Storage on the go: We test five fast portable hard drives

For system backup, archiving, or simply carrying around large data sets, 2.5-inch portable hard drives rule the roost. Competing flash drives are super portable and convenient, but they top out at 128GB; and at larger capacities, they cost a whopping buck per gigabyte.

Hard drives vs. SSDs

By comparison, each of the five portable hard drives we tested in this roundup cost about 10 cents per gigabyteand some cost even less. All five units also feature USB 3.0 interfaces, making them considerably faster than previous-generation drives.

While any the drives we tested will fit easily in a jacket pocket, they vary more than a little in both physical size and maximum available capacity. The My Passport Edge and Seagate Slim have a significantly thinner profile than the other drives, but offer only 500GB of storage. The standard My Passport is a bit thicker, but available with 2TB. The 500GB Satellite was the largest drive physically, but that's due to the internal Wi-Fi electronics and battery used for creating a mobile hotspot. The 500GB Lancer LX is also on the large side, but it's ruggedized and has dual FireWire 800 ports in addition to one USB 3.0 port.

Each of five drives proved to be a capable performer, turning in nearly identical performances reading our mix of files and foldersbasically the most frequent task a drive is asked to perform. Overall however, the Western Digital drives outpaced the competition by 6MBps or more. Seagate's Satellite Mobile Wireless was quite a bit slower than the other four drives when it came to transferring large files, but its ability to stream audio and video files via Wi-Fi connectivity earns it a pass; besides, it's still fast compared to USB 2.0 models.

When all was said and done, each drive had something that set it apart from the competition: Style, performance, or a unique feature. Follow these links to read each review, or check out the chart below to pick just the ones you're interested in:

Rocstor Lancer X: A portable hard drive in a ruggedized enclosure.

Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage: This drive creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot.

Seagate Slim: We can picture this drive as a prop in an industrial espionage flick.

WD My Passport Edge: Western Digital bundles a superior collection of utilities.

WD My Passport: It's not pretty, but it takes the win for performance and capacity.A


This story, "Storage on the go: We test five fast portable hard drives" was originally published by PCWorld.

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