Lenovo ThinkPad USB Secure Hard Drive (320GB) Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Full disk encryption; Fast read speed; Classic ThinkPad design

The Cons

Relatively bulky; Mediocre write speed

Verdict

Full disk encryption and blazing read speeds make this pocket hard drive a handy tool for road warriors.

Mobile professionals who frequently carry sensitive data on external hard drives need top-notch security, and the Lenovo delivers that in spades with the ThinkPad USB Secure Hard Drive. The 320GB pocket drive offers 128-bit AES full disk encryption (FDE) that encompasses the entire drive, so any files copied onto it will be completely locked down in case of loss or theft.

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Design

The USB Secure Hard Drive is a somewhat bulky external drive that can fit into a pants pocket with just a bit of difficulty. Measuring 4.7 x 3.4 x 0.8 inches and weighing 6.4 ounces, it has more heft than similar devices, like the 500GB Hammer morespace portable, which measures 4.8 x 3.3 x 0.6 inches and weighs 1.4 ounces less. The drive's body is covered in black soft-touch paint that feels great in hand and matches the appearance of Lenovo's ThinkPad notebooks.

The face of the drive features ten number buttons, a Lock/Delete and Unlock/OK keys, as well as Lenovo's ThinkPad logo. A built-in USB cable is embedded into a groove on the right side of the machine for connecting the drive to a notebook (Lenovo also includes a second nonstandard USB cable for PCs that require two ports to power the drive, as well as an extension cord). On the bottom of the drive are four rubber feet for securing it to your desktop.

Full Disk Encryption

Like theMaxtor BlackArmor, the USB Secure Hard Drive uses Full Disk Encryption (FDE) to protect your data from prying eyes. Any data that's placed onto the drive is automatically safelocked with a combination of 128-bit AES security and numerical passcode protection--no software to configure or install. When you first attach the drive to your notebook, you have to enter the default "1-2-3-4-5-6" combination and press the green Unlock button.

We created our own passcode by holding Unlock and 9 until the status light located under the zero blinked blue. We then entered a new code (a minimum of six digits), and pressed the Unlock key again. After the status indicator flashed green, we re-entered the passcode and pressed the green key again to confirm. Upon connecting the drive to a notebook, we simply inputted our new passcode and held the Unlock key for a second to access the drive.

While the administrator can add ten extra user accounts, the drive doesn't encrypt files or folders to individual passwords--it simply gives them access to the content stored on the drive. It's done by entering an admin mode (instructions are supplied within the user manual on the drive), and keying in and confirming the new passcodes. It's easy to set up and a handy tool if you want to share data with coworkers, but isn't conducive to storing personal files that you'd rather keep private. Additionally, the top-notch FDE has a potential drawback: If you forget the administrator passcode, you'll have to wipe the entire drive clean and start from scratch with a new account.

Performance

The USB Secure Hard Drive offered mixed performance. It read a 4.97GB folder of mixed media in a hasty 3 minutes and 13 seconds--a rate of 26.5 MBps, the swiftest time in the pocket hard drive space (4.4 MBps faster than average), and besting the Maxtor BlackArmor (22.8 MBps) by nearly 4 MBps. The drive's write speed wasn't nearly as impressive: just 15.6 MBps, which was slower than the Maxtor BlackArmor (18.4 MBps) and the category average (16.6 MBps).

ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery Software, Warranty

Although the USB Secure Hard Drive ships without any preinstalled software, ThinkPad users can back up data using the ThinkVantage Rescue and Recovery utility. When we attached the drive to aLenovo ThinkPad SL300and launched the software, we were able to give our backups names and select how often we'd like data to be copied to the device (daily, weekly, or monthly). The process was very easy to set up; in just a few mouse clicks we had executed our first backup. Lenovo covers the drive with a three-year limited warranty.

Verdict

Priced at $175 ($143 for the 160GB model), the 320GB Lenovo ThinkPad USB Secure Hard Drive is a nicely designed external storage unit that complements ThinkPad notebooks. Certainly, it can be used with other systems, but you'll have to drag and drop content onto the drive manually, unless your PC contains a backup application of its own. It's more expensive than similarly sized pocket drives such as the $129 Seagate FreeAgent Goand its write speed is nothing to brag about, but the Lenovo ThinkPad USB Secure Hard Drive is a good choice for keeping data secure.

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Capacity 320GB
Rotational Speed 5,400 rpm
Seek Time N/A
Read/Write Speed 26.5 MBps/15.6 MBps
Ports USB
Size 4.7 x 3.4 x 0.8 inches
Weight 6.4 ounces
Company Website http://www.lenovo.com/us
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