Review: Buffalo's new MiniStation - a fast 500GB in the pocket

The drive is available in 120GB, 160GB, 250GB and 320GB models

Buffalo Technology's latest addition to its line of USB storage devices is the MiniStation TurboUSB HD-PS series. We tested the 500GB version (HD-PS500U2). This pocket-size drive (only slightly bigger than a KitKat candy bar) supports Windows and Mac OS X, as well as USB 2.0 and 1.1 standards. Its wraparound USB cord fits into grooves on the drive enclosure's perimeter -- a nice touch.

The company says the drive is protected by its "Shock Resistant technology" that absorbs bumps, drops and shocks. Buffalo includes three software products with the drive. Buffalo's SecureLockWare adds password protection (at the drive or file/folder level), Disk Formatter lets you reformat your MiniStation and Memeo AutoBackup is a backup utility. The software ships on a separate CD, not on the drive itself.

Windows XP SP2 reported 499,983,089,664 bytes (465GB) formatted on a Hitachi TravelStar 5400RPM 2.5" SATA notebook drive. (You'll want to use the Disk Formatter if you plan to use Memeo AutoBackup, because the MiniStation comes formatted as a FAT32 drive -- which allows the drive to work with Windows, Linux and the Mac, but carries a 4GB file-size limit. Our benchmarks were run using the FAT32 format.)

According to Buffalo, the "TurboUSB" in the product's name is what gives the drive its "unmatched speed," including what it says are data transfers that are up to 30% faster than most USB drives. Although the company doesn't publish performance specifications on its Web site, our benchmark results were impressive.

We tested the drive with HD Tach 3.0 from Simpli Software Inc. Using its rigorous Full Bench test (with variable block sizes across the entire drive), the benchmark registered 32.9 MB/sec. burst speed, an average read speed of 31.7MB/sec., and CPU utilization of just 10%.

Buffalo says data transfers that are up to 30% faster on the MiniStation Turbo than most USB drives. Although the company doesn't publish performance specifications on its Web site, our benchmark results were impressive

MiniStation TurboUSB -- the size of a KitKat bar

Click to view larger image

Using the HD Tune benchmark test (the recently released Version 2.55), we saw an average transfer rate of 30.2MB/sec., 18.7 ms average access time and a burst rate of 24.1MB/sec. using 19.2% of the CPU.

Copying a 1GB MPEG video file from our hard drive to the MiniStation took 48 seconds.

The drive measures 5 by 0.8 by 3.3 inches, weighs 8 ounces (including the USB cord), is virtually completely quiet, and generates very little heat or vibration.

One caution: Because of the SATA-to-USB conversion employed, the drive worked fine when directly connected to our test machines (an HP laptop and a Dell desktop) but refused to be recognized when connected to one of the two USB 2.0 hubs we tried -- one from Saitek, the other from Zonet).

The drive is backed by a limited one-year warranty and toll-free 24/7 technical support. Estimated street price is $329.

The MiniStation TurboUSB portable hard drive is also available in 120GB, 160GB, 250GB and 320GB models.

Buffalo MiniStation TurboUSB (model HD-PS500U2) $329 (estimated street price) Includes 1-year warranty

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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