Backing up to a portable external drive is a heck of a lot smarter than backing up to your notebook's own drive, but what happens if something goes awry with your portable drive? Fabrik adds another layer of protection with its SimpleTech Signature Mini (320GB). It comes with 2GB of free online backup, giving you a plan B should disaster strike.
Design and Durability
With an aesthetic crafted by Pininfarina, an icon in Italian sports car design, the Signature Mini eschews the boxy body found on typical external hard drives for one with sleek curves. Our unit came in a sexy Black Cherry red body, but a slew of other colors are available for tech fashionistas based on capacity: Blueberry (160GB, $99.99), Espresso (500GB, $229), and Cayenne or Ice (250GB, $129). Some other colors are available at the moment, such as Bubblegum and Marshmallow, but Fabrik plans to discontinue these after this fall.
Measuring 4.9 x 3.1 x 0.7 inches, the drive is a bit too large to slide into anything smaller than a cargo-pants pocket, but at 5.7 ounces, it's lightweight. A red light on top signifies that the drive is powered on, while an adjacent, pulsating blue light indicates when it's reading or writing data. The drive houses elastomeric foam pads to reduce shock; it also features rubberized paint for better in-hand grip and can withstand a 1-meter drop.
Once we connected the dual-headed USB 2.0 cable (the second head is used to power the drive when additional juice is required), we used the LAPTOP File Copy Test to transfer a 5GB folder of music, video, photos, and documents to the Signature Mini. Writing the file took 6 minutes and 18 seconds (or 13.5 MBps), nearly 10 MBps slower than the similarly sizedBuffalo 320GB MiniStation TurboUSB(22.3 MBps). Our read test saw the drive transfer the same folder in 4 minutes and 8 seconds--a rate of 20.6 MBps, which lags behind the Buffalo MiniStation's 41.5 MBps mark. Although the drive is plug-and-play on Windows PCs, you must format it before use when attempting to back up data from withinMac OS X.
In a convenient move, Fabrik's Local Backup (powered by ArcSoft TotalMedia Backup and Record) for both Mac OS X and Windows comes preinstalled on the device. You can choose to schedule an automatic full data backup (which copies all selected files) or incremental backups (which includes new files and older ones that have been changed since the previous backup) on a daily or weekly basis. The software goes beyond simple backups; multimedia mavens can use it to duplicate, burn, and rip CDs as well. Files are protected with 128-bit SSL encryption.
If you'd like to double the protection of your most cherished files, you can download the Windows 2000, XP, and Vista-compatible Fabrik Ultimate Backup software (backup.fabrik.com) to send 2GB of data to the cloud for free, or upload an unlimited amount of data for $4.95 per month. We liked that the configuration tool allowed us to select which files to back up (either files on our PCs or files on the Signature Mini) and determine when the software would automatically begin backing up data, such as when our PC was idle. It's nothing revolutionary, but it's definitely helpful.
The Signature Mini comes with a free Joggle account, an online application that consolidates all of your photos, music, and video into one convenient location. Joggle lets you share content without requiring the recipient to register for an account (or to log in if they have an account). You can also embed slideshows and playlists into Web pages. Joggle, unfortunately, isn't set to launch publicly until the fall, but interested parties can sign up for the service on its Web site, www.joggle.com. Potential users will be notified via e-mail when Joggle is available.
We would like to have seen faster read and write speeds--and the Ultimate Backup software preinstalled on the drive--but the $169 Fabrik SimpleTech Signature Mini (backed by a three-year warranty) is a good-looking and versatile hard drive.