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7 mobile hard drives: More portable and more powerful

By Rick Broida
August 19, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Seagate Slim

Capacity/price: 500GB for $79.99 (direct)

The 500GB Seagate Slim -- not to be confused with Buffalo's drive of the same name -- has style to spare, with a brushed-metal black top (also available in silver) and a pulsing sliver-shaped status LED sliced into that top. It is, in a word, gorgeous, by far the most attractive portable hard drive in the group. And, yes, it's slim, only 0.4 in. in depth -- though that metal exterior makes it slightly heavier than competing drives.

Seagate Slim
Seagate Slim

Sometimes good looks belie what's underneath, but the Seagate blew the doors off most of the others in this roundup. Only Western Digital's My Passport Ultra turned in faster benchmark scores, and those by a narrow margin. What's more, the Seagate is compatible with both Windows and Mac systems, requiring no reformatting to switch between them.

Seagate's Dashboard software took an annoyingly long time to install, required a reboot, and ultimately failed to run on two Windows 8 testbed systems, crashing after each launch attempt. And although it provides convenient one-click and scheduled backup options, including handy archive capabilities for your Flickr, Facebook and other social-network media, it has no security or encryption features.

That's a potential deal-breaker for business users, who might otherwise appreciate the Slim's attention-getting design and blazing speed. Likewise, Seagate's crash-prone software makes this drive more frustrating than it should be.

Silicon Power Diamond D20

Capacity/price: 500GB for $51.69 (retail)

Although Silicon Power isn't as well-known as some of the other brands in the group, its Diamond D20 drive bears a strong resemblance to the Buffalo MiniStation Slim and Seagate Slim, at least in terms of form factor and capacity. It's a compact 500GB drive with a solid aluminum chassis. There's only one color choice, a glossy white that resists both fingerprints and scratches, and although it has a plasticky finish, it's pretty.

Silicon Power Diamond D20
Silicon Power Diamond D20

It's also pokey, at least compared with the four other non-Wi-Fi drives. The D20 had the lowest test scores of them all, though it was practically tied with Toshiba's Canvio Connect and not far behind Buffalo's drive. Still, if performance is your key concern, this isn't the drive to pick.

On the other hand, if you're more interested in reliability, this is definitely a drive to consider: Silicon Power backs it with an above-average three-year warranty.

The company includes no software on the drive, which might please power users who tend to delete such bundleware anyway. For those who want it, Silicon Power's SP Widget (Windows only) is available for download, but you can do better than this mediocre mix of backup and security utilities.

As of this writing, the Diamond was selling only at Amazon for a price of just $51.69 -- making it the most affordable drive in the group. Beyond that, it's a decent, if unexciting, portable drive notable for its durability and excellent warranty.

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