8 Best Buys for Essential Gear

External Hard Drive

As hard-drive prices drop and as people's collections of digital stuff balloon, external hard drives--ideal for storage and backup--have become a staple of every gear kit. The direct-attached SimpleTech Duo Pro Drive rose to first place on our Top 10 External Hard Drives chart for various reasons, including the device's excellent performance, its generous capacity, and its thoughtful design.

Sturdily built yet attractive, the Duo Pro Drive features what the company calls a "smart" fan, which adjusts its speed based on how much heat it senses inside.

The unit comes in three sizes (we tested the 1TB model, but you can get up to 2TB) and connects to your PC via USB 2.0 and External SATA-300. The drives are mounted in two internal bays; regrettably, the bays are not replaceable by the user, so you can't easily upgrade the drives at a later time. By default the drives come striped together in a RAID 0 configuration for maximum performance, but you can easily switch to RAID 1 for mirroring.

Most important, though, this model is blazingly fast. It sprinted past the other contenders to take top performance honors.

Bottom Line: Terrific design, fast performance, and versatile backup software make the SimpleTech Duo Pro drive a strong choice.

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