Three External (And Fast) USB 3.0 Drives Compared

Buffalo MiniStation Lite (HDPE500U3, 500 GB)

Buffalo is strong on networking and network storage devices, but the firm also offers basic storage products. The MiniStation Lite (HDPE500U3) is being offered in 500 GB and 640 GB capacity points with a two-year warranty. The case is black and glossy; Buffalo calls it Crystal Black. Four other colors are available, as well. A USB 3.0 cable comes included, and the weight mirrors A-Data’s 6.7 ounces.

While A-Data claims throughput of up to 95 MB/s that it could not reach, Buffalo advertises up to 78 MB/s and actually tests very close to that target. Peak throughput was limited to 67 MB/s. Minimum transfer rates dropped to 32.8 MB/s, which is still as much as USB 2.0 delivers.

The MiniStation Lite takes the bronze in our benchmark results, but it is still twice as fast as conventional USB 2.0 drives on data transfers. Also, Buffalo bundles encryption software called SecureLockMobile. After installation, you can create a custom capacity container and select 128- or 256-bit AES encryption. The encrypted container behaves like a ZIP archive. You can drag and drop files into it, but you can’t execute software out of it. Instead, programs are copied and executed in your temporary files location. We find other tools like TrueCrypt to be better, since the container can be mapped and used as an additional drive.

Other Buffalo add-ons, including TurboPC and TurboCopy, weren’t really exciting, either. TurboPC acts as a system cache for the MiniStation Lite, and TurboCopy is an Explorer extension that adds “TurboCopy” to the Explorer context menu. Since we had to return the drive very quickly, we couldn’t do extensive testing, but the performance gains don’t move the MiniStation Lite USB 3.0 much closer to A-Data’s performance. In addition, most users probably won’t think of using an extra app, and might not want to install additional software.