Portable secure hard disk head-to-head review

Data security is a big topic these days. We take a look at the Buffalo MiniStation PRO and Fujitsu HandyDrive 500GB, both of which are designed to keep your data safe from prying eyes.

Fujitsu HandyDrive 500GB

Rating: 3

The Fujitsu HandyDrive beats the Buffalo on two clear points. Firstly, its capacity ranges from 160GB, which at 49 ex VAT will cost you a little less than the Buffalo, up to 500GB, which we found online at Dabs for 82.50 ex VAT. The one on test is the 500GB model, though actually this provides 465GB of formatted capacity.

Secondly, it's undeniably a far better looking piece of hardware with a sleek translucent black cover that curves at one end, and when plugged in, a yellow power light under the skin at the other. It's clearly a sexier housing for a 2.5in hard drive and when you see it you'll want to own one. It's even supplied with a swish carry case to keep it protected on the move, which makes it all-in-all, a nice package.

However, it's also loses out to the Buffalo on several points. Firstly, there's no handy way of carrying the USB cable, so you'll be in danger of leaving it behind when you travel. Secondly, the drive inside only spins at 4,200rpm, which immediately should place it at a performance disadvantage.

Thirdly, and the issue of most concern, is that the encryption software is not preloaded onto the hard drive. This means that to access your password encrypted content you have to install the software yourself each on every time otherwise you have no way of entering your password to get to your data.

This means that you have to take the software disk with you on the supplied CD, copy it to a US B drive or download it from the internet. A quick Google pointed me to the software, but it's hardly an ideal solution, especially if you don't happen to have internet access on the machine you're hooking up to. The Buffalo, with its auto-loading password utility, is a more practical and time saving solution.

To make matters worse, as we suspected, the Fujitsu proved to be a relatively sluggish performer, taking longer than the Buffalo at nearly every test with 113 seconds to write the 1.36GB of files, compared to 95, and 253 seconds to write the small files compared to 235 seconds. Reading the smaller files tool longer too 190 seconds, compared to 145 seconds. In a real usage scenario the drive felt painfully sluggish, and if you're copying a large amount of data, this will prove frustrating, no matter how good looking the chassis is.

All-all-in, it might be the better looking piece of kit, but if you really want a password encrypted portable hard disk, the Buffalo definitely is the one we'd go for.

Verdict

This is beauty and the beast as far as portable hard drives go. But while the Fujitsu wins in the style stakes, as a serious piece of security hardware, the Fujistu proves slow and frustrating while Buffalo MiniStation Pro takes the plaudits thanks to its hardware encryption, a convenient auto loading password utility and a reasonable turn of speed.

Buffalo MiniStation PRO 160GB Capacity: 160GB Rotational speed: 5,400rpm Connectivity: USB 2.0 Encryption: 128-bit AES (hardware) Dimensions: 84 x 127x 23 mm (D x W x H) Weight: 275g Warranty: 2 years Fujitsu HandyDrive 500GB Capacity: 500GB Rotational speed: 4,200rpm Connectivity: USB 2.0 Encryption: Software Dimensions: 82 x 142 x 22 mm (W x D x H) Weight: 220g Warranty: 1 year

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