We’ve looked at various Buffalo storage products before, including 500 GB portable drives, a Ministation with the Turbo USB feature, a 1 TB Drive Station, and such exotic devices as the Power Booster. This time, we received another exotic product: the Microstation Portable Silicon Disk looks and behaves like other portable, 2.5” HDD-based drives, but is entirely built from flash memory. Buffalo offers 32, 64, and 100 GB capacities. We received the 64 GB model for review, which promises throughput of up to 35 MB/s thanks to Buffalo’s software-assisted TurboUSB. This technology requires a driver to increase throughput, but Buffalo doesn’t explain how it actually works.
Small and Lightweight
The Microstation Portable Silicon Disk utilizes a 1.8” form factor, making it smaller than most 2.5”-based portable drives. However, the USB cable, which conveniently wraps around three sides of the device, requires some more space, effectively making the drive utilize almost the physical space of a 2.5” drive. Still, it is much lighter than a 2.5” unit, at only 64 g (2.26 oz). Even though Buffalo says that it should be 57 g, it is nonetheless amazingly light, and the device is more robust than 1.8” storage devices that are based on hard drives. The Buffalo drives just do not yet reach the 160 GB capacities of HDD-based portable storage products—with more to come soon. The maximum power consumption of 1.25 W is an excellent value that cannot be matched by any mechanical USB 2.0 1.8” hard drive.
Not Fast Enough and Quite Expensive
We found in prior reviews that TurboUSB operation increases throughput by a few megabytes per second, but since this product is meant to be a portable storage device, you might not always want (or be allowed) to install a driver to manage data on the drive. That’s why we decided to try the device via regular USB 2.0. We also did not run all benchmarks on Chaintech’s drive using SATA (it’s not eSATA compatible), but mainly using USB 2.0.
Overall performance of the Buffalo device was acceptable, but the drive is split into two major segments that show different characteristics. Both segments allow reading data at 30 MB/s, but write performance differs: while the first 32 GB can only be written at around 12 MB/s, the second half of the drive writes at 22 MB/s.
Finally, the $150 price tag is not cheap, as you can get hard drive based storage products at half that price. Clearly, the Portable Silicon Disk is only worth it if you insist on the robustness of its flash memory, or if you wait for prices to drop some more.
Buffalo bundles two tools with its product: SecureLockWare allows encrypting files or the entire drive, and Mobile Launcher 1.25 includes the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client. Since all settings are stored by Mobile Launcher, you always have your personalized browser and email settings with you on the Buffalo drive.
The Mobile Launcher installs into the Windows tray once you connect the Microstation.
Mobile Launcher allows you to take your Firefox and Thunderbird browser and email client settings with you.
The Mobile Launcher program starts Firefox off the drive without requiring any installation.
SecureLockWare is a tool to encrypt individual files or an entire drive.
Select the parameters for encryption…
… and for decryption of files.
You can adjust encryption performance by changing the compression level.
You can select a password of up to 127 characters, and set a password hint text, if you want.
Access to the encrypted drive requires entering the password.
Encryption can be triggered easily, if you have the password.
Decryption can be done as well, again, as long as you know the password.