- Review Price: £55.21
Pininfarina is arguably the most famous design company in the world with classics such as the Ferrari 308 GTS (of Magnum fame), Ferrari Testarossa and Alfa Romeo Spider all coming from its hallowed halls. Whether its office chairs, barbecues, or cars, Pininfarina has done it all and there are few companies that can give a product more distinction. It’s a smart move then for SimpleTech to have enlisted its help in sexing up that most mundane of objects – the USB hard drive.
The SimpleDrive is one of the popular breed of portable external hard drives that, very usefully, can be powered over USB. We’ve seen plenty of these drives over the last few years and it’s seldom we’ve not been impressed by them, though there has been occasions. So, can the SimpleDrive impress us as much or will it be a case of all looks and no substance?
The drive’s enclosure is a very shiny, fingerprint attracting, plastic wedge, with a simple oval highlight on the top. It is available in five colours – black, white, red, light grey, and dark grey, with either black or blue highlights. The Pininfarina signature is emblazoned across both sides of the case, giving a hint as to the SimpleDrive’s designers.
Personally, I think the design is brilliant. The taper from the back to the front, and the not-quite-vertical angle of the back, make for a subtle yet very pleasing look – reminiscent of the profile of a 308 GTS perhaps? The large SimpleTech logo detracts slightly from the overall effect but I’ll forgive it that much. The sleek styling also makes for a very pocket friendly piece of kit.
As mentioned in our review of the similarly sleek Western Digital (WD) Portable hard drive, it’s worth remembering that the shiny look is desirable but isn’t necessarily the most practical for everyday life as it’s prone to scratches. That said, this drive is noticeably sturdier than the WD drive so at least it will stay in one piece even if it is covered in scratches.
The drive is available in capacities ranging from 120GB to 320GB. They all use drives spinning at 5,400rpm with 8MB of cache and use the USB 2.0 standard for data transfer. The one I’m looking at here is the 120GB version. It weighs 165g and has dimensions of 80 x 125 x 20mm, which is about typical for one of these drives.
Round the back of the case are a mini USB socket and a 5V DC power socket. The presence of this latter socket makes sense as some USB ports may not provide enough juice to power the drive through a single cable. So, plugging an additional USB to co-axial cable into this socket ensures the drive has all the power it needs.
The drive comes preformatted for FAT32 and, being Plug ‘n’ Play, will be instantly recognised by Windows 2000 (and later) and assigned a drive letter. The drive is very quiet in operation never rising above the noise of my PCs fans. A red LED hidden in the oval detailing illuminates when the unit is powered and an adjacent blue LED flashes to indicate hard disk activity.
If required the drive can be reformatted or partitioned as you like, so Mac or Linux users can still benefit from its use. We tested the drive’s performance by copying a single large file, 3.66GB in size, from a PC to the disc. We then copied over several hundred images of various sizes – with a combined size of 716MB.
The 3.66GB file copied to the drive in two minutes 53 seconds and two minutes 25 seconds to copy back to the PC. This equates to a write speed of 21.2MB/s and a read speed of 25.4MB/s. The 716MB of images took 36 seconds to write to the drive and 33 seconds to copy back to the PC. This equates to a write speed of 19.9MB/s and a read speed of 21.7MB/s. Essentially, as always we see the USB connection being the limiting factor here when it comes to transfer speed.
The SimpleDrive ships with its own backup software called StorageSync. You can encrypt your backed up data with AES, with a choice of 128, 192, and 256-bit key sizes, which is a very welcome addition for any business users – or paranoid individuals. Unfortunately, the software doesn’t include any automatic backup scheduling, though you can set a regular reminder to tell you to backup. Once files have been backed up you can synchronise them, ensuring you’re always up to date.
SimpleTech has used the Pininfarina name to great affect by creating a portable hard drive that is so stylish and well made it can compete with the otherwise cheaper big name hard drive manufacturers. After all, you can talk about features and speed until you’re blue in the face but when it comes down to it, as long as it’s built to last, a portable hard drive is a portable hard drive so you might as well have one that looks nice.
Score in detail