Buffalo MiniStation TurboUSB review
The Buffalo 320GB MiniStation TurboUSB portable hard drive (HD-PS320U2) ($190 street) is a decent bit of technology. It tries to solve some of the hassles of a portable drive while also using technology that speeds up data transfer rates. The MiniStation drive is worth considering if you're in the market for a large-capacity, pocket-size hard drive, but a couple of nits keep it from scoring higher.
The MiniStation TurboUSB 320GB is compact, at 0.8 by 3.3 by 5 inches (HWD). Even though it fits in a coat pocket, the drive has a cushioning system surrounding the internal mechanism (air inside the case also helps cradle the hard drive mechanism). Hopefully, these will keep the drive safe when it's jostled around in your laptop bag on a business trip, or on your long train commute home. Buffalo claims that the (nonoperating) drive can survive a 5-foot drop. I didn't test this scientifically with a drop table, but it did survive a drop from about that height onto the carpet in my office.
The drive comes with an innovative USB cable that wraps around the drive's perimeter and clips into a slot on the back of the plug. This way, you can keep the cable neatly attached and never lose it (the cable is detachable and easily replaced if it frays or is otherwise damaged). I'm not so sure of the durability of the mini USB plug if the MiniStation is tossed around in a carrying case, but the wraparound cable arrangement is excellent if you keep the drive in a desk drawer or in a pouch or compartment in your laptop bag where it fits snugly. The drive also comes with an auxiliary USB power cable for USB 1.1 and low-powered USB situations. I use an Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Core 2 Duo) to check drives for low-power problems, and the MiniStation powered up fine without having to use the auxiliary cable. The MiniStation also came with an encryption utility with AES-level encryption.
Unfortunately, Buffalo's one-year warranty is a nit for me. Although a one-year warranty is fairly standard for the external hard drive industry, I'd like to see three- or even five-year warranties, as hard drive makers like Maxtor and Western Digital offer, since you're going to be traveling with a drive this small.
Buffalo includes a Mac- and Windows-compatible utility to activate the drive's TurboUSB feature, which the company claims can increase the drive's transfer rate to as much as 64 percent faster than that of a 4, 200-rpm USB 2.0 drive. While some of this gain in speed is no doubt due to the MiniStation's 5, 400-rpm drive mechanism, I did see a little improvement during tests on our Windows test bed when I turned Turbo USB feature on instead of leaving it off (it's off by default). The drive's PCMark05 performance score increased by about 3 percent, from 3, 132 to 3, 236 with the TurboUSB feature turned on. (Recent pocket USB hard drives we've reviewed scored from 2, 662 to 3, 236.)
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