storage which takes thorough advantage of zippy USB 3.0 speeds, the 500GB Store n Go doesn’t disappoint you one bit.

Specification Table

Manufacturer Verbatim
Model Name Store ‘N’ Go USB 3.0 500GB
Type of Drive External
Colours available Caribbean Blue, Sunkissed yellow, Volcanic orange,
Eucalyptus Green, Hot Pink, Violet, Graphite grey,
Silver and Black
Form Factor 2.5-inch
Dimensions 121 x 80 x 15mm
Weight 150g
Buffer 8MB or greater
Available Capacities 250 / 320 / 500 / 640 / 750GB and 1 / 2TB
Interface USB 3.0 / 2.0 / USB 1.1 port
Compatibility Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7, Mac OS X 10.1 or higher,
Linux kernal 2.6 and higher
Power Source USB powered
Transfer rate USB 3.0 up to 5GB/s
USB 2.0 up to 480 Mb/s
In the Box Store ‘n’ Go Portable Hard Drive USB 3.0, USB 3.0 cable,
Quick Start Guide printed in 27 languages, User Guide
Warranty 7-year limited warranty

Buffalo Ministation Thunderbolt External Hard Drive Review

As the name suggests, the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt EHD utilises Intel’s Thunderbolt interface in order to double available bandwidth as against secondary USB 3.0 interface. Nevertheless, it chooses to utilise a 500GB mechanical hard disk as against a SSD and thus Windows users (utilising an USB3) wouldn’t find any great difference in terms of performance. Again, this would be the second bus-powered Thunderbolt drive in today’s market that doesn’t necessitate a separate power adaptor, with the first one being Elgato Thunderbolt SSD. Actually, there are too many “Firsts” associated with this drive, a few of which would include – this is again the first drive to offer both – a USB 3.0 connectivity and to house a regular hard drive as against a SSD. Furthermore, this is the first drive to include both a Thunderbolt and microUSB cables in the box, which indeed is a big deal as the cable alone costs an extra $50. So, if we are done with the Firsts, let us move on to the performance factor of the drive which though looks impressive seems kind of limited by the internal hard drive, but still manages to do a decent enough job to justify its price tag.

Now this Ministation Thunderbolt portable hard drive comes in two capacities 500 GB (that boasts of a 7200 RPM) and 1TB (with an RPM of 5900) and offers two options for connections – an USB 3.0 for Windows and a Thunderbolt port for Macintosh systems. Though the drive comes preformatted in the HFS+ format that suits the Mac OS, it can be reformatted to be compatible with Windows too. Again, on being formatted to suit Mac OS, it can be used in conjunction with Time Machine to aide in performing backups.

Well, Thunderbolt has slowly but steadily gained traction with more and more host devices and peripherals. Gone are the days when Thunderbolt was considered an Apple-only drive with its peripherals being aimed at extreme high-end market. Now, there is an interesting theory for the initial Thunderbolt peripherals being aimed at the high-end market, which would be the size, TDP and the engineering limitations that revolved around Thunderbolt controllers. Fortunately with the second-gen Thunderbolt controllers boasting of lower costs, reduced size and TDP being the norm, together with Apple unleashing additional Macs and enhanced interface, the market has gotten bigger with potentially interested consumers. And looks like that probably influenced Buffalo’s decision on unleashing a portable hard drive with a 2.5-inch form factor that has both the Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces on board. So, talking of single drive (Thunderbolt) storage, well the options in the current market would either be the Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt or the Seagate GoFlex.

First Impressions

The MiniStation Thunderbolt is a nice and compact drive similar to any 2.5-inch drives and measures 0.9 x 3.2 x 5.1-inches, tipping the scales off at a mere 9.3oz. So moving on with the industrial design, it looks more to be an Apple-inspired one, as it predominantly runs on the Apple interface. Clad in brushed aluminium its metal finish takes its cues from Apple gadgets. It can be obtained in 2 flavours with the storage size being the only differentiating factor. While the 500GB disk is called HD-PA500TU3, the 1TB version is called the HD-PA1.0TU3, both of which include the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt. The good news, as mentioned above, would be Buffalo’s decision to include both a 19.7-inch Thunderbolt cable and an USB (white cable) along with both the drives. This indeed is good news as their prior drives required separate purchase of a cable. Again, irrelevant of users using a USB or a Thunderbolt, the disk sucks in power from the connected PC and does really require additional power supply. The 500GB variant of the Ministation becomes 465GB upon being formatted to NTFS, but no worries here, since users wouldn’t have to go about clearing any bundled software as there are none that accompanies the Ministation Thunderbolt. Well, Time Machine is supported though, so that takes care of Apple patrons.

The drive has been divided into two main parts namely a single-piece aluminium body, which houses the drive and a plastic casing that snaps within the assembly. There are a couple of shiny white-status LED lamps that glows via a thin rectangular opening towards the front that can be seen reflecting off of a surface. The indicator light glows beautifully with any activity else stays dormant upon being plugged. A unique makeover for an external hard drive’s LED, should we say.

Getting to the underside of the drive, you get to see 2 U-shaped rubber feet that avoids slippage of the drive and though isn’t a part of the aluminium base still manage to make contact to the drive spinning inside. While laser-etched regulatory markings can be seen towards the front foot, the rear houses the ports for the USB 3.0 and thunderbolt on either side of the drive. Construction-wise, the drive is fairly rugged and doesn’t flex much if you try flexing the aluminium side leaning against the plastic lip and looks to be a robust aluminium brick in the hand. So much solid that that the 9” thick drive in fact looks downright fat when compared to the 4” thick GoFlex Slim from Seagate; So much for solidity huh? Nevertheless, it indeed is portable and will comfortably slide inside your back pockets, as long as you don’t choose to wear those skinny jeans, though.

Now, the very fact that the drive comes with just one Thunderbolt port goes on to mean that the drive necessarily needs to be at the end of a chain in a daisy chain setup, as another Thunderbolt device cannot be paired up with it. Well, the lack of an additional thunderbolt port shouldn’t be a big deal in a portable device as this. Also of note, though the drive comes with both the USB and thunderbolt cables, it can work only with one cable at a time. Well, you wouldn’t have to bother even if you connect it to a PC with both the cables, by mistake, it obviously will work with the port that has been plugged in first.
When it comes to setting up the Ministation Thunderbolt, it is indeed a cakewalk as it is HFS+ preformatted out of the box. It is instantly available upon being connected to a Mac via Thunderbolt wherein an icon appears automatically on the Finder and the desktop. Also, it is ready to be used with a PC too, provided you have it reformatted to NTFS which is also an easy task.

Performance

Getting to the performance of the drive, though it boasts of the high-speed Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces, the test results yielded by it seems fairly average owing to the fact that there is a 2.5-inch internal platter drive spinning inside and the potential of each interface getting hindered by the rotational components of the drive. The Ministation supposedly hits WR speeds of 102.5 MBps/108.2 MBps respectively via the Thunderbolt and scored a WR speed of 101.4 MBps/106.9 MBps respectively via the USB 3.0. Again, on being connected to a USB 2.0, it yields a fairly average score of 35.2 MBps for read speed and 26.6 MBps for write speed. By and large, the performance looks pretty much similar to the Seagate’s Backup Plus drive and is definitely more expensive for the meagre features it has to offer.
The aluminum underside of the drive does a remarkable job of conducting heat away and does get a bit warm during use. After all, it does double up as a heatsink and isn’t aluminum famous for its thermal conductivity. What looks impressive is the fact that despite hours of constant HDD and Thunderbolt usage, the drive doesn’t show signs of overheating nor does it disconnect with the HDD inside. The end points of the cable connectors does indeed get warm reaching temperatures like 27 to 32C while stressing out the drive alright, which is nothing surprising considering the active component at both the ends of the cable, but it sure does upset to feel the cables get evidently warm with usage.

Service/Support

There is a 3-year warranty on this Thunderbolt drive offered by Buffalo, which looks to be a fair deal for a storage device as this, though we would have liked to see a 5-year warranty for the kind of pricing slapped on the drive. Well, on the flip side, Buffalo indeed does deliver as opposed to the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD that is backed by just a 2-year warranty and chances are pretty high that users wouldn’t require much in terms of support other than the warranty offered.

Closing Thoughts

Now, if you are someone with the need to transfer huge amounts of data from a hard drive pretty frequently, but unfortunately possess a Mac that is devoid of a USB 3.0 port, then the MiniStation would be the fastest single-drive mechanical option available. On the other hand if your machine supports USB 3.0 ports, then you would rather stick to a drive like the Buffalo Ministation Plus 1TB that just has a USB 3.0 port alone. Well, the hitch would be you might have to format your Mac prior to using it and settle with a plastic-y chassis as opposed to the MiniStation Thunderbolt’s posh aluminum exterior that compliments the aesthetics of a modern Mac. On the flip side you get to save $100 or if anything more even without having to compromise on speeds. On the other hand, if money is not a criteria then you may rest assured that this hard drive manages to deliver amazing interface portability, if you are okay with swapping it between some leading-edge gadgets. That said, the Ministation Thunderbolt or for that matter any single-drive mechanical disk looks to be a little irrelevant for Thunderbolt’s potential. Professionals looking at crazy-fast speeds might be able to understand this better and might find it wise to invest on other desk-bound and bigger options like WD Thunderbolt Duo that is capable of combining  4 to 6 drives to get that maximum speed.

We Liked: The speedy performance over both interfaces – USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, Cables for both interfaces included, Bus-powered.

We Disliked: The expensive price tag slapped on the drive, Average transfer speeds.

Specifications:

Manufacturer Buffalo
Model Name Ministation Thunderbolt
Type of Drive External
Colours available Brushed Aluminium
Dimensions (H x W x D) 22.5 x 80.5 x 130 mm (3.17 x 5.12 x 0.91  in.
Weight 260 grams/9oz
Rotating Speed 7200 rpm (500GB) /5900 rpm (1TB)
Capacities Available 500GB/1TB
HDD Interface SATA
Thunderbolt Interface Standard Compliance: Thunderbolt
Connector Type: Thunderbolt (Mini Display Port)
Number of Ports: 1
Data Transfer Rates: 10Gb/s
USB Interface Standard Compliance: USB 3.0
Connector Type: micro-B
Number of ports: 1
Data Transfer Rates: 5Gb/s
OS Support Thunderbolt – Mac OS X 10.6 or later, USB – Mac OS X 10.5 or later,
Windows 7 (64-bit/32-bit) / Vista (64-bit/32-bit) / XP(32-bit)
Operating Environment 5-35°C, 20-80% (non-condensing)
Power Supply USB Bus-powered
Formatting Mac (HFS+)
Warranty 3-Year Limited Warranty

Elgato’s Bus-Powered Thunderbolt SSD Review

For all the technologically benighted let us enlighten you first on what a Thunderbolt is all about – it is nothing but an interface that connects peripheral devices via a bus; simply put, yet another alternative to an USB. Co-designed by Apple and Intel (with the rights being held by the latter) Apple decided to embrace Thunderbolt and chose to completely ignore the USB 3.0 in all their gadgets, thus leaving Mac patrons no choice, but to thoroughly rely on it if they wished for super fast portable devices. Now, Thunderbolt SSD is one such portable storage device designed exclusively for Macbooks operating on the Thunderbolt protocol. There is just a single cable that handles both data transmission and powering the device, which is backed by a SSD (solid state drive) that boasts of blazing RW speeds in comparison to a magnetic disk drive. One such SSD would be the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD, which is being reviewed here. Well, Thunderbolt sure does have a lot of speed, no doubt there, but thus far the stuff that can actually be plugged into such a high-speed connection has been really sparse. Elgato sure seem to have done their homework right by venturing into such a rarefied arena with the Thunderbolt SSD, the portable drive that does precisely what the name suggests. Backed up by BUS power, it sure is capable of transferring multiple gigabytes – More on this after the break!

ELGATO THUNDERBOT SSD QUICK SPECS

  • Drive Type – External Thunderbolt Hard Drive
  • Available Capacities – 120/240GB
  • Available colours – Black Matt Aluminium Finish
  • Power Source – Bus Powered
  • Manufacturer Warranty – 3 years
  • Dimensions (LxWxH) – 5.2 x 2.1 x 0.8in/13.1 x 5.33 x 2.1 cm
  • Weight – 270g / 9.5oz
  • Maximum Transfer Rate – 270Mbps
  • Oses Supported – Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later

KEY FEATURES

  • Robust metal casing
  • Outperforms high-tech portable USB/FireWire devices
  • Designed to extract power directly the PC via the Thunderbolt port
  • Blazing data speeds via Thunderbolt interface
  • True portability, thanks to Bus-powered operation
  • Whisper quiet
  • Exceptional reliability with flash storage
  • Perfect storage solution for users always on the go
  • •    Deigned to function without a noisy fan

DESIGN & BUILD: FIRST LOOK

If the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD had to be described in one word, well one can call it a minimalist – simple design, minimal features, and absolutely simple storage. The German manufacturer sure does know how to make a smooth transition from EyeTV line of tuners/ video capture gears to external storage. Now Elgato is a fairly known kid in areas like digital TV adaptors, digital media and enabling digitalized terrestrial and satellite TV that can be viewed on a Macintosh or Windows PC. But this is the very first time the company has decided to venture into storage products making their debut through the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD.

Upon unboxing the drive, you get greeted by a barebones, matte-finished gray aluminum enclosed drive that boasts of no fancy switches or LEDs, excepting for a lone Thunderbolt port at the dead center towards the rear, and is indeed a perfect aesthetic companion for a Macbook. It feels quite robust and weighs almost similarly as the Rugged Compact FireWire drive from LaCie. Intel’s Thunderbolt interface packs twofold potential bandwidth of a USB3 to such an extent that conventional mechanical hard disks don’t really have it in them to neither keep pace nor take advantage of the same; which is exactly why Elgato decided to go with a SSD in their debut Thunderbolt model. The 2.5-inch SSD inside the drive requires no additional power cord as it derives its power from the Thunderbolt bus, akin to most portable FireWire and USB hard drives.

It might not seem like the largest of drives, but the blazing transfer speeds together with the advantage of an SSD storage including absolute resistance to magnetic field interference and no moving parts reliability sure does make up for it amply. Again, mainly catering to Apple patrons, the disk comes preformatted in the HFS format out of the box and is compatible with Time Machine. There are no additional software backups, leaving a small segment of Windows users using the Thunderbolt motherboard high and dry. Also they (windows users) might have to reformat their disk to NTFS if they are looking at saving any files. Unfortunately, the box is devoid of any Thunderbolt cable, (similar to other Thunderbolt storage devices) so that leaves users to factor in the price of the cable before deciding on this SSD. To be more precise users might have to shell out $60 dollars for the Elgato 0.5 meter Black Thunderbolt capable or if you choose the white 2.0-meter Apple Thunderbolt cable, it would be an additional $49. Now if you find the cost of the cable ($50) to be ridiculous, picture this. The standard 6-foot cable from Apple is annoyingly oversized making it absolutely impossible to take the drive anywhere near your Macbook with the cables running almost all over the place. Actually, it is so long that you will still find something to spare despite wrapping it round a notebook for atleast a few times, not at all convenient, to say the least. Hopefully, a shorter cable in the future might really make the drive portable as the name suggests.

There is no doubt that the SSD and Thunderbolt combo makes this an obscenely priced drive with users having to shell out a whopping £2.08/GB. Now, if you are someone with a constant need to download large files, it is worth the buy else there are always cheaper and reasonable options like the Seagate Backup Plus portable 500GB to consider. Evidently, Elgato has this drive targeted at video producers and photographers particularly with their track record in the Mac-oriented EyeTV industry. When they first unveiled the drive, the company claimed themselves as the first manufacturer to introduce a Bus-powered SSD that runs on the Thunderbolt interface. Nonetheless, the FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-Portable offering from Seagate has a Thunderbolt adaptor on offer that turns the drive into a bus-powered Thunderbolt device. Again, there is also the Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD from LaCie that boasts of a Thunderbolt interface onboard, but then unlike the Elgato SSD, it requires an external power cord.

As mentioned earlier, as this is a bus-powered drive and designed exclusively for Thunderbolt, there is just a single Thunderbolt port towards the top and that is all you get – No USB, no power adaptor or FireWire ports; not even an activity light to indicate that something is happening inside or to makes sure that the drive is connected. Now while this simplicity might appeal to some users, others might find it limiting the accessibility of the drive. While the lack of interfaces makes this non-compatible to older Macbooks, the availability of a single Thunderbolt port makes it a must for this to be the last drive to be connected to a daisy chain, upon being used in that capacity. Though daisy-chaining of devices and drives is supported by Thunderbolt (in fact up to 6 at a time), the single port of the Elgato drive means this has to be the last in a chain. This as per the company is a deliberate decision, the reason being, if not there will be a need for the SSD to share its bus power with the one that comes next in line. Fair enough!

BUILD QUALITY

This solid-feeling metal hunk is made up of two cast aluminum halves that are held in place by 4 hex-head screws. There is a coat of gunmetal finish over the natural metal, which can peel off with use. So getting back to the screws, there is one such screw that has glued on top of the drive that clearly discourages removal of the same. As a matter of fact, there is an explicit warning from the company that warns users against exploring the case. Suppose if your inquisitiveness gets the better of you and you still dare open it, well you get greeted by the following warnings:

“WELCOME! WE’VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU. THIS ELGATO THUNDERBOLT SSD WAS CAREFULLY ENGINEERED AND TESTED FOR RELIABILITY AND PERFORMANCE. DO NOT REPLACE THE FACTORY-INSTALLED SSD. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT OPENING THE CASE HAS VOIDED YOUR WARRANTY. PEAK POWER CONSUMPTION OF THE SSD MAY NOT EXCEED 3.5W”

Besides Intel’s DSL2210 controller there is an ASMedia ASM1061 SATA 6Gbps controller found on the PCB together with an older variant of SanDisk 3Gbps 240 GB Ultra SSD. As per Thunderbolt’s design criteria of 10Gbps full-duplex (10Gbps in each direction concurrently) which is equivalent to 1250Mb/second, it ought to have bandwidth to spare to utilize a third-gen SSD with the capacity of at least 500Mb/second of sequential R/W speeds. Now the supposed reason for choosing such a slower/older drive is owing to limitations on the power budget. So though, Elgato’s spec sheet claim that there is an allowance of 10W for bus-powered gadgets, the SSD spinning inside is left deprived by the excessive power requirements of the supporting electronics. In fact with the Thunderbolt cable itself consuming large watts, the latter cable looks no different which is the active transmission line device that hides 2 power-hungry chips on either end of the plugs.  Thus, though Thunderbolt promises to deliver up to 10 watts, there is only 3.5 watts practically available for the SSD, as is evident from the label warning inside the casing. With use, the unit indeed gets evidently does get warm, but the casing faithfully toggles up as a heat sink that takes care of the excess heat.

Noise & Thermals

Thanks to the immovable mechanical parts, SSDs are less prone to accidental damages in comparison to conventional mechanical drives. Especially with Elgato’s rock-solid metal casing, the drive looks to be a real macho in protecting your valuable data. Also the drive has been designed to function without the need for any noisy fans, thanks to the inaudible SSD and advanced metal casing users get to enjoy some whisper quiet exceptional performance. Well, the drive gets kind of lukewarm to touch while copying long files, but as it is devoid of any fans, one can only barely hear a hum, that is with the drive being held close to the ears.

Performance

Speed is what the Elgato has been designed for and well it delivers on that front. Performance is well within expectations and as claimed by Elgato in saying that their SSD is capable of handling up to 270Mbps. With files ranging from 1MB to as big as 100MB, it drive hits a read/write speed of 263Mbps and 255Mbps respectively; pretty much close to the company’s claim! With transfer of small files, the transfer rates does trail off, but that is barely noticeable. Then again, it is with browsing a large library of photos in Aperture or with working on a HD video footage that you get to see the drive shine through. Again, it takes around 20 seconds or if anything less in transferring 2GB videos from a Mac to the drive, which is sure to highly impress professionals like photographers, video producers or graphic designers, who would better be able to appreciate the importance of external storage. Now, this makes the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD literally the fastest demon in comparison to a USB2.0 that might barely measure 1/5th of such speeds or for that matter a FireWire 800 which is sure to max out at about 1/3rd.

Service and Support

The Elgato Thunderbolt SSD is backed by an impressive 3-year warranty, as against some drives that come with a 2-year warranty like the Pegasus R6. All info pertaining to the same can be downloaded from a dedicated page in Elgato’s official site www.elgato.com

To Conclude

By and large, there seems to be a lot going on for the Elgato Thunderbolt SSD. It is indeed the fastest external drive floated in the market until date especially given its size. Again, because it is a solid-state with no movable parts, the durability is also taken care of. Disparate from a spinning disk, it is not gonna lose data or be nothing other than a brick upon being dropped from a tabletop. Well, the Thunderbolt and Solid state drive makes one hell of a combo and its either got to be your livelihood or you better be rolling in dough if you want to justify purchasing this drive, else there is always the option to get a 6TB platter-based drive for the same price as the 240GB variant, but you might have to compromise on the performance factor. So, unless you are in dire need of blistering copy speeds, you are better off settling for a regular and cheaper drive, because it comes at a hefty price. The hefty premium that you pay for this drive (€399.95 for the 120GB variant and €649.95 for the 240GB) depends on what exactly do you intend doing with such a speedy storage. So let us just say that if you can afford and justify the cost, it isn’t a wise idea to not invest on this speedy little portable demon, and if you are a casual user then this definitely is a overkill.

Thunderbolt SSD Specifications

Manufacturer Elgato
Model Name Thunderbolt SSD
Type of Drive External
Colours available Black
Dimensions 83 x 21 x 131 mm
Weight 270g
Hard drive type External
Available Capacities 120/240GB
Interface Thunderbolt
Compatibility Mac Thunderbolt port
Power Source Bus Powered
Transfer rate 270Mbps
In the Box Elgato Thunderbolt SSD
User’s Guide
Warranty 3 years limited warranty

Seagate Backup Plus External Hard Drive Review

This review is dedicated for those people who are always on the go, away from their desk and require a backup plan that perfectly matches their high demand lifestyle. Now just about everyone of us in the face of earth, computer, laptop or desktop owners, we mean, have always dreaded a situation – our system crashing down and we being refused entry into our own files or worse still distorted and bloated icons floating randomly and bouncing away from the screen’s perimeters.  And what is it that hits you first in such a scenario “Gosh! I hope I backed up everything?” Now, for those of you who have a “No” for an answer to the above question, allow us introduce you to the Seagate Backup Plus External Hard Drive, which would practically be a boon in such a scenario. Picture this – what if someone asks you to decide between your “My Documents” directory and your FlickR/Facebook galleries. Tough huh??? No worries, as this hard drive from Seagate handles a situation as this perfectly well.

Recently Seagate have decided to do away with their line up of GoFlex drives with the Back plus replacing them. If you ask what is the difference? Well a lot and at the same time nothing much too. Akin to the FreeAgent GoFlex Desk, the specialty of this new lineup is the USB 3.0 adapter that is compatible with all nextgen computers and recent USB 2.0 as well. It is obviously not wise to recommend a HD without USB 3.0 these days as they are 3 times faster when it comes to drive transfers in comparison to USB 2.0.  As we all know, the Seagate GoFlex line of drives are pretty much famous for their agile and flexibile performance. This newly-minted Backup plus HD is a successor of Seagates’ next generation of drives. Then again, not all successors manage to be successful and looks like the Backup Plus needs to fill in some really big shoes. So, how does it fare? As it turns out, fairly good, with its zesty performance, a flexible Universal Storage Module adaptor and an adept user interface that incorporates social networking. It looks to be a fully realized artefact that even manages to outshine its predecessor, the GoFlex line. Thus it proclaims itself to be the rightful heir of the GoFlex lineup.

In the box

  • Seagate Backup Plus Drive
  • Pre-loaded Seagate Dashboard
  • Pre-loaded NTFS driver for Mac
  • USB 3.0 interface adapter together with the capacity gauge
  • A 4-foot USB 3.0 cable
  • Quick start guide
  • Power adapter
  • 2-year limited warranty

System Requirements

  • Windows 7
  • Windows Vista
  • SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port (obligatory for USB 3.0 transfers and is backwards compatible too with USB 2.0 ports for USB 2.0 transfers; compatibility varies based on user’s OS and configuration.
  • Mac OS X 10.6 or higher (reformatting might be required) / Windows XP SP3 (32/64-bit) operating system

Features at a Glance

Available capacities – 500/750GB and 1TB
Dimensions – 4.86 x 3.19 x 0.6 in.
Weight – 0.44 oz
Drive Type – External 2.5-inch USB hard drive
Included software – Seagate Dashboard Agent (Windows/Mac)
Connector options – USB 3.0, USB 2.0, Thunderbolt, eSATA, FireWire 800
Supported operating systems – Mac OS 10.46 or higher and Windows 7, XP, Vista

Design and Feel

At first glance, the Seagate Backup Plus portable hard drive looks to be an elegant unit with a brushed aluminium finish to the front panel. What keep things interesting is, it is offered in four colors – red, blue, silver and black. Measuring about 0.6 x 3.19 x 4.86 inches its compact chassis is further complemented by its discreet -key and tasteful aesthetic. Being crafted wholly out of plastic, its primary visual treat is the Seagate logo towards the lower right together with the lid that has been given a brushed faux-metallic finish, as mentioned above. While there is some amount of sturdiness attached to this metallic drive, the Backup Plus is indeed a handsome drive which easily slides into a laptop bag without any fuss or noticeable heft.

Getting to the most unique aspect of this drive would be the detachable port which forms a part of Seagate’ s USM (Universal Storage Module) interface, where the drive comes with an adaptor that supports USB 3.0 connection, by default, together with a backward compatible USB 2.0 as well. Then again, there is always the option to buy additional adaptors if users are looking at support for faster FireWire 800 and Thunderbolt interfaces. So, getting back the USM adaptor, it clings securely to the drive’s rear akin to the GoFlex drives. Pretty much similar to the GoFlex Turbo there are USM adaptors available for USB 3.0, Thunderbolt and FireWire.

Again, more importantly the Backup Plus drives come with the ability to swap interfaces similar to its big brother, the GoFlex lineup, and can be set up with both Firewire and even the most latest standard plug, Thunderbolt, via the GoFlex Desk Thunderbolt adaptor (Backup Plus adapters are pretty much on the way, which would be the best Thunderbolt deal that one can lay their hands on).  Better yet, if you are already possess any of the GoFlex interfaces from your last purchase of a Segate EHD, then your new BackPlus works just fine with it, thus saving you tons of money. What’s more is that Thunderbolt adaptor of yours will also allow Mac users to daisy chain any number of displays, drives etc., together without the need to worry about running out of plugs or the interface running out of steam. Well, the other way of looking at it would be having to shell out extra bucks for the adaptor over and above the cost of the drive, plus a couple more on the cable too, which works out costlier indeed. But come to think of it, aren’t dedicated Thunderbolt drives way costlier than the Backup plus and a Thunderbolt Adaptor put together.  Also if it is of any consolation, the drive can always be upgraded to Thunderbolt at a later date because though the Thunderbolt is way faster than the conventional USB 3.0, one might still not have money to purchase both the adaptor and the drive in one shot, would they? Even as the Backup Plus comes preformatted with NTFS, it can be reformatted for Macs. But the only hitch here would be that Mac users are deprived of the Protect option in the Dashboard, which leaves them only with the Share and Save option. Well, not a fatal flaw though, as there is still the Time Machine that performs the same task for Mac users. But for this, rest of the abundant features of the Backup Plus is very much available for Mac users (more on that later).

How it works

This Backup Plus not just focuses on providing backup of all of your data that is on a home PC, but has been crafted to make the backup process automatic for the photos that are being uploaded in the image sharing and social networking sites. To be more precise, this drive is capable of automatically detecting when new photos get uploaded in media sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook and grabs a copy of the same, thus saving them on the local drive (provided the account details are given for such sites allowing the Backup Plus software to access them).

Seagate feel that many users don’t bother retaining a local copy of the photos taken on their phone and directly upload them on the media sharing sites. This drive has been designed keeping such users in mind in an effort to safeguard their precious moments, just in case they get lost or deleted from the site that it is being uploaded to or from the phone. So as soon as the Seagate drive detects new photos being updated to an account, it grabs a copy of the same to be stored locally. But off note, it doesn’t grab photos that you have been tagged in, only those that are uploaded by users in their respective accounts. On the other hand, it also helps with sharing of media in sites like Facebook allowing upload of numerous files in a single hit, with the addition of your comments too.

Along with continuously backing files, the drive also helps with constant backup of local files, storing incremental copies of files via a simple restore processes, which includes a timeline. In case you don’t wish for continuous default backups for local files, then you may go in for scheduled backups, all of which is made possible via the Dashboard software onboard. Restoration of files is achieved via a tree directory interface which is fairly simple and straightforward with the files backed up from other image sharing sites and Facebook appearing in a folder named “My Online Documents.”

Features

Once the drive is paired up with a PC, you will be welcomed by Seagate’s revamped Dashboard program, which has been crafted obviously with simplicity in mind. It boasts of a neat interface that presents users with 3 options: Protect/Share/Save. The Protect option basically works a local backup by creating custom-made back-up plans or allowing the software to pick on the stuff that needs to be backed up. Once this done, the drive takes over by backing up data continuously as and when changes are made. The Protect function is super easy to be used with its basic and uncluttered interface, which proves to be extremely handy for non-savvy users in performing one-click backups and wouldn’t have to bother seeking help every now and then. This will help users run a complete backup of their photos, docs, videos and music or opt for a more customised backup. The backup can be set on a continuous basis or hourly, monthly, weekly or daily basis.  A quick reminder though – the Protect option becomes unavailable if users choose to format the drive to Mac only.

But then, the real star of the Dashboard would be the Save option that stores files within the Backup Plus uploaded in the FlickR or Facebook manually or automatically. Indeed a simple and innovative technique to store all your precious photos and videos in a single place. Now while the save option helps backup data, the Share works the other way round by helping you upload files to the social networking sites like YouTube, Flickr or Facebook. Now, the Share option looks kind of superfluous, because it makes us wonder why would users want to share stuff from a backup drive as the same can be done directly from their very own social networking sites, which is pretty much straightforward, huh? Nevertheless, all of the above options have been kept pretty much straightforward and simple and there is nothing much to learn here.

Performance

Getting to the performance of the Backup Plus -  it just about as fast any single-drive storage alternative in USB 3.0, 2.0 and Thunderbolt. While the Backup Plus USM adapters are available in 3 flavors — Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 and FireWire, it comes with the USB 3.0 by default (which is connected to the Micro B Port), and looks to outpace just about every drive in its capacity. It manages to copy 1.22GB in a lightning 15-second speed. It gets more distinct in comparison to other drives with transfer or multiple large files. Its USB 3.0 speed thrashes the WD My Passport Studio drive hands down by about 30 seconds. Again, it manages to score 110MBps in terms of reading and 91MBps in terms of writing. Nevertheless, the write/read speeds tend to drop down to 35MB/S with the drive being connected via the USB 2.0. Then again with the USB 2.0 still being the famous cross-platform connection, the Backup Plus indeed fares well in comparison to the GoFlex Turbo.

Support/Service

Akin to couple of GoFlex drives, the Backup Plus is backed up by Seagate with a 2-year warranty. There is a comprehensive list that talks of FAQs, knowledge bases, installation help, forums, driver downloads etc in the official Website that walks users through troubleshooting the drive. Additionally, there is also technical support made available via e-mail, chat and phone on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Availability

Three are 3 different variants of the Backup Plus drive on offer – a portable 2.5-inch version named the Backup Plus Portable Drive which comes in the capacities of 500GB, 750GB and 1TB; a desktop version named Backup Plus Desk that is offered in the capacities of 1TB, 2TB, 3TB and 4TB and finally a slim variant named the Slim Portable Drive that comes in the 500GB capacity. As the name goes, the slim drive is the lightest and portable of all and has been crafted exclusively for users who are constantly on the go. While the Backup Plus Desk drive comes in USB 3.0, the Slim and Portable drives are available with adaptors compatible with FireWire, Lightning Bolt or USB 3.0 connections. The drives come in different colours, but what is really impressive is that that the Dashboard Software is capable of detecting the drive’s colour that has been paired up with the PC. Well, it has more to it than looks, as there are various drives supported by the Dashboard and it is actually good to know which drive is currently being plugged and used to backup files.

Now, if you are someone that shuffles a lot between a Mac and a PC, then read on. The drive can be formatted to be compatible with both a PC and a Mac. Well, there are many non-savvy users who get confused when it comes to formatting the PC, particularly with formatting a drive. Fortunately, for them Seagate offers to make life easier for such users by simplifying the process with this drive. Hence when you use it for the first time on a Mac, the Seagate Dashboard Mac Setup Utility comes to your aid in configuring the drive to be used on both Mac and PC by getting it formatted it to NTFS. Your other option would be to utilise the Dashboard Mac Setup Utility in formatting the drive making it compatible with Time Machine and changing it to an exclusive Mac compatible drive.

The drive is compatible with both Windows and Apple, as mentioned above, and there is a driver provided by Seagate that gives access to Apple’s OS to write/read the preloaded NTFS partitions in the drive. Seagate claims that the drive can be paired up initially to be used by an exclusive Mac PC/Windows PC (Windows XP SP3 or more/Mac OS X 10.6 or more) – meaning users owning both a Mac and Windows at home/office can now be conveniently served by a single drive now. Additionally, Seagate offers 1 year free Seagate Cloud Storage Service on the Backup Plus drive that is powered by Nero. This 4GB of cloud storage can be accessed via the dashboard and users will have to create an account as well as register the drive’s serial number with Seagate. This storage works together with the hard drive like an additional backup providing extra security for those fearing to lose their precious moments captured.

The Good:  Expeditious performance, Exchangeable USM interface, Novel social networking feature, Admirable user interface.

The Bad:  A sturdier plastic chassis would have been appreciated, it is very unfortunate that the Protect feature is not Mac-compatible, Thunderbolt is offered only via an adapter, but the brighter side to it is, it does help in bringing down the heft of the drive.

To Conclude

The Seagate Backup Plus sure does look to be a laudable successor to the admired GoFlex line, that presents users with a killer combo of ease of use, speed and versatility, even as it has innovatively incorporates social networking to the package. With its various fascinating attributes, it has managed to move away from the lengthy shadow that the GoFlex predecessors had managed to cast, outshining them in every possible way along with setting a standard for the future drives.

Specification Table

Manufacturer Seagate
Model Name Backup Plus
Drive Type Portable External Hard Drive
Capacities Available 500GB, 750GB &, 1TB
Colours available Red, Blue, Silver and Black
Dimensions (H x W x D) 123.4 x 81.1 x 14.5 mm
Weight 224g/7.9 oz
Rotating Speed 5400 rpm
Interface Type USB 3.0
System Requirements Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP3 (32-bit and 64-bit)
operating system or Mac OS X 10.6 or higher
SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port (required for USB 3.0 transfer speeds or
backward compatible with USB 2.0 ports at USB 2.0 transfer
Included accessories Preloaded Seagate Dashboard on drive
18-inch USB 3.0 cable
Quick Start Guide
Preloaded NTFS driver for Mac
USB 3.0 interface adaptor
Warranty 2-year limited warranty