The Wide World of External Drives
- Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition
- Western Digital Passport External 120GB Portable Hard Drive (USB 2.0, 5400 RPM)
- LaCie Rugged All-Terrain Hard Drive 100GB
- Apricorn Aegis Mini USB Ultra Portable Hard Drive w/Interface - 30GB
- Seagate ST3750640CB-RK External 750GB Hard Drive (USB 2.0/FireWire, 7,200 RPM, 16MB)
- Western Digital My Book Pro Edition
- WiebeTech SilverSATA
- Apricorn EZ Bus Desktop SATA
Two Maxtor drives--the OneTouch III Turbo and One-Touch III Mini--and the Seagate Pushbutton Backup have buttons that activate bundled backup software. Except for Plextor's Shock Proof Portable Drive and WiebeTech's SilverSATA I, all of the drives came with backup software. Particularly impressive is the Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo's bundle of EMC's Retrospect Express HD 1.1, a utility that backs up files and sets regular, automatic system restore points. (See our Hard Drives chart for details on each drive's software offerings.)
Apricorn's EZ Bus Desktop and the same company's Aegis Portable come with a simply designed but comprehensive software package that includes encryption software carrying multiple security algorithms. Western Digital's Passport Portable Drive, Maxtor's OneTouch III Mini, and drives (such as Iomega's Silver Portable Hard Drive) that pack Retrospect Express also have encryption features.
Two portable drives, LaCie's Rugged All-Terrain and Plextor's Shock Proof, have a rubber border and internal shock protection. These features impose a price premium that shows up as a high cost per gigabyte.
The most beautifully designed drive we examined is Western Digital's Passport, with a shiny black exterior, a rubber door that protects its ports, and a neoprene case with a pocket to hold its cable. The Western Digital My Book Pro has a blue circular light that indicates how much of its capacity is already filled; and Apricorn's Aegis Portable has a built-in USB cable.
LaCie's interesting, 320GB Little Big Disk spans categories. Technically a mobile unit, with two 2.5-inch drives striped in a RAID 0 setup, it has as much capacity as some desktop drives do--yet it is bus-powered through a FireWire connection, like a mobile drive. This hybrid feature set proves that the simple hard drive is rapidly becoming a complex creation.