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Roundup: Hand-Held Hard Drives With Up To 500 GB

Read throughput is typically limited by the interface. eSATA is the fastest option, as you can see with various products that do very well in this chart. However, USB 2.0 maxes out at approximately 33 MB/s in everyday use, meaning that we would expect a maximum that is close to this value. FireWire is not very popular anymore in the PC world, but still important in the Mac community. All of the portable drives we tested are based on USB 2.0, and you can see that Fujitsu and Samsung are the fastest, followed by Western Digital and Seagate. Keep an eye on average and minimum results if you intend to make intensive use of your new portable drive.

Write performance typically is a bit slower than read throughput.

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  • 8 Hide
    JaguarOne , May 15, 2009 8:25 AM
    Nice article although 2.5" cases with e-sata and no external power supply (they use the USB for power) have been in the market for some time. I wouldn't consider a USB-only hand-held drive when for the same money i can get one of those. AC Ryan, ThermalTake and Akasa for example have such cases and you can pair them with practically any 2.5" 5400rpm drive (or in some cases an SSD drive).
    Would love to see an article on these cases
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2009 11:30 AM
    I love my Freeagent Go drives. Just one thing. When they "wake up" from powersave my NAS can't find them anymore. So if you are having issues, first set the powersave to "never".

  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2009 11:51 AM
    Nice article, but it's a fact the WD Elite offers a warranty period of 5 years in EMEA. This is a nice USP for this product. The other tested vendors aren't offering this if I'm not mistaken!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2009 12:27 PM
    Sounds like Fujitsu actually bundled Acronis Disk Director with the drive instead of True Image. At lest, that's what it sounds like from the way the reviewer described it.
  • -2 Hide
    JohnMD1022 , May 15, 2009 1:59 PM
    Personally, I wouldn't buy or recommend Seagate for anything. Reliability is non-existent. At one point, last year, I had 9 dead ones in the shop at one time. That 5 year warranty doesn't mean much when the replacement is the same junk. I recently returned 2 for warranty replacement. One of the warranty replacement drives was DOA. Nuff said.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2009 2:51 PM
    I love my WD drive, but make sure you get a good cable (non retractable cable for sure). I was having issues using what I thought was a good cable (brand new, my guess maybe it was too long?) but it would not supply the WD with enough power to run the drive. Make sure to use the cable the came with the device, if you're having trouble powering it on, it may be the actual cable's fault.
  • 0 Hide
    erichlund , May 15, 2009 3:14 PM
    One suggestion for your charts. A casual glance at the last chart page would lead one to believe the Seagate had the highest read throughput, yet it's scale is different than the other charts, topping out at 30MB/s. Normalize the scales so they are all the same, and then a casual glance delivers the difference in performance.
  • 0 Hide
    tjhva , May 15, 2009 4:21 PM
    Does anyone have any experience with the My Passport Studio? I'd love to get one, but the reviews on New Egg are poor.
  • -1 Hide
    NocturnalOne , May 15, 2009 4:30 PM
    I think enthusiasts should consider building their own 3.5" external drive. Pick the enclosure and hard drive you like and combine them. Use TrueCrypt for encrypting if needed and you did already have a backup app, right? :) 

    I built one using a Vantec USB2/eSATA enclosure and a Fujitsu hard drive. Sorry, I don't have the part numbers here. Also got a PCMCIA (or whatever they are called these days) eSATA interface for my laptops. eSATA is sooo much nicer for external storage it *must* be considered by anyone who intends to move massive amounts of data. Because the enclosure still comes with USB capablity you retain backwards compatibility for when eSATA is not available. Since I used a 7200 RPM drive I do always need the USB power cord but it's worth the extra zip (pardon the pun).

    I use this external drive for astronomical image processing which combines literally hundreds of 11MB files into a single image. Works great.
  • 0 Hide
    vgdarkstar , May 15, 2009 6:29 PM
    JohnMD1022Personally, I wouldn't buy or recommend Seagate for anything. Reliability is non-existent. At one point, last year, I had 9 dead ones in the shop at one time. That 5 year warranty doesn't mean much when the replacement is the same junk. I recently returned 2 for warranty replacement. One of the warranty replacement drives was DOA. Nuff said.

    I have a vastly different personal experience, I've had 2 Seagates for 4 years now, they've been running constantly, basically 24/7 since then. I bought a 7200.11, updated the firmware on that one, no problems, and now I have two 7200.12s in RAID0, I love them.

    It's all personal experience, I don't think it matters what brand it is, it's the other variables that HDD makers can't do anything about that cause failures.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 15, 2009 6:51 PM
    one thing about portable hard drive is, you drop it accidentally and you can say bye bye to it. thats why i no longer use a 2.5inch portable hard drive anymore, substitute it with a 16GB thumbdrive makes sense :D . It was few times smaller than the 2.5inch drive and I can drop it anytime I want :D .
  • 0 Hide
    fausto , May 15, 2009 6:59 PM
    I need an article just like this one right now...but on 2 Terrabyte backup options...comparing prices options and different connection types.
  • -1 Hide
    cadder , May 15, 2009 8:21 PM
    How many different computers were these tested on? I've owned and used several different portable drives, and used them on at least 3 desktop and 2 laptop computers. I think only one of the computers was able to operate the drive completely on the power from only one USB port. Most of the time I had to connect with a special cable to two USB ports.

    I'm not sure of the benefits of ESATA, with a fast computer running USB 2.0 the data transfer rate seems plenty fast.
  • 0 Hide
    chefjw , May 16, 2009 1:51 AM
    I use a rocketfish 2.5" esata enclosure I picked up at goodwill for 5 bucks. Plug it into the USB and ESATA so it has power/esata speed and not had a single problem in over six months using the drive daily.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , June 29, 2009 12:43 AM
    Seagate FreeAgent Go does NOT back up music album art.
    I just bought a Seagate FreeAgent Go 250 GB today (20090628) after a WD Passport Essential 160 GB failed. First backup went fine, but when I looked at the log I found it does NOT backup any file with both system & hidden attributes on, which leaves all the music album art behind. Bummer, I'd have to refresh every album after a recovery, say a couple of months of work. I don't get it. That is a truly major oversight.
  • 0 Hide
    dddesilou , July 5, 2009 7:27 AM
    I'm having trouble sorting through info in various articles reviewing portable hard drives. I need a 500GB hard drive that has software that is pretty easy to use, that is super dependable, and that is not too fragile. I'm a basic computer user. I have a laptop from work and want to store my personal stuff. Just music, pics, and documents. Advice?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 3, 2009 8:26 AM
    Hi. Am using free agent 500GB portable hard disk.I am having a problem in the file transfer.For accessing the stored files too it takes much time and it gets hanged often. Wats the solution for this? Should i have to go for the replacement as i have bought this before three months?
  • 0 Hide
    anamaniac , September 30, 2009 7:44 AM
    I like the Samsung 1.8" drive.
    Small, sexy, and a decent amount of storage.

    That, or a 64GB flash drive... hmm. (Smaller, not as sexy, more durable.)