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Picking The Right External 2.5" Hard Drive

USB 3.0-Based 2.5" Hard Disks From Adata, Hitachi, And WD
By , Achim Roos

The real star of the show today is USB 3.0, which allows the Adata DashDrive Durable HD710, Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro, and Western Digital My Passport to demonstrate their respective advantages, while allowing us to pinpoint their weaknesses without interference from a USB bottleneck. Technically, you could pick any one of these three external disks and be satisfied with it. However, each has specific strengths that endear it to a particular type of customer.

The Fastest: We cannot hand Hitachi's Touro Mobile Pro an unconditional victory when it comes to performance. It loses out to Western Digital's My Passport in the real-world read tasks we'd expect these drives to be tasked with. Moreover, Samsung's S2 demonstrates more consistently-good results overall.

Hitachi does particularly well in our synthetic metrics, where it takes a number of first-place finishes. Sporting a maximum sequential read/write rate of 125 MB/s in h2benchw, you'd expect the Touro Mobile Pro to decimate its competition in picture and music file transfers. Although it is the fastest drive of the three we tested, its advantage shrinks quite a bit. In this round-up, at least, Hitachi scores a victory, though we'd hardly call it commanding.

The Toughest: If you're shopping for an external drive able to take a beating, the number of viable options drops precipitously. Fortunately, Adata's DashDrive Durable HD710 does qualify. This ruggedized option is able to drop from a tablet to the floor or spend half an hour at the bottom of a garden fountain without compromising your data. In spite of its specially-designed chassis, the DashDrive Durable HD710 is only slightly larger than non-ruggedized drives, and barely heavier, weighing in at 0.5 lbs. Its performance is average, making it respectably quick. Even though we would have liked to see a greater-than three-year warranty on this particular model, Adata can at least rest easy knowing it offers one more year of coverage than either Hitachi or Western Digital.

The Largest: Diminutive physical dimensions do not give away the fact that Western Digital's My Passport crams in an impressive 2 TB of capacity, representing a new record for 2.5” drives. If you need to maximize this ever-important variable, the My Passport is a winner. Just be ready to pay about $200 for the drive. That's only 10 cents per gigabyte, which isn't bad overall.

The good news is that Western Digital doesn't necessarily compromise performance in its aim to serve up lots of storage space. Its 5400 RPM drive is able to outmaneuver Hitachi's 7200 RPM model in our real-world read tests. It finishes further down the stack in our write tests, and is more similar to Adata's DashDrive Durable HD710 in the synthetics. You'd likely have a hard time telling the difference during day-to-day use, though.

So, Who Wins?

Each of these three drives satisfies a purpose. And, in a way, none of them directly compete against the others as a result of their different balances between performance, capacity, and durability. As a result, we'd have an equally difficult time declaring a winner as a loser; each serves its purpose well in its specialty. The key is knowing what you're looking for in a drive before you sit down to buy one. Perhaps our comparison will help guide such a purchasing decision.

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  • 16 Hide
    thezooloomaster , August 31, 2012 6:45 AM
    alidanhow fast is usb3? i mean real world, say you put a ssd in the best enclosure, what would it do?


    The theoretical bandwidth of USB 3.0 is roughly 625 MB/s, but this speed is rarely achieved -- even with the fastest hardware -- because the bus relies on a protocol for transferring data which is poorly optimized and eats up a chunk of the bandwidth.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    alidan , August 31, 2012 5:48 AM
    how fast is usb3? i mean real world, say you put a ssd in the best enclosure, what would it do?
  • 16 Hide
    thezooloomaster , August 31, 2012 6:45 AM
    alidanhow fast is usb3? i mean real world, say you put a ssd in the best enclosure, what would it do?


    The theoretical bandwidth of USB 3.0 is roughly 625 MB/s, but this speed is rarely achieved -- even with the fastest hardware -- because the bus relies on a protocol for transferring data which is poorly optimized and eats up a chunk of the bandwidth.
  • 7 Hide
    shahrooz , August 31, 2012 8:00 AM
    alidanhow fast is usb3? i mean real world, say you put a ssd in the best enclosure, what would it do?

    I get like 70~140 MB/s (copying from WD my passport 1TB to my WD HDD (7200rpm black))
    and I get 30~40 MB/s copying from USB 2 WD my book 2TB to ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
  • -6 Hide
    willyroc , August 31, 2012 8:58 AM
    shahroozI get like 70~140 MB/s (copying from WD my passport 1TB to my WD HDD (7200rpm black))and I get 30~40 MB/s copying from USB 2 WD my book 2TB to ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    USB 3 is more than twice as fast as USB 2.
  • 0 Hide
    tridon , August 31, 2012 12:01 PM
    I'm sitting here, daydreaming about a Velociraptor external drive. Maybe that would be able to use the USB 3's capacity better, or maybe something's slightly wrong in my head for wishing for such a thing.
  • 9 Hide
    ojas , August 31, 2012 12:21 PM
    willyrocUSB 3 is more than twice as fast as USB 2.

    Yeah but you're still limited to both the source and destination drive's read/write speed. So when copying from a HDD to an HDD, you're unlikely to exceed 140 MBps.

    If you're copying from a SATA 3 SSD to a USB 3.0 SSD, then yes, you could see much faster speeds.
  • 2 Hide
    jaquith , August 31, 2012 1:03 PM
    USB 3.0 + UASP (or) eSATA (or) Internal (SATA 2 or 3) HDD.

    USB 3.0 in most instances isn't ready for prime time for external HDD's, and without UASP the queuing is too slow; UASP solves this problem. Otherwise without UASP IMO use eSATA or a backup internal SATA HDD.

    More info see TH article June 20th, 2012 - http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3-uas-turbo,3215.html

    Note: The Hitachi Touro fails (BSOD) in Windows 8.
  • 8 Hide
    ubercake , August 31, 2012 2:29 PM
    So... Theoretically USB 3.0 is faster than eSata, but in practice eSata is still the way to go?
  • 7 Hide
    LukeCWM , August 31, 2012 3:18 PM
    ubercakeSo... Theoretically USB 3.0 is faster than eSata, but in practice eSata is still the way to go?

    Yes.
  • -2 Hide
    alidan , August 31, 2012 3:35 PM
    shahroozI get like 70~140 MB/s (copying from WD my passport 1TB to my WD HDD (7200rpm black))and I get 30~40 MB/s copying from USB 2 WD my book 2TB to ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^


    that 1tb is in a better case than the 2tb
    what i have noticed with usb 3 is that, yes while its theoretical max is higher than current hdd and ssds should achieve, the fact of the matter is they never hit that peak.

    thats why im wondering, with an ssd, what is the best we can get usb3 to.
    you proved that current normal hdds in a good case do not have a problem in usb 3, and for that i thank you.
  • 3 Hide
    invlem , August 31, 2012 5:00 PM
    ubercakeSo... Theoretically USB 3.0 is faster than eSata, but in practice eSata is still the way to go?


    Well Yes and No... It really depends on your application, eSata may be faster, but USB is still more usable/universal.

    If you're planning on using the drive for back up purposes eSata and know all the devices you are going to use it with support eSata, then it is probably the better solution.

    If you want it for mobility purposes, transferring files to various destinations, USB is more reliable. First these usb3 drives are self powered, meaning no AC adapters to worry about, the PC provides the power, also since its backwards compatible with usb2.0 100% of the devices you want to plug into will work, eSata is great but its not nearly as widely adopted as usb... I'd rather transfer my files slowly at usb2.0 speeds to my destination system, than not at all due to a lack of eSata ports.
  • 0 Hide
    alidan , September 1, 2012 3:13 AM
    invlemWell Yes and No... It really depends on your application, eSata may be faster, but USB is still more usable/universal. If you're planning on using the drive for back up purposes eSata and know all the devices you are going to use it with support eSata, then it is probably the better solution. If you want it for mobility purposes, transferring files to various destinations, USB is more reliable. First these usb3 drives are self powered, meaning no AC adapters to worry about, the PC provides the power, also since its backwards compatible with usb2.0 100% of the devices you want to plug into will work, eSata is great but its not nearly as widely adopted as usb... I'd rather transfer my files slowly at usb2.0 speeds to my destination system, than not at all due to a lack of eSata ports.


    from what i understand.
    a usb3 case that takes full advantage of the harddive is hard to find, much less cheap
    how ever a esata case can be found for under 30$

    so really it comes to how you are going to use the hdd...

    personally i want to take all moving parts out of my computer besides fans, so i could go with esata and be happy, but if you want more or less a guarentee that you will be able to hood that drive up to almost anything you can think of, even a bad usb3 case would be better.
  • 0 Hide
    Fennec , September 2, 2012 6:52 AM
    I have a few USB 2,5 drives and the best transfer rate I ever had was 20 mo/s
  • 0 Hide
    Fennec , September 2, 2012 7:01 AM
    I have a few USB 2,5 drives and the best transfer rate I ever had was 20 mo/s
  • 0 Hide
    azraa , September 2, 2012 10:44 PM
    @Fennec
    You probably have USB 2.0 devices, paired with a motherboard with a not really good (or without proper drivers) Chipset. Most USB 2 can reach up to 30 to 40, as stated earlier, but this is with higher tier chipsets.
  • 0 Hide
    palladin9479 , September 4, 2012 12:50 AM
    A note to some people about eSATA, as of SATA 2.0 it's no different from regular SATA. It has a different connector as it supports a shielded cable that allows for longer connections, it also allows for a slightly higher signaling voltage. In all other aspects it's identical to using a SATA connector on the inside of your PC. You can find eSATA brackets for $15 USD which allow you to turn any SATA port into an eSATA port, most BIOS's even support the disconnect command for it (set port to removable). For that reason alone eSATA will be the better bus for bulk data transfer, it having proper DMA support (vs the hacked method of USB) is icing on the cake.
  • 0 Hide
    vkg1 , September 16, 2012 2:47 PM
    Looks like if you already have a Firewire 800 drive and card then there isn't much reason to drop coin for a USB 3.0 drive.
  • 0 Hide
    thezefen , February 22, 2013 2:13 PM
    i have a question, why my adata hd710 only can transfer at max speed 24mbps.
    even when i plug the hdd into my usb3 slot
    anyone can help me?