The Buffalo MiniStation Stealth USB 3.0 drive gives you a lot for $125. It comes with numerous apps, including 128-bit software encryption, a good backup app, and extra utilities for boosting transfer speed. Add all of this up and you've got an excellent portable USB 3.0 drive.
The Buffalo MiniStation Stealth is about the same size as the Western Digital My Passport Essential and the LaCie Rikki, but it's about a half ounce heavier, at 7.8 ounces. Still, the MiniStation Stealth is much lighter than the 9.9-ounce Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex and the 14.4-ounce Iomega eGo. The no-frills Buffalo drive comes in all black, and the plastic enclosure feels slightly cheap, especially compared to the aluminum LaCie Rikiki drive.
Setting up the MiniStation's software was fast and easy. The Buffalo Backup Utility uses a tree structure that makes it easy to choose files for backups. However, the design of the app looks dated, like a vintage Windows program. You can create scheduled backups, though, and it also shows a helpful thumbnail of your desktop at the time of the backup. You can't select specific folders to back up on your laptop, but you can exclude the ones you don't want.
Each of the Buffalo utilities--Backup, Secure Lock Mobile, and TurboPC--is a separate program, so installing them takes extra time. We had to restart a few times. Unlike the software included with the LaCie and WD drives, Buffalo's backup app only works with Buffalo's own drives.
During disk transfers, the Buffalo MiniStation Stealth emits a bright blue light that you can see across a room--not very stealthy. The transfers were particularly speedy, mostly due to the Turbo Copy app included with the drive. The transfer time for a 5G folder of media files and documents was only 1 minute 20 seconds (64 MBps), the fastest of the drives we tested. The next closest were the Iomega eGo and the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex, which took 1:26 (a rate of 59.5 MBps).
When it came to reading that same folder off the drive, the Buffalo drive fell to the lower middle of the pack, taking 1 minute and 55 seconds, a rate of 44.5 MBps. That's nowhere near the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex (71.1 MBps), but it's much better than the LaCie Rikiki's 36.6 MBps transfer rate.
We prefer the well-designed apps included with the Western Digital drive, and both the LaCie and Iomega drives felt better constructed. However, the $125 Buffalo MiniStation Stealth gets good marks due to its generally fast speed and intuitive backup app.