Pros: Wrap-around USB cable; Shock-resistant up to 2 meters; Extremely fast file transfer speeds
Cons: Mediocre preloaded utilities; Frequent restarts required during setup
Verdict: The Buffalo MiniStation Extreme offers the fastest USB 3.0 transfer speeds in a durable design.
Last January, Buffalo released the MiniStation Stealth, an unassuming portable hard drive that featured the fastest file transfer speeds we'd yet seen. Now, having released the MiniStation Extreme, Buffalo hopes to create a drive that is not only faster than the Stealth but features shock-resistance as well. Read on to find out if Buffalo succeeded.
Featuring an improved design over the earlier MiniStation Stealth, the all-black Buffalo MiniStation Extreme gives the impression of a datebook or other small notebook. The case - glossy plastic on one side, textured rubber on the other - looks a bit cheap, but the addition of a rounded corner on the upper right is a welcome change from the featureless square design of the Stealth. The USB cable folds into the hard drive at this corner, eliminating the need to carry the cable separately and making the Extreme that much more portable.
Moreover, the Extreme is designed according to military standards and can withstand drops from as high as 2 meters. The LaCie Rugged Mini, by comparison, is shock-resistant up to a height of only 1.2 meters, but also boasts rain resistance and can withstand up to 1 ton of pressure.
At 5.1 x 3.5 x 0.7 inches and 8.2 ounces, the Ministation Extreme is sleeker than the Rugged Mini (5.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches, 10.6 ounces) but not quite as slim or light as Seagate's GoFlex Turbo (4.4 x 3.3 x 0.5 inches, 6.4 ounces).
Setup and Utilities
When it comes to preloaded software, the MiniStation Extreme is fairly spartan, featuring only utilities for backup, RAMDISK, file encryption, and ECO power management. Installing these utilities proved irritating, as each must be installed separately and requires the user to restart his or her notebook after completion.
The backup utility, although somewhat rudimentary compared to those offered by other companies such as Memeo, was easy to set up and quickly copied all of our files. However, we would have appreciated if the backup software allowed us to easily specify which files and folders we wished to include in the backup. Unfortunately, the user can only choose which directories to exclude - making it a pain to back up a single folder, such as My Documents - and certain directories such as Program Files cannot be removed from the exclusion list. We found ourselves disappointed by this lack of customization.
The MiniStation Extreme shines where it matters most, offering blazingly fast read and write speeds. Taking full advantage of its USB 3.0 interface and TurboPC technology, which uses the computer's RAM to increase file transfer rates, the Extreme beat the average and its competition in almost every category.
Writing 5GB of mixed multimedia files to the drive took just 1 minute and 9 seconds, a rate of 74.2 MBps. This time beat the category average by almost a full minute (and exceeded the average rate by nearly 30 MBps). The Extreme performed even faster when reading the same files; it took only 59 seconds (a rate of 86.8 MBps), beating the average by 40 seconds, or 34 MBps. The LaCie Rugged Mini and Seagate GoFlex Turbo, by contrast, offered read/write speeds of only 58.9/38.8 MBps and 50.7/36.3 MBps, respectively. Only the Iomega eGo offered a comparable read speed (73.1 MBps), but its write speed (43.4 MBps) paled in comparison to the blazingly fast speeds of the MiniStation Extreme.
Transferring a single 3GB file proved to be no sweat for the MiniStation Extreme. Writing the file to the drive took 31 seconds, a rate of 99.1 MBps; that crushed the LaCie and Seagate drives, which both came in at 71.4 MBps, and tied the eGo.
Reading the file off the drive, the Extreme took 35 seconds, a rate of 87.8 MBps. Both the Seagate GoFlex Turbo and Iomega eGo beat the MiniStation Extreme in this category, turning in respective read speeds of 93.1 and 122.9 MBps, while the LaCie was slower, at 85.3 MBps.
Aside from the 1TB model which we tested, Buffalo also offers the MiniStation Extreme with a 500GB capacity for $129.
While its dearth of bundled applications and restart-heavy setup process leave room for improvement, the MiniStation Extreme offers unmatched transfer speeds. Moreover, its $169 price makes the Extreme even more appealing when compared to some of the latest offerings from Buffalo's competitors such as the Seagate GoFlex Turbo ($179), LaCie Rugged Mini ($189), or Iomega eGo ($199). For those looking for a portable hard drive with top-of-the-line speeds at a good price, the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme is hard to beat.