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7 mobile hard drives: More portable and more powerful

Rick Broida | Aug. 20, 2013
If you want to back up and carry all your data with you, these lightweight hard drives let you do it easily and with style.

Buffalo's $89.99 price tag is a bit higher than what you'll pay for other 500GB drives in the group, making its so-so performance all the more acute. It's a lightweight and versatile companion, to be sure, but not exactly the top value.

Corsair Voyager Air

Heavy, chunky and not quite as travel-friendly as the other drives here, the Corsair Voyager Air is nonetheless the most versatile portable storage unit in this roundup.

It's a lightning-fast, battery-powered 1TB drive that can double as network-attached storage. And it also has built-in Wi-Fi, meaning it can sit in your travel bag while you copy files, stream media and so on — all without interrupting your Internet connection. A pass-through option lets your PC or mobile device continue to use the local Wi-Fi network even though it's also using Wi-Fi to connect to the drive.

When connected to a USB 3.0 port, the Voyager Air compares favorably with the roundup's fastest standalone drives from Seagate and Western Digital. (Surprisingly, it charges completely via USB and requires no additional power supply, though it does come with both AC and car adapters.) Corsair doesn't specify how many devices can connect simultaneously, but I had no trouble streaming an Amy Winehouse album to my iPhone and PC at the same time.

However, weak mobile apps prevent the Air from realizing its full potential. Although a smattering of short video clips streamed fine to my iPhone, most produced an error message saying they wouldn't play or were too large. In the latter case I could download them directly to the phone, but that sort of defeats the purpose. All these same videos played fine using Kingston's MobileLite Wireless.

What's more, there's no "Select all" option when choosing files to upload from device to drive. If you want to back up, say, your camera roll, plan on doing a lot of tapping.

Corsair backs the drive with a three-year warranty, icing on a pricey (minimum retail price is $200) but very worthwhile cake. If the company can improve its apps' streaming capabilities, it'll have the portable hard drive to beat.

Patriot Aero
Capacity/price: 500GB for $140.00 - $199.00 (retail); 1TB for $166.00 - $220.00 (retail)

The Patriot Aero arrived as a last-minute entrant in the roundup, and this one was worth the wait. The Aero functions much like the Corsair Voyager Air, offering both USB 3.0 and wireless connectivity, but in a more compact and less expensive package. It comes in both 500MB and 1TB capacities; I tested the 1TB version.

Fortunately, just because it's smaller and cheaper doesn't mean it's slower: The Aero posted impressive benchmark numbers, proving almost exactly as fast as the Air — at least when connected via USB. As for power, you can charge the drive via USB or the included AC adapter, although unlike the Corsair, it doesn't come with a car adapter.

 

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