Portable hard drive reviews

Samsung T1 Portable SSD

Samsung-T1-Portable-SSD-01High speed, yet ultra-portable drives are a rarity, but Samsung makes a pretty good show of it.

The T1 is based on the existing 850 EVO SSD tech and uses Samsung’s V-NAND.

It doesn’t just shoehorn in some fast memory and be done with it either, and uses a proper SSD controller in there. The result is crazy fast transfer speeds that best any other drive in the same category. The SSD also supports password protection and AES-256 bit encryption.

The little drive weighs in at just 26g, and measures 71 x 9.2 x 53mm. It uses USB 3.0, from a standard type A port to microUSB 3.0 on a stubby little cable.

The downside is that you really need to unplug the cable each time you want to slip it in a pocket, which makes it easier to lose.

The T1 is available as a 250GB, 500GB and 1TB model, for around $180, $280 and $540, respectively.

Price: From $180
From: Samsung

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Seagate Backup Plus

Backup-PlusThe Seagate Backup Plus portable drives come in three flavours — a slim model, a standard drive and an extra-fast option.

The drives all measure in at 113.5 x 76mm, but the Slim is from 9.6mm to 12.1mm, depending on capacity, while the Plus is 20.5mm and the Fast 22.35mm thick.

Capacities are 500GB, 1TB, 2TB for the Slim, while the Plus and the Fast are only available with 4TB. All models come with the excellent Seagate backup software, as well as an equally brilliant mobile app.

All the drives connect via USB 3.0, and the 2TB Slim managed a speedy 115/112 Read/Write speed. The 4TB Plus manages a better than average 127/127 read/write thanks to the large capacity, while the Fast blitzes ahead with a 227/231 read/write thanks to an internal RAID 0 array.

The Slim costs from $80 up to $129, while the 4TB Plus is $200, and the Fast is $300. All three variants have their own strengths and are excellent buys if you need specific features.

Price: $80 to $300
From: Seagate

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Seagate Wireless Plus

seagate_wirelessAvailable in a 1TB and a (as tested) 2TB option, the Wireless Plus uses 802.11n Wi-Fi and can connect to eight devices at once.

It’s single band though, which tops bandwidth out at 150 Mbps, and real world speeds are more like 5 MB/s. The battery life is rated at up to 10 hours, but load it up with a bunch of users and it’s more like five.

The drive can directly stream media to DLNA compatible devices, and there is an excellent smartphone app available for setup, file access, mobile backups and streaming. The included Seagate software also makes it easy to automate your PC backups and sync to cloud storage.

The Wi-Fi connect can be used as a bridge to pass along internet access, and the unit has a wall charger for prolonged use. USB 3.0 transfer speed are excellent, though you can’t share via Wi-Fi and access it from computer.

Shop around, and the drives can be found for $210 for the 1TB, and $275 for the 2TB model.

Price: $210
From: Seagate

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Sony SL-BG2

Sony Portable SSDDespite SSDs taking over most laptops and desktops, portable drives have remained the domain of mechanical HDDs. But now there are a rapidly growing number of portable SSDs, which are smaller and more robust than a HDD, yet a whole lot faster.

The Sony portable SSD comes in 128GB or 256GB versions, which cost $148 and $198 respectively.

Clad in a brushed metal shell, they look pretty premium. The drive connects via microUSB 3.0, and uses the NTFS file system by default. Transfer speeds are top notch, and the Sony can reach 393.5 MB/s reading, and 245.7 MB/s writing, making it one of the fastest portable SSD units tested.

The drive also comes with software utilities that can enable 256-bit AES encryption, and perform automated and intelligent backups. The slim little drive measures in at 78.2 x 37 x 9.4mm and weighs just 35 grams.

Not quite as quick or affordable as the Samsung T1, the Sony is nonetheless an excellent option.

Price: $198
From: Sony

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

WD My Passport Ultra

UltraUnlike most portables drives, the sleek Ultra is available in black, blue, red and silver, with a robust but stylish case.

It connects via microUSB 3.0 and includes the cable, but also offers backwards capability with slower but common USB cables. Transfers speeds are pretty good, and while it can’t compete with the SSD competition, even large files make it across in short order.

The Ultra can also be secured with a password and AES 256-bit encryption for security.

The drive comes pre-loaded with WD software, including security, as well as WD Backup. The latter can be used to perform scheduled and automatic backups and can even sync to a DropBox account.

The drive is available as a basic 500GB model but the 1TB version is only $10 more, at $90, and a 2TB costs $139. The drive measures in at 110 x 82mm, and from 12.8 to 20.9mm thick (and 130-230 grams) depending on capacity.

A solid, safe and practical solution.

Price: $90
From: Western Digital

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

WD My Passport Wireless

wdfMP_Wireless-hi-resWireless portable HDDs are a weird concept until you actual use one and see how useful they are.

The My Passport makes it incredibly easy to sync and share data across computers and mobile devices, and can even connect to cameras. Going further, it can stream media to DLNA compatible devices (like a TV or tablet), or connect to and share an existing internet connection.

The drive uses 802.11n Wi-Fi, with a 2T2R antenna that lets it reach 300Mbps and connect to 8 devices at once. It also has a SD card reader that can execute automatic backups, or share photos directly.

It lasts about 5 hours on battery, depending on load, but also has a USB adapter for charging and can connect to a PC via USB 3.0. iOS and Android connectivity is handed by the excellent My Cloud app, which makes it easy to manage the drive and access content.

The drive comes in 2TB and 1TB versions, for $299 and $230 respectively.

Price: $230
From: Western Digital

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

LaCie Rugged RAID

LaCie_Rugged Raid_HeroInside the LaCie drive are dual 2TB HDDs, connected with a hardware RAID controller. On first use you need to run the software and choose the setup, as it can be set for RAID 0 (speed) or RAID 1 (mirroring).

The Rugged has both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connections, the latter of which has a built in cable. One downside: it needs external power when running from USB, but not Thunderbolt.

The drive doesn’t max out of the available bandwidth, so both USB and Thunderbolt connections have similar read/write speeds, of 241.5 and 267.5 MB/s. That’s faster than the Seagate Backup Plus Fast, but slower than a portable SSD.

The Rugged drive can be dropped safely from a 1.5m height, handle 1 ton of pressure and is IP 54 dust and water rated (splashproof).

The drive can also be protected with AES-256-bit encryption, or perform backups thanks to the included software.

While pricey at $599, it offers truly unique features.

Price: $599
From: LaCie

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable SSD

Extreme500Portable HDDs are super handy, but for very large files the transfer speeds can still be agonisingly slow.

USB 3.0 still has bandwidth to spare, so SanDisk has built a range of SSD-based portable drives for high end data rates.

The Extreme 500 comes in three capacities: 480GB, 240GB and as tested, 120GB. The larger drives are a little bit faster, but we still managed very impressive 379/191 read/write speeds.

The SSD itself is a somewhat oddly shaped but very flat chunk of plastic, with an integrated rubber edge and tie on loop. It connects via microUSB 3.0, and the whole thing is much easier to slip into a pocket than a HDD based drive.

It measures in at 76 x 76 x 11mm and weighs just 78.9 grams. The drive can be secured with SanDisk SecureAccess, which gives 128-bit encryption.

The Extreme 500 was not officially available in Australia, and if buying from overseas the price is not competitive.

Price: $140
From: SanDisk

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Toshiba Canvio Basics

Toshiba Canvio BasicsFor a no frills, but still competent drive, the Canvio Basics is a good choice.

It comes in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB models, but nothing bigger. At the low end, prices start at about $70, but jumping up to the 1TB model is totally worth it at just $10 more, while the 2TB is a more substantial $129.

The drive connects using USB 3.0, and the 1TB model tested offers reasonable 99.5/101.41 read/write speeds.

The drive weighs 230 grams and measures in at 119.4 x 78.7 x 15mm. Inside is a pretty bog standard 5400 RPM 2.5” HDD, with an 8MB buffer. The Basics doesn’t come with any software for backups.

While the Basics does the job and is nice and affordable, spending even just a little more on something like the WD My Passport Ultra gets a more capable drive and included software.

Otherwise, if you can pick the Canvio Basics up for a low price and don’t need any extras, it’s a worthy buy.

Price: $80
From: Toshiba

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

LaCie Mirror

Mirror_3QTR_Right_LowMost portable drives are thin slabs of plastic, with a few colours thrown in if you are lucky.

The drive itself is totally clad in mirrored Gorilla Glass, which if nothing else, looks pretty unique. It also comes with an ebony wood display stand, so the drive doesn’t have to sit on a desk like a pleb. There is also a soft carry pouch, and a braised USB cable.

In terms of performance, the Mirror is nothing special, but it doesn’t lag behind either. The 1TB drive managed 102/103 MB/s read/write speeds — on par with sub $100 offerings. When first plugged in, the drive needs the included software run to set it up as desired.

After that, you can also set automatic backs, or protect your data with AES 256-bit encryption.

The problem with the Mirror (aside from the price) is that it kind of fails at being a portable drive you would actually be willing to risk taking anywhere. But if you want unique style, then it’s the best (and only) option.

Price: $489.99
From: LaCie

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Lenovo ThinkPad Stack

1584_TP_ThinkStack_sh05_compNot content with being just one thing, the system includes a modular array of portable HDD, wireless router, Power Bank and Bluetooth speaker.

It sounds weird, but in practice it’s pretty good — each unit is held to the others with magnets, and connects with recessed pins. The portable drive is a slim 1TB model, with solid 112/111 MB/s read/write speeds over USB 3.0.

The wireless router can make the drives data accessible over 802.11ac Wi-Fi, as well as share internet from a mobile data dongle. The Power Bank has a 10,000 mAh capacity and two USB ports which support fast charging.

It can also feed power to the other devices, though the Bluetooth speaker has its own as well.

The included software (plus iOS and Android apps) makes configuring and sharing data pretty easy.

While the Stack is an excellent concept (and implementation), the full kit costs a massive $500. There is a lesser HDD/router kit, but even that is $350.

Price: $499
From: Lenovo

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Toshiba Canvio Aerocast

CANVIO-AeroCast_Angle1In an increasingly wireless world, the Aerocast makes it even easier to backup and share files between a whole range of devices.

It has built in 802.11n Wi-Fi, which can reach speeds of up to 150 Mbps. Six users can connect at once and the inbuilt battery lasts up to five hours, depending on load.

The Aerocast only comes in a 1TB model, though can read and share files from an SD card.

The drive has a workable but not stunning iOS and Android app available, that makes it easy to manage the drive, access files, stream media or backup photos. It can also send video to a Chromecast, but isn’t DLNA compatible for wider streaming compatibility.

So you don’t lost internet while connected, the drive can pass it on, or it can be accessed via your home network.

Of course, the Aerocast also connects via USB 3.0, and managed a pretty decent 112/112.2 read/write speed. The Aerocast is sold exclusively through Officeworks.

Price: $198
From: Toshiba

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go

Store_N_Go_topThe awkwardly named Store ‘n’ Go is available as a 500GB, 1TB or a 2TB option. It also has a few different colours — black, pink, blue and green.

The drive gets normal but not exciting transfer speeds: 102/101 MB/s reading and writing on the 1TB model. Connection is via the standard microUSB 3.0 cable, which means the drive is also backwards compatible with USB 2.0.

The unit itself is made of plastic, but has a stylish sheet of curved metal over the top, making it feel extra durable.

The Verbatim drive includes Nero BackItUp and Burn Essentials software, but it’s free anyway and there are better options available.

The 500GB drive can be found for as little as $75, but the 1TB is a much better deal for just $10 more, whilst the 2TB is a way to expensive $160. While the 1TB model is reasonably good value, much of the competition has similar prices but much better software bundles.

A very basic model for basic needs.

Price: $89
From: Verbatim

Rating: 3 stars out of 5