Buffalo MiniStation TurboUSB (120GB) Review

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$79.99

Pros: Fast transfer speeds; Compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP/Vista; Backup software included

Cons: Encryption software not intuitive; Software comes on CD, not preloaded on device

Verdict: A blazing external hard drive that costs less than $100.

The Buffalo MiniStation TurboUSB aims to cut down on the waiting time with its TurboUSB technology. This device is a lightweight, portable storage unit that makes backups on both Mac and PCs fast and secure. Its encryption tool is less than intuitive, but overall we recommend this drive for its first-class speed.

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MiniStation TurboUSB Design

The 6.7-ounce Buffalo MiniStation TurboUSB comes only in matte black, and its rounded edges give it a dull look. On the plus side, we like its sturdy and lightweight feel, and at 5.0 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches, the 120GB drive fits easily into a laptop bag or a coat pocket. The shock-resistant chassis is durable and survived a week at the bottom of a laptop bag without any external or internal damage.

A green power indicator embedded in the top of the case doubles as a drive-activity indicator, and dual USB ports are housed on the front of the device. One USB 2.0 port can simultaneously power the drive and exchange data with a notebook. Notebooks with USB 1.1 ports will require the use of the other USB port to power the device. When not in use, the included USB cord wraps around the unit and clips into place. The drive is also available with 160GB, 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB capacities.

Not Quite Plug-and-Play

The MiniStation TurboUSB was instantly recognized by a MacBook Air running Mac OS X Leopard and a Sony VAIO FZ running Vista. We had no problem dragging and dropping files onto the drive. But unlike with most external hard drives, the included management software isn't preinstalled on the device. Instead, it came on a CD. Installation was easy, but we could have done without this extra step.

TurboUSB Lives Up to Its Name

The TurboUSB functionality, which Buffalo claims boosts transfer speeds up to 20 percent over those of a standard 4,200-rpm drive, is made available through a software installation that's easy to set up. With this feature on, the write speed--copying a 5GB folder of music, photos, and video--took 4 minutes and 53 seconds, a rate of 17.4 MBps, nearly a minute faster than the nearest competitor, theLaCie Little Disk. However, the MiniStation's read speeds were nothing to write home about at 3:34, or 23.9 MBps.

Buffalo's Safety Nets

The drive also comes with Memeo's AutoBackup software ($29.95 retail value), which lets Windows XP, Vista, and Mac users automatically back up documents to the drive in case of a system crash or virus attack. After installing the utility on our computer with the CD-ROM, selecting the files and folders we wanted automatically backed up was easy.

Security-conscious PC users will appreciate the MiniStation TurboUSB's AES-grade encryption and the inclusion of SecureLockWare, which creates a password-protected folder into which users can easily drag and drop files. Because the encryption software isn't installed on the drive itself, you have to configure it specifically for the external drive. We had trouble getting it to work properly, though; the software repeatedly tried to encrypt our laptop's hard drive. Once we got past that hurdle, we were unimpressed by the bland interface of the software.

Buffalo MiniStation TurboUSB Verdict

Encryption could be handled better, and we wish all of the necessary software was installed on the drive itself, but the MiniStation TurboUSB's quick read and write speeds make it a very good companion for those who need to transfer information quickly on the go. Those eyeing a portable external storage device with more intuitive security options will find solace in the less expensiveMaxtor OneTouch 4 Minior the comparably pricedWestern Digital My Passport Essential. Nevertheless, this is still a very solid sub-$100 choice for those who value speed over all else.

Editor's note: Portions of this review were taken from an earlier review.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Capacity 120GB
Rotational Speed 5,400 rpm
Read/Write Speed 23.9 MBps/17.4 MBps
Ports USB
Size 5.0 x 3.3 x 0.8 inches
Weight 6.7 ounces
Company Website http://www.buffalo-technology.com