Buffalo’s MiniStation portable USB 3.0 hard drive is a 500 GB SATA 2.5″ HDD in a small and not unattractive package. Coming in crystal white (and piano black), it will certainly appeal to those who want to match their white Apple products without wanting to pay for the Apple logo.
Size-wise, it’s very pocketable, measuring just 114 x 77 x 13 mm. The photograph below shows the MiniStation next to a British pound coin (Welsh version) to give an idea of scale. Easily popped into a bag or jacket and the smooth corners should avoid tears or pokes in the ribs.
There’s a single connector on one of the short sides – it’s a micro-B USB 3 socket which can be seen in the photos below along with the necessary cable. This was the first time that I’d seen a micro-B USB 3 connector and there’s detail on the pins at Wikipedia. As is expected on a portable external drive, the MiniStation is bus powered so there’s no additional power supply.
Looking at the photos, the dark line on the side is actually an LED light. In use, when connected to a USB 3 port, the dark strip on the side is bright blue. When connected to just USB 2, the light is green. The light is steady when the MiniStation is simply connected and it flashes during read and write.
Performance-wise, the MiniStation was tested using an HP dv9000-series laptop, with the USB 3 being provided by a Buffalo Interface ExpressCard, which was reviewed earlier in the week.
On a standard USB 2 port, I got about 180 Mb/s write and 225 Mb/s read. With the MiniStation on USB 3, I was able to get write speeds of about 285 Mb/s and 420 Mb/s on read. For comparison, a generic external 2.5″ IDE drive was just able to hit 100 Mb/s. Please remember that these figures relate to my particular combination of laptop configuration and testing software. Your mileage may vary.
There’s no installation CD as the additional software is included on the MiniStation itself. Running the main installer gives the option to install a couple of “turbo” tools to increase performance, an EcoManager, some RAM disk software and a backup utility. There’s also a copy of Picasa.
The MiniStation USB 3.0 comes in 500 GB and 1 TB versions. RRPs are £69.99 and £109.99 respectively, but prices will generally be a bit less. As a side note, the MiniStation USB 3.0 doesn’t seem to be widely available yet, so it’s difficult to check on real-world prices. Competitor products seem to be around the £60 mark.