by Jon Chappell
With high-capacity USB sticks and SD cards getting cheaper and being available almost everywhere (including your local drug store), what’s not to love? I’ll tell you what’s not to love: their speed. These things can be dog S-L-O-W when it comes to transferring data, especially if you have gigabytes of the stuff. A half-way complete, barely moving status bar is not what you want to be looking at when you’ve got just 10 minutes to get to your local FedEx drop for the last pickup of the day.
But what are fast—and certainly more reliable—are the latest crop of USB-powered hard disks. Current prices are running about $60 for 320GB, $80 for 500GB and about $100 for a full terabyte for 1.5 terabytes. These things are fast, reliable, and very portable. They’re not much bigger than a smartphone and can fit in a shirt or pants pocket.
Sticks and cards are nice, but if you’re dealing with a laptop, you’re already toting a case for it, and a USB hard drive will probably fit nicely into your kit. Use it as a backup for large and/or important files, and for overnight transport; it’s not much more expensive—if at all—than a stick or card, because of the way overnight rates are structured. USB drives are a much better way to go when sending your data to a remote backup location or to a partner.
For one popular solution, check out Western Digital’s My Passport Series. They’re both USB 3.0 and 2.0 compatible, come in a variety of colors with protective carrying cases, and feature onboard utility software for password protection and hardware encryption (which you can delete to get back the storage capacity, if you like). A 1TB models cost just under $100.
For FireWire, and mission-critical audio and video work, look at the PCAudioLabs 160GB FireWire External Hard Drive. It has 160GB of storage, runs at 7200 rpm and has a 2MB cache and transfer rate of 400bps. Street price is just under $100.
Above: PCAudioLabs' 160GB FireWire drive.