Review: Buffalo Technology Drive Station USB 3.0 1 TB

Our score: 5/5
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Published: December 16, 2009 11:00 PM
By Pierre-Jean Alzieu
First there was USB 1.0, then 'hi-speed' USB 2.0, and now, after years of waiting, the USB 3.0 standard is here and promises much faster data transfer rates.  The new protocol should be ten times faster than the previous version, but this is our first test of a USB 3.0 peripheral and so we're very curious to see what the results are like!

Buffalo Technology recently announced plans to extend its range of 3.5'' external hard drives, adding support for USB 3.0.  This new version of the DriveStation has a similar design to the rest of the range, with a case in glossy black plastic and a curvaceous exterior.  There are three versions available with capacities of 1, 1.5 and 2 TB.

USB 3.0

At the moment, nobody has a motherboard with a USB 3.0 port, which is why Buffalo also sells an optional USB 3.0 controller.

The manufacturer boasts of speeds of up to 130 MB/s, and if this new hard drive is going to manage that, it'll mean beating the fastest eSATA-based external hard drives.  And although they're more than possible, these speeds are a long way off from the theoretical maximums for the USB 3.0 standard, which is supposed to be able to reach 4800 Mbps, or 600 MB/s, which is ten times faster than USB 2.0.  These theoretical maximum speeds are a good opportunity to remember that for USB 3.0 (and eSATA, for that matter), the speed of an external hard drive will be limited by the drive itself, and not the connection you use.

Test speeds up to scratch

WD My Book Studio Edition 500 GB (USB 2.0)
Buffalo Technology DriveStation USB 3.0 1 TB
Speeds over USB 3.0 (MB/s)

To underline the difference between the two standards, Buffalo has included different-coloured LEDs on top of the enclosure: red for USB 2.0 and blue for USB 3.0.  Using the latter, we recorded very fast speeds, but nothing to make eSATA blush.  Copying 100 GB of data takes around 21 minutes, but you'd do the same job in just under 19 minutes on the Icy Box IB_-390 over eSATA.  Things are different when it coms to reading data though, but there's less of a discrepancy.  To read 100 GB of data from the DriveStation you'll need 15 minutes 30, while the Icy Box model takes just over 16 minutes. 

USB 2.0: perfectly average speeds

WD My Book Studio Edition 500 GB (USB 2.0)
Buffalo Technology DriveStation USB 3.0 1 TB
Speeds over USB 2.0 (MB/s)

Using USB 2.0, the DriveStation is a lot less impressive, and we found results that were perfectly average for this type of product.  To copy a 100 GB folder to and from the drive, you'll need 50 and 67 minutes respectively.

As with Buffalo Technology's other external hard drives, this one includes a turbo USB mode.  Once you turn it on, USB 2.0 speeds are improved.  According to our tests, it improves write speeds by 18.5% and read speeds by 15.8%.  Although these results are very impressive, they're a long way behind the performances provided by USB 3.0.  You also have to use the software provided by Buffalo, so it's unlikely you'll enjoy the improvement on your friends' computers. 
5/5 Buffalo Technology Drive Station USB 3.0 1 TB DigitalVersus 2009-12-17 00:00:00

Pros

  • Turbo USB feature improves USB 2.0 speeds
  • USB 3.0: excellent read and write speeds
  • Seek time: 13.4 ms
  • Energy consumption: Idle: 6.4 W - Writing: 9.8 W

Cons

  • USB 2.0 too slow without Turbo USB
  • Software on the main partition, so easy to wipe it

Conclusion

The arrival of USB 3.0 on the DriveStation brings with it speeds equivalent to eSATA. However, you'll have to wait until the new standard is available on more motherboards to get the most out of it.

OUR SCORE 5/5
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