Friday, 2 March 2012

Five top external drives that won't break the bank--or your back


When it comes to storage, you definitely don't want to risk getting stuck with a lemon.
That's because, unlike other commodities like a car, or a TV, when a storage device breaks down, chances are you lose a lot more than just the drive itself. It's a painful experience to see your invaluable data vanish. Take my word for it on this.
On the other hand, you also want your storage device to be easily accessible, especially on the go. There's not much use of your data when it always has to stay at home.
When it comes to storage, you definitely don't want to risk getting stuck with a lemon.
That said, compact and portable external hard drives are arguably the most popular form of storage. They offer lots of space, often more than what your laptop or ultrabook has, without being big or heavy. Avoiding a lemon doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, either. That's very good considering the storage market hasn't fully recovered from the recent flood in Thailand.

Following is the list of the top five portable USB 3.0-based drives that are the best among their peers, by collectively offering great performance, large storage space, compact design, and sometimes even the kind of toughness that will withstand water submersion and drops. Most importantly, you can easily find (most of) them for less than $100.
Note that these drives also work with USB 2.0 (MacBook Air owners: you're counted in here) and they are all bus-powered, meaning you don't need a separate power adapter to use them.

Lexar JumpDrive Triton (32GB version) As far as I know, the Lexar JumpDrive Triton has a a lot of firsts. It's the first thumbdrive that supports USB 3.0, the fastest USB 3.0-based portable storage device, and also the first among a lot of computer and electronic devices I've seen that bears a "Product of USA" label. It doesn't mean it was made in the States entirely, but hey, at least it wasn't made in China, like the majority of thumbdrives. For those who like pretty things (and who doesn't?) the drive is super good-looking with a shiny, full-metal alloy base and an equally shiny, hardened plastic top. It also comes with a great retractable USB head design.
The Triton's top capacity is 64GB, which costs around $200; it's a little too expensive, but its 32GB version costs just about $80, making it a sweet spot for those who travel with a portable computer and don't need to carry a lot of data. It's worth noting that 32GB is still a lot of storage space, considering how tiny the Triton is. There's also a 16GB version that costs around $60. Read the full review of the Lexar JumpDrive Triton thumbdrive.

Silicon Power Armor A80 (500GB version) The Silicon Power Armor A80 is a special 2.5-inch-based portable drive that offers up to 1TB of storage. It's the first USB 3.0 drive that comes with an A-female USB port (similar to the one found in a computer). This means you can't use standard USB cables with it. To make up for this minor inconvenience, the drive comes with two A-male-to-A-male USB cables of its own, one of which is hidden on the drive itself. This cable-carry design makes the drive even more portable, but it is not the only selling point of the drive. Housed in a rugged chassis, the A80 is waterproof down to a depth of 3 feet and is rugged enough to handle shocks and drops from around 4 feet high, while moving. The drive also offered great performance in my testing.
The Silicon Power Armor A80 comes in four capacities, including 500GB, 640GB, 750GB, and 1TB. On a good day, you can find the 500GB online for $98. If you don't want to dig around, on Amazon, it costs just a few dollars more than $100. At this price, for those who work in rough environments and are looking to expand their laptop's storage, the A80 is definitely worth every penny

HP Portable Hard Drive (500GB version)
The HP Portable Hard Drive, in spite of its mundane name, is more than just a regular USB 3.0-based portable hard drive. The drive comes with HP SimpleSave software that automatically backs up important data of the Windows computer to which it's connected. It also offers very good performance.
At the street price of just $89, the 500GB version of the drive makes a great investment for those who need to quickly back up important information. The drive also comes in larger capacities, including 750GB and 1TB, that cost slightly more.
Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro (750GB) The Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro offers more bang for your buck; it's the only one on this list that offers more than 500GB storage space in the price range. The drive comes in a very good-looking design, making it a great companion for those who are in favor of style.
The 750GB drive is currently available for just $99.

Seagate GoFlex Ultra-portable (500GB version)
The GoFlex Ultra-portable from Seagate is a very special portable drive thanks to its superflexible design. The drive comes with two parts that separate the storage and the connection types. This means the drive can support virtually any type of connection, be it USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire, eSATA and even Thunderbolt, just by swapping out the adapter parts. The adapter can also be used with any standard SATA 2.5-inch internal hard drive or SSD, in case you want to connect one to a computer.
The drive is available up to 1.5TB capacity that costs around $180. However its 500GB version costs just some $83 on the street and will make a great companion both on the go and at home, especially if you are a computer technician.
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