Growing capacities and high-speed interfaces on the latest external desktop drives make these products an increasingly attractive alternative to internal storage. But which of them give you the best performance for your money?
We tested seven such drives using their fastest interface--eSATA in five cases. In two, however, it was FireWire 800; that's common enough on Macs, but most PC users will need to install a FireWire 800 PCI card (about $60) to connect one of these drives.
As we expected, our tests showed that the external SATA drives were faster than the FireWire 800 models, with one exception: Western Digital's MyBook Pro Edition performed just as well as its slightly cheaper eSATA equivalent, the $230 MyBook Premium ES Edition, our fifth-ranked unit. All the drives we tested offer the convenience of a USB 2.0 port.
Our Best Buy and Top 5
Apricorn's EZ Bus Desktop SATA earned our Best Buy distinction and top performance rating. This 500GB drive is fast and inexpensive; it lacks the style accents and the FireWire interface of costlier models, but it has basic backup, encryption, and file-syncing utilities.
The price premiums on LaCie's stylish drives have hurt their rankings in past charts. The new d2 Quadra costs about $50 to $70 more than other 500GB drives, but it provides eSATA, FireWire 800, FireWire 400, and USB 2.0 interfaces, and it performed solidly. For PC users who plan to upgrade to eSATA or who own a Mac, the flexibility of multiple interfaces might be worth the extra cost.
Iomega's 500GB Black Series eSATA drive ranked third overall, but in performance tests it came in a very close second behind the Apricorn. It looks more stylish and costs about $20 more than the Best Buy, but it also comes with EMC's Retrospect Express backup software and an eSATA PCI card in case your system doesn't have a SATA port.
Seagate's FreeAgent Pro, which we previously reviewed, ranked fourth. This drive is attractive and well priced for a 750GB model, and it comes with a five-year warranty as well as very full-featured backup and versioning software.
Missing the Chart
Two products missed our chart. The 500GB Western Digital MyBook Pro Edition was the fastest drive to perform a virus scan and a file search, but the slowest when our test PC wrote a series of files and folders to it, despite its FireWire 800 interface.
CMS Products' 1.5TB Velocity2 Redundant Backup System, which also failed to rank, returned average performance but includes server and desktop backup software, as well as RAID 1 and 0 options.
Find the Very Latest Hard Drive Charts
Click on the links below for the latest hard drive rankings or a comprehensive list of all hard drives we've tested.
- Most current Top Networked-Attached Storage Devices chart
- Most current Top External Hard Drives chart
- Most current Top Internal Hard Drives chart
- All Hard Drives
Top 5 External Hard Drives From the July 2007 Issue of PC World Magazine
Click on the image at right to see our chart.