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Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive review

Ardjuna Seghers

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  • Recommended by TR

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Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 USB 3.0 Hard Drive
  • Buffalo 1TB DriveStation USB3.0

Summary

Our Score:

8

There’s something a little special about the Buffalo DriveStation HD-HXU3 external hard drive we’re looking at today. It’s not the casing, which is a glossy plastic variant of what every other manufacturer offers; it’s not the capacity, which is a fairly average 1TB; nor is it the software, which consists of a basic backup program much like you’ll find on many other drives. Even in terms of connectivity there’s only a single USB socket - but as the title has already given away, it’s USB 3.0 rather than the 2.0 version found on almost every other device around.

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few years, this is incredibly significant. We’ve been happily living with Universal Serial Bus (USB) version 2.0 for years; indeed it’s so ubiquitous that you’ll find it in anything from DisplayLink monitors, through webcams, peripherals, cameras, memory sticks, headphones and printers to mobile phones - most things that can be connected to a PC, in fact.

However, anyone who has had to transfer large amounts of data from a memory stick or external hard drive will know that it’s simply not a fast enough solution. USB 3.0 is here to rectify this, finally offering a huge and much-needed increase in bandwidth: compare USB 3.0’s 4.8Gbit/s to USB 2.0’s miserly 480Mbit/s (keeping in mind that theoretical maximum bandwidth is almost never reached in real-world scenarios).

Inevitably other solutions have presented themselves, with the most popular of these being eSATA (external SATA), which offers a high bandwidth of 3.2Gbit/s. However, this brings with it its own set of complications, including short, thick cables, and no integrated power provision to devices. Worse is that it's not a universal standard, so while you can guarantee that any laptop or PC that's been released in the last 5 years has USB 2.0 ports, the same can't be said for eSATA. USB 3.0, however, has the potential to quickly replace its predecessor as the de-facto connectivity standard, especially since it is backwards compatible and a single controller can still handle up to 127 daisy-chained devices.

To clarify the point about backwards compatibility: you’ll be able to plug USB 2.0 devices into a USB 3.0 controller’s ports, and USB 3.0 devices into USB 2.0 ports – but of course they’ll only work at USB 2.0 speeds, so there’s no point getting a SuperSpeed drive for your old PC (though there are adapter cards available, so anyone with a free PCIe slot can add USB 3.0 to their machine). It’s worth keeping in mind that USB 3.0 devices also require USB 3.0 cables, which have a different connector at the device end - meaning you can’t use your old cables even if you wanted to. While this might be inconvenient, it does help to avoid confusion and we reckon the possible inconvenience is worth it.

DEB

January 21, 2010, 5:17 am

*Correction* where USB 2.0 took 135 seconds compared to 46 seconds for USB 3.0

HarryGlass

January 21, 2010, 10:38 am

Pun half intended, but hurry up already.


I need a new laptop, I need a new external hard disk. I'd like to get them now, but the tech is just too new and there's hardly any USB 3.0 products out there. A couple of HP laptops and now this one HD. Seems I have to wait another couple of months before I can go shopping.

Geoff Richards

January 21, 2010, 11:54 am

@DEB - thanks. Fixed now.

PoisonJam

January 21, 2010, 2:34 pm

This drive is great value. That's quite a small premium to pay in my book for much better speeds!

Jmac

January 21, 2010, 2:43 pm

You say USB 3.0 should allow more devices to run without a separate DC adaptor, but the DriveStation has a DC in port. Obviously this is necessary for running in USB 2.0 mode, but does it need to be connected if the drive is attached to a USB 3.0 port? Sorry if I missed this, but I don't think it is covered in the review.

james1000

January 21, 2010, 4:06 pm

Why is the usb 3 performance under par? If its billed as 10x quicker than usb 2 why ISNT it 10x quicker?

adulaisow

January 21, 2010, 4:17 pm

@James It can go only as fast as the slowest interface, in this case the hard-drive.

Ed

January 21, 2010, 4:29 pm

@james1000: Further to adulaisow's point, the performance difference is only theoretical. The 4.8Gbps and 480Mbps figures are the maximum speeds as specified by the standard and there are many reasons why this limit won't be reached in the real world. It's the same with the vast majority of interconnect standards from ATA to Zip drives.

David Hollinshead

January 21, 2010, 4:53 pm

I wanna usb 3.0 floppy drive!





But seriously how did this drive get a an average write speed of 114.5 megabytes / sec? I didn't think hard drives were that quick - was that the burst speed? or should it be Megabits / sec?

TechVegan

January 21, 2010, 7:37 pm

@David Hollinshead:


Haha, don't we all!





The average write speed is correct, and is megabytes per second - don't forget that USB3.0 currently gives roughly the same real-world bandwidth as SATA for drives to play with.





This figure is admittedly a tad high when compared to older (internal) hard drives we've reviewed, but then both hard drive and controller efficiency have moved on since last year.

Tony Walker

January 22, 2010, 11:01 am

@Ardjuina





The drive must be tweaked to perform so well at HDTune (cacheing?) as the real world performance of the drive shows up in the 3.5Gb single file copy which take 46 seconds. This breaks down to about 76MBytes/sec which is a little slow (I presume you were copying the files off a drive with a read speed greater than this). My "last years tech" Samsung F1 just did a 1911MB file in 21 secs (approx 91MBytes/sec).

MrGodfrey

January 22, 2010, 3:35 pm

I've had a few Buffalo drives and had no problems with any of them; they all used either WD or Samsung drives so the brand snob in me was happy. I'd still rather know what's inside before buying though.





What annoys me more is the lack of any controls on the drive. My previous Buffalo drives had a power switch. This might not sound important, but is very useful for me - I regularly move files to an external HDD so I tend to keep one plugged in at all times, but that doesn't mean I want it powering on and off all the time.

supersizeme

January 22, 2010, 10:15 pm

could you clarify John McCleans point about power. Running in USB3 mode, would this drive require the power supply to be connected?, if so, is their enough power for USB3 to run an external hard drives and therefore should we be waiting to see what comes along?

TechVegan

January 26, 2010, 3:22 pm

@Tony Walker:


I doubt the drive is tweaked, and its performance in HDTune is in line with other modern drives we have in the office (we double-checked as we also thought the speed to be unusually high). As to its performance in the real world, this will vary depending on motherboard, operating system (we used Vista 64-bit), file type and location, so it's a less accurate measure.





@MrGodfrey:


I completely agree, and lament the sad demise of the power button on most popular external drives. They were there for a reason, dammit.





@John McLean & supersizeme:


Unfortunately the power draw of a regular 3.5in disk is still too high for USB 3.0, so the power adapter is required. USB 3.0 can only supply up to 900mA (though compared to a mere 100mA for USB2), while 3.5in drives can require up to 2,000mA.

Brian Kane

May 28, 2013, 10:50 pm

I don't suppose anybody can tell a senile delinquent if it will support 1 Windows P.C. & an Apple MAC? Will it / Can it be partitioned by a wrinkly?

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