Maxtor BlackArmor (160GB) Review

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$119
Editors' rating:
The Pros

Government-grade encryption; Fast write speeds; Easy-to-use Maxtor Manager software; Lengthy five-year warranty

The Cons

Not Mac-compatible

Verdict

This super-secure external portable hard drive offers government-grade data protection and blazing write speeds.

The mobile professional who frequently totes sensitive information on external hard drives needs the utmost in protection, and Maxtor delivers just that with its latest storage solution, aptly named BlackArmor. The compact portable hard drive serves up protection that business travelers desire: government-grade, 128-bit AES hard drive-based encryption that's certified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It prevents anyone from accessing the drive--even data-recovery experts.

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Design

Measuring 5.2 x 3.3 x 0.7 inches and weighing 6.4 ounces, the Maxtor BlackArmor slides easily into a jacket or pants pocket without weighing it down. Despite being designed for the business set, the external HDD has a simple, stylish aesthetic: a brushed-metal finish with silver-gray highlights on the left and right sides. It looks sharp enough to impress onlookers in the boardroom without being garish.

Software and Security

Once we plugged the Maxtor BlackArmor into a Windows Vista-based notebook (it also works with XP; Mac users, this drive is incompatible with OS X), it automatically opened a prompt that allowed us to launch the Maxtor Manager. Before we could dive in, we had to enter a 25-character identification code located on the back of the drive and create a password that would serve as the key to access data later. Whenever we would insert the BlackArmor into a USB port and attempt to access data, we had to key in the proper password. The hardware encryption on the drive is so tight that not even professional data recovery services can access or restore data without it. Fortunately, when you create a password, the BlackArmor gives you an option to create a hint, so you can attempt to access the drive if you forget your password.

The preinstalled Maxtor Manager software lets you sync files on each new PC that you connect the drive to, and select an automated schedule for backing up important files. It also let us activate and tweak the power-saving mode that kicks in at user-defined intervals of inactivity (anywhere from 3 minutes to 5 hours) to stop the drive from drawing power from the notebook to which it's connected.

Mixed Performance

Using our LAPTOP File Copy Test, the BlackArmor was able to read a 5GB folder of mixed media in 3 minutes and 44 seconds, or 22.8 MBps. That's slower than theWestern Digital My Passport Essential(25.2 MBps) but faster than theLaCie Little Disk(18.2 MBps).

Although the Maxtor BlackArmor didn't blow us away with its read speed, it made up for it in write speed. On our write test with the same folder, the drive took 4 minutes and 38 seconds to complete the transfer--a rate of 18.4 MBps. That surpassed the LaCie Little Disk (14.9 MBps), and Western Digital My Passport Essential (13.5 MBps).

Verdict

Although it costs more than other portable hard drives and its read speed could be better, the $119 Maxtor BlackArmor serves up superior hardware-based encryption (as opposed to a software-based, password-protected folder) and a lengthy five-year warranty. The rock-solid protection is worth the price of admission.

Capacity 160GB
Rotational Speed 5,400 rpm
Read/Write Speed 22.8 MBps/18.4 MBps
Ports USB
Size 5.2 x 3.3 x 0.7 inches
Weight 6.4 ounces
Company Website http://www.maxtor.com
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