- Review Price: £27.82
It was only last week I took a look at the Super Talent Pico USB Flash Drive and espoused its many merits – namely the tiny size, relatively large capacity and brilliant price. For many, though, 8GB is just too restrictive – you certainly couldn’t fit an HD film on that sized drive. So, practical as flash memory is, hard drives still have a fair bit of life in them yet.
In days gone by carrying a hard drive was a bit of a chore. 3.5in caddies aren’t exactly the wieldiest of form factors. Thank goodness, then, that these days you can pick up a 2.5in caddy intended to accept a laptop hard drive, that’s far more practical to transport around.
As with flash drives, though, portable hard drive enclosures are a bland affair and the only differentiator is what capacity drive you put in, which is hardly affected by the brand of caddy you buy. Occasionally a manufacturer decides to buck the trend and give its product a genuinely differentiating feature – and I’m not just talking about a different colour activity LED.
Take SilverStone’s Treasure TS01B for example. Not only does it present a sleek design, but it also adds hardware encryption using RFID. If you aren’t familiar with the technology, Radio Frequency IDentification is, in a nutshell an authentication system which uses ID ‘tags’ to, in this case, verify that the drive’s user is allowed to access the data.
In the case of the TS01B, this consists of two passive RFID key fobs which are used to first set up the drive in the enclosure and to allow access to the data on it thereafter. If there is one major downside to this, it’s that for some reason, SilverStone has chosen to emblazon its own and an “RFID Security” logo on these tags. Given than anyone likely to steal the hard drive is likely to be quite capable of making off with your keys as well it does seem slightly counterintuitive.
That’s about the only criticism that can be made of the system in action though – the real killer is getting the dratted thing to work in the first place…
The process of setting up the caddy is unfortunately made fairly cumbersome by dint of the RFID element – although in fairness once set up it’s far, far simpler than a software solution. Getting a hard drive into the caddy is simple enough, just two small screws need undoing (a screwdriver is even provided for this!) to allow access to the inside, said drive then slots inside the enclosure wherein the lid is reattached – simplicity itself.
Setting up the encryption is just a matter of plugging the drive in, pressing the two RFID tags to it one after the other and creating a partition. After doing this whenever the hard drive is connected to another computer, you need to press one of the tags to it before it will show up as connected.
Take the hard drive out of the enclosure and it’s a similar story. When we plugged the disk into one of our test benches its capacity showed up as unallocated space. We even tried to get somewhere with a couple of data recovery software kits, but to no avail – which is a good thing in this instance. I was, however, able to format the drive which then erased all the content on it, once returned to the secure caddy. Any data kept on the drive isn’t likely to be the only copy, so I don’t see that as an issue.
If you lose one of the tags you’ll still be able to use the drive, but you won’t be able to setup the enclosure with another disk. If the caddy breaks you can still decrypt the hard drive by using it in a replacement and using the same RFID keys. In either case, you aren’t going to be completely stuck and unable to recover your data.
That’s the security side of the enclosure covered then, but what about general use? The drive is connected to your PC or notebook using a mini-USB cable. SilverStone supplies one short ‘big-to-small’ cable and one which merges two full-size USB ports into a mini-USB connector. The later is needed for systems with USB ports that won’t supply enough juice on their own to power the drive.
SilverStone states on the packaging that the SATA controller used should offer transfer speeds up to 27.7MB/s. Never one to take such figures at face value I tested using both a single large file, Vista Service Pack 1 x64 weighing in at 726MB, and a folder containing a mix of Word documents and images amounting to about 60MB – repeated three times and averaged.
Vista SP1 transferred from the drive in 27 seconds, for a transfer speed of 26.9MB/s and was written to it in 29 seconds, at a speed of 25MB/s. The multiple small file tests showed similar figures of 27.1MB/s read and 22.7MB/s write. It’s nice to see that the quoted figures are in fact a realistic estimate of real world performance for a change.
The cheapest price I could find the enclosure for was just a tad under £28 which I think is quite reasonable value for what you’re getting. Even without the RFID functionality the SilverStone TS01B offers a pretty decent package, the enclosure itself looks good, it’s easy to install a drive and there’s even a swanky leather carrying case. RFID-based security is just the icing on the cake – you don’t even have to use it if you don’t want to.
The security features of the TS01B may not appeal to everyone, and they’re by no means flawless, but once configured it’s a damn sight easier to use than a software solution. Even without that aspect though, you’re still getting a good portable hard drive enclosure for a pretty good price.
Score in detail
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