Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go SuperSpeed 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive
Verbatim, a company long known for producing computer media, has released one of the few portable hard drives currently available that supports USB 3.0. The updated spec for USB has been a long time coming.
- Fast as all get-up
- Decent Samsung Spinpoint M7 HM500JI drive inside
- Backward compatible with USB 2.0
- Price premium worth the increased performance
- Nero BackItUp & Burn reasonably useful
- 7 year warranty. SEVEN YEARS!
- Dust-loving, easy to scratch glossy finish
- Dull exterior design
- Performance nowhere near the theoretical speeds
- Macs may not support USB 3.0 right away, if at all
Before I go on to the device review, I’ll quickly go over the improvements in USB 3.0. They are significant. The most obvious improvement is speed. The theoretical transfer speed of USB 3.0 is 4.8 Gbit/s (600MBps) while USB 2.0 is 480 Mbit/s (60MBps). That’s the advertised tenfold increase in speed. Practical, real-world speeds are closer to 85MBps for USB 3.0 and 22MBps for USB2.0. So really, an improvement of just under 4X. An example that Intel used was that a 27GB movie would take about 15 minutes or more to transfer over USB 2.0. With USB 3.0, we’re talking 70 seconds. Excited yet? Some of the speed improvement is due to the bi-directional abilities of USB 3.0. USB 2.0 could only handle traffic one direction at a time. Obviously, the rotational speed of the hard disk will also factor in performance as well.
Another USB 3.0 improvement is increased power output and efficiency. With so many devices now being powered and charged via USB, this is a very timely improvement. The power output will increase from about 100mA to about 900mA. Now you can actually charge over USB 3.0 and have that iPhone or Droid charged in a few hours, rather than taking all day and night.
Also a note about USB 3.0 is that it is backward compatible with USB 2.0, but the cables are different. In order to get the benefits of USB 3.0, you’ll need new cables. You’ll also notice that USB 3.0 cables are much thicker because 5 new data lines have been added. Now on to the Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go SuperSpeed USB 3.0 drive, shall we?
The Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go has a USB 3.0 connector in the rear and non-skid feet on the bottom. It’s important to note that the USB 3.0 connector is new and you must use a USB 3.0 cable. There’s a small blue LED in the rear left corner to indicate power and drive activity. Unfortunately, the finish of the case is glossy and picks up fine scratches very easily. Mine already has a ton of scratches and that’s from just basic handling of the drive. Also, the top of the enclosure looks like a little cap on top of the rest of the case. It’s not flush with the rest of the case and makes for an odd looking case. The included USB 3.0 cable is very thick (about that of an Ethernet cable) and is approximately 2 feet in length. Here are the physical dimensions if you happen to be looking for a case for it:
4.72″ x 3.11″ x 0.71″ (L x W x H)
Before I could test performance, I had to purchase an add-on card in order to get USB 3.0 support. I was surprised to find that the drive inside the Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go is actually a 5400RPM Samsung Spinpoint M7 drive with 8MB of cache; it’s a pretty well regarded drive. Below are the HD Tune transfer rates for the Store ‘n’ Go, my Western Digital USB 2.0 drive, and the Samsung HM500JI in SATAII mode. Both external drives were tested while connected to my Buffalo Technology IFC-PCIE2U3 add-on card.
HD Tune: Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go USB 3.0
Transfer Rate Minimum : 42.5 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Maximum : 86.5 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Average : 68.7 MB/sec
HD Tune: WD My Passport Essential 071A USB 2.0
Transfer Rate Minimum: 28.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 33.0 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 32.3 MB/s
HD Tune: SAMSUNG HM500JI SATAII
Transfer Rate Minimum : 43.0 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Maximum : 86.5 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Average : 68.8 MB/sec
As you can see, the external USB 3.0 benchmark results are almost exactly the same of those of the Samsung drive in SATAII mode. This tells me that the Samsung drive is the performance bottleneck of the Verbatim USB 3.0 drive. Still, the Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go is now my favored portable backup drive because it’s at least twice as fast as any of my USB 2.0 drives. Like other 500GB drives, it has 465GB of available space. It came pre-formatted in FAT32 but I reformatted it to NTFS since I don’t need Mac + Windows support.
The Nero BackItUp & Burn application is a decent backup suite. I’m probably not going to give up using SyncToy or True Image, but it’s always good to have options.
If you are not comfortable using Windows disk tools, go ahead and install the Verbatim Formatter tool, which allows you to format the drive to NTFS or FAT32. There is no partitioning support however. The Norton Online backup trial was of no interest to me.
I am flabbergasted at how Verbatim can warranty this drive for SEVEN years. Compare that to Western Digital and their 1 year warranty and it’s a no brainer here. Granted, Verbatim doesn’t actually make their own physical drives, but the warranty would be a big enough deal for me to buy the Verbatim over others.
Unfortunately, I had to find out Verbatim’s procedures for RMA as my drive failed shortly after completing my tests and review. It is a fairly smooth process. I had to call a support number (not toll-free) and got to a support agent immediately. After some troubleshooting, they offered to replace the drive. You have to send them proof of purchase so that they can verify that the drive is under warranty and ship the drive back to them before they will release the replacement drive. It’s pretty much what I expected.
The replacement drive worked flawlessly and I ran some tests on it and was able to copy about 300GB of data onto it with ease. Hard disk failures are a fact of life. When I used to work at a network operations center that monitored 4 international data centers, we lost at least 2 drives per week. Because of my experience with hard disks, I ALWAYS keep my data on at least 2 physical drives.
The only real concern I have with USB 3.0 is none other than that brilliant, turtle-necked rogue named Steve Jobs. It appears he doesn’t immediately plan to include it on any Apple products. I’ve read that he may be waiting for Intel’s support of USB 3.0 in their chipsets first and/or Intel’s future optical cable technology called Light Peak. Light Peak might be released in the first half of 2011, and promises twice the theoretical speed of USB 3.0. Of course, these are still just rumors at the moment.
Just having USB 3.0 on the Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go SuperSpeed 500 GB USB 3.0 drive gives the drive a huge advantage over USB 2.0 only drives. The 7 year warranty gives the Verbatim another huge advantage over other manufacturers. The price premium for USB 3.0 is about 20%, for a 100% increase in performance, which is reasonable. Though my first drive failed, replacing the drive was a fairly simple affair. The Verbatim Store ‘n’ Go is a nice portable hard drive and I recommend it (except to Mac users for now).
Available from Amazon.com.
* Review unit provided by Verbatim