Fabrik recognizes the importance of backing up data to an external hard drive, but the company also acknowledges the importance of preserving the environment. These two maxims come together in the form of the SimpleTech (re)drive, a 500GB external hard drive made of recyclable aluminum and bamboo that offers good data-transfer speeds, online storage, and media management software. However, the design isn't for everyone, and the (re)drive doesn't feature eSATA or FireWire ports such as competing drives.
Greenness and Design
The green factor of the (re)drive begins with the box. Not only is it green in color, but it's completely recyclable. The packaging included extra bags or inserts. In fact, the user guide is printed on the interior of the box (it's preinstalled on the drive itself).
Measuring 10.5 x 8.6 x 4.1 inches and weighing 2.6 pounds, the drive is quite bulky and heavy. The (re)drive is made out of aluminum, with bamboo covers on the top and bottom. Although environmentally friendly, this makes for a harsh visual clash between the old and new: On one hand, it looks raw, as though it were made from recycled parts; on the other hand, it looks like it was packaged and shipped out before the design was completed. The aluminum sides, which have a crinkled effect, act as heat sinks to keep the drive cool during extended use.
Although it utilizes a power cord like many other large-capacity external hard drives, the (re)drive doesn't have a power button. Once you connect it to a notebook via USB, it powers on and off when your system does. This helps prevents the (re)drive from continuously pulling electricity should you forget to turn it off, and it saves energy in the process.
Once we connected the power adapter and USB 2.0 cable, we copied a 4.97GB folder of mixed media to the (re)drive. Writing the file took 3 minutes and 53 seconds (a rate of 21.0 MBps), which is better than four 1-terabyte drives we recently tested, none of which cracked 20 MBps. Our read test saw the drive transfer the same folder in 4 minutes and 22 seconds (or 19.5 MBps), which is faster than the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus and Western Digital My Book Mirror Edition but slower than the Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 and LaCie Hard Disk (they both topped 25.0 MBps).
It should be noted that the Fabrik SimpleTech (re)drive includes only one connection port (USB), so you'll have to make due with those speeds. The 500GB Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4, the little brother of the LAPTOP Editors' Choice-winning 1TB Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4, packs faster eSATA and FireWire 800 connections.
Preinstalled on the drive is SimpleTech's TurboUSB software, which gave our data-transfer speeds a slight boost. Once we launched the software, the unit's read speed increased a hair (to 22.6 MBps), as did the write speed (21.7 MBps). In order for Mac users to write to the drive, they will need to reformat it.
In a convenient move, Fabrik's Local Backup (powered by ArcSoft TotalMedia Backup and Record) is 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, weekly, or monthly 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 launch 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. The configuration tool allowed us to select which files to back up (from our PC or the SimpleTech (re)drive) and determine when the software should automatically begin backing up data, such as when our PC was idle. It's nothing revolutionary, but it's certainly helpful.
The (re)drive comes with a free 1GB Joggle beta account (www.joggle.com), an online application that consolidates all of your photos, music, and video into one convenient location. Joggle lets you share content easily with friends by e-mailing them links, which didn't require them to register for an account.
The Fabrik SimpleTech (re)drive offers very good write speeds and certainly qualifies as a green hard drive. We prefer the Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 because it offers eSATA and FireWire ports for even-better performance. However, if your PC doesn't have those connection options, and you can appreciate its bamboo-meets-metal look, the (re)drive is a viable option for backing up.