Samsung’s S1 Mini drive is out of competition, as it is based on an 1.8” 120 GB hard drive and hence extremely tiny. It does not perform as well as the other solutions, which all utilize modern 2.5” hard drives and fully saturate the USB 2.0 bandwidth at all times. The S1 is still a great choice if portability is more important than capacity or performance.
Things in Common
That leaves the others: the Samsung S2 Portable, Seagate’s FreeAgent Go, Western Digital’s My Passport Elite, and the Fujitsu Handy Drive 5. All of them have a similar weight, all come with bundled software, and all have the USB 2.0 interface as well as a 500 GB maximum capacity on 2.5” mobile hard drives. But that’s about it.
Fujitsu demonstrated the best throughput, but disappointed with an unusually long access time. This alone wouldn’t be an issue if there weren’t the software bundle that we can only describe as nearly-useless. If you look at what the others offer as added value you’ll know why: the included True Image version doesn’t even allow creating partition images, backup sets cannot be saved, and the drive lock tool has to be available outside the drive to be able to unlock it.
Consumers: Go Samsung
That leaves Samsung, Seagate and Western Digital. Performance differences clearly shouldn’t dictate your purchasing decision here. All three offer backup and encryption paired with great style. Samsung clearly focuses on consumers, while Seagate and WD also support synchronization and go after real enthusiasts.
Enthusiasts: Pick Seagate or Western Digital
Seagate has the optional drive dock that increases usability; WD offers a capacity gauge and better data management features. Both are equipped with LEDs and a power management feature. Seagate’s LEDs light up the Seagate curl on the aluminum cover, while Western Digital utilizes LEDs to drive the capacity gauge.