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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.

It's fast, too, posting the top read/write scores of any drive we tested — though Seagate's Slim ran it a close second. If you want a drive that can copy your presentations, videos and other big files in a hurry, this is it.

However, the Ultra's plastic casing looks and feels cheap and flimsy; one suspects that a sudden encounter with the pavement would crack it wide open. What's more, this is physically the largest non-wireless drive in the group — not dramatically or inconveniently so, but it lacks the elegant slenderness of, say, the Seagate Slim.

Western Digital's WD SmartWare Pro software includes password and encryption options for the drive itself and two backup options: local and Dropbox, though you'll need your own account if you want to use the latter. (That's in contrast to Toshiba's Canvio Connect, which includes a 10GB Pogoplug account.) These are simple but efficient tools for making continuous or scheduled backups.

If you prize speed above all else and don't mind paying a slight premium for it, the My Passport Ultra wins the day — even if it could stand to slim down a bit.

Bottom line
While some of these portable hard drives are a bit better than others when it comes to design, performance, warranty and bundled software, there's really not a bad option in the group. Corsair, Seagate and Western Digital share the speed crown, while Corsair and Patriot get points for severing the USB cord altogether — though Patriot's model wins the day by being more compact and less expensive.

How important is speed, anyway? For some users, it won't be at all important, as any of these units will blow your existing USB 2.0 drives out of the water. That said, if you want really fast file transfers, look to the drives from Corsair, Seagate and Western Digital.

You should also consider each drive's warranty. While the average is two years, some models are covered for only one year, while a few raise the stakes to three. Obviously there's no way to predict when a drive might fail on you, but a longer warranty does suggest greater durability.

Whatever drive you pick, you're likely to enjoy high-speed file transfers and a barely noticeable bulge in your carry-on — the real joys of portable storage.

 

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