Tag Archives: USB 3.0

Freecom Mobile Drive Mg Review

The Freecom Mobile Drive Mg is no ordinary 2.5″ external drive. It’s a thing of beauty. Intended to complement Apple’s MacBooks, the slimline Mobile Drive has a magnesium body that looks and feels great. The icing on the cake is that it’s USB 3. I’ve seen lots of external drives but this is the one you want.

Even the packaging reflects the target market. Instead of a relatively dull cardboard box, this comes in an acrylic box so that you can see drive before you’ve even purchased it. The model shown here is the slimline 320 GB USB 3 version which is just 1 cm thick. Freecom have used the bevelled-edge trick to make it seem even thinner than it is but it doesn’t detract from the fact that it is thin and Freecom claim that it is the world’s thinnest external drive. In addition to the 320 GB capacity, there are two 720 GB units which are a bit thicker at 1.5 cm – one is USB 3 only, the other is USB 3 and Firewire 800.

Apart from the USB 3 connector and the Freecom logo, the only other external feature is a white LED which indicates power and disk activity. It’s difficult to make out in the picture below as it’s not lit, but it’s pretty much right in the middle. The drive is bus powered so there’s no power supply needed.

The Mobile Drive Mg comes pre-formatted with HFS+, so if you have a Mac, you’re good to go out of the box. If you’re a Windows or Linux user, it can easily be reformatted to another format.

I think we’ve established that it looks good, but does it perform? Connected up to USB 3, the Mobile Drive recorded the following data rates:

hdparm gave 75 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
dd gave write speeds around 82 MB/s.
bonnie++ gave 74 MB/s for writes and 85 MB/s for reads.

Under USB 2, the figures were obviously slower but still healthy for a USB 2 device.

– hdparm gave 30 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 37 MB/s.
– bonnie++ gave 35 MB/s for writes and 40 MB/s for reads.

Looking at the data, using USB 3 roughly doubles the performance when compared to USB 2, which is not unexpected. If you are interested in the specs, there’s a datasheet .pdf.

Price-wise, the model here costs 79 euros, with the 750 GB model bumping the price to 119 euros. Adding the Firewire port will cost 10 euros extra.

You know you want one.

Thanks to Freecom for the loan of the Mobile Drive Mg.

Buffalo MiniStation Portable USB 3.0 Hard Drive Review

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.

Buffalo USB 3.0 Interface ExpressCard Review

If your laptop is like mine and pre-dates USB 3 but you want to use USB 3 devices at their full speed, then you might be interested in the Buffalo USB 3.0 Interface ExpressCard (IFC-EC2U3/UC). It’s an ExpressCard/34 size device, with two USB 3.0 ports on the side. The card will also plug into in ExpressCard/54 slot. If needed for bus-powered devices, there’s a auxiliary power lead to provide extra power to the card which connects from a standard USB port to a DC in socket on the side of the card.

Installation was simple – run the install CD, follow the prompts, insert card, job done.

The socket housing sticks out from the socket a couple of centimetres which is a bit inconvenient if you move your laptop around but that’s the price of two USB 3 sockets in the ExpressCard/34 size. If you need an adaptor that fits entirely into the socket, you’ll need to have an ExpressCard/54 size adaptor or go with only one USB 3 socket.

For USB 3, I had a Buffalo MiniStation on test – more on this in a later review. With the MiniStation I was able to get write speeds of about 285 Mb/s and 430 Mb/s on read. This was using Totusoft’s LAN Speed Test v2. I was a little disappointed with these speeds initially, but I then ran the Speed Test on another 2.5″ external HDD I had lying around and it struggled to make 100 Mb/s. So not so bad after all and, of course, your mileage may vary according to your particular configuration.

I did have one minor problem and this is more to do with the design of the ExpressCard slot in my laptop rather than this particular device. It was all too easy to pull out the card from the slot when trying to unplug a USB device – you have to hold onto the card with one hand and unplug the USB cable with the other.

Backwards compatibility with USB 2 was fine. I tried a wireless mouse, a memory stick and an external hard disk drive. All worked fine, albeit at USB 2 speeds. Slightly interestingly, the USB 2 external hard drive had exactly the same performance whether it was connected into the laptops USB 2 ports or the ExpressCard.

Overall, if you need to add USB 3 to your laptop the Buffalo USB 3.0 Interface ExpressCard appears to be solid contender.

RRP is £39.99 but may be available cheaper. Photos below.

GoFlex Slim Performance Drive Review

I have been using a Seagate GoFlex Slim Performance Drive for the past few days.  While external hard drives are a dime a dozen, this is one of the first USB 3.0 with 2.o fallback that I have been able to play with.  This drive can be used with a PC or a Mac, and has a high performance 7200 rpm very drive.

Researching the drive, I found out that Seagate utilized a well established drive for the guts which has a very good performance record.

While the USB 3.0 SuperSpeed was simply fantastic, the drives form factor is a huge selling factor in that the body of the drive is only 9mm thick. For those that like to minimize what they are traveling with this drive is fantastic or better yet low form factor on a desk. I found myself wanting to use it as a coaster which obviously is not a good idea.

The Seagate GoFlex Slim has a very cool secret feature it is part of the GoFlex Storage System by Seagate. If you have a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Net Media Device or the Seagate GoFlex TV HD Media Player you can simply plug it into a SATA slot on one of those devices by removing the USB Adapter that is part of the GoFlex Slim drive body.

The drive includes backup software with encryption the software also makes it easy for you to sync files between your computer and the drive. Included in the drive is the Seagate Dashboard management tool.

Priced at $99.00 it is a great value for what it offers.


Icron: USB 2.0 and 3.0 Extensions

nullEsbjorn Larsen and Jeffrey Powers interviewed Robert Haefling President & CEO of Icron of USB extensions. He talked about how normal USB 2 cable can only run up to 5 with the use of Icon technology they can be extended up to 500 meters over Cat5 and 10 kilometers over fiber. He also spoke about their partnership with Intersil a company that specializes in extending USB 3.0.

Together they created a technology that will extend a combination USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 up to 20 meters over copper. He also spoke briefly about how they have successfully combined Display port technology with USB 2.0. Allowing a computer monitor to be used as a full feature docking station. You can then attach a keyboard, mouse or any other USB device directly to the monitor, while putting the computer in another room. It will be interesting to see where this technology goes.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast. and Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com.

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Newnex and USB 3.0 Technology

Andy McCaskey spoke with Bill of Newnex. The Newnex company creates quality USB, Ethernet, FireWire and Optical Audio cables. They make both USB 2.0 and now USB 3.0. USB 3.0 is the technology of the future and it is beginning to appear in various devices. USB 3.0 is 10x faster than USB 2.0. USB 3.0 has eight wires running through it compared to the USB 2.0’s four. With a USB 3.0 cable data can move in both directions at the same time. Moving large amount of data becomes quick and easy.

Located in Silicon Valley, Newnex is a leading innovator in the area of cable technology. They help create the standards for both USB 2.0 and 3.0. They will even create custom cables if you need some. Normally USB 3.0 cables can only run up to 3.0 meters (10 feet). Newnex makes a repeater, the FireNex-uLink-D which allows the cable to run up to 16 meters (52.5 feet) over 4x its normal distance. The Newnex repeater is a plug and play device and is small and compact. Need a repeater for your optical or Cat5 cable they have those also.

IInterview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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LaCie USB3 Memory Sticks and Hard Drives

Andy speaks to Philip of LaCie on the latest USB 3.0 devices from LaCie, including the new highspeed FastKey USB3 SSD memory stick which comes in 30GB, 60GB and 120GB sizes – yes, that’s 120GB in a memory stick, so don’t lose it! Also on show were USB3 upgrades across the range, including ruggedised external drives and designer models.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Displaylink full HD with USB 3.0

Displaylink allows you to connect another monitor from your computer via USB. The cool thing about Displaylink with USB 3.0 is that you can drive a bus powered monitor with no power cord. So essentially you have a bus powered monitor, that is connected only by a USB 3.0 cable to a computer that has a USB 3.0 bus and no other cable. Displaylink has been driving bus powered monitors for a long time but generally not one that supports HD.

Displaylink technology can now be found on a number of monitors in the marketplace. You should always look for the displaylink logo on the packaging or visit the displaylink website for links to a variety of the vendors that support the technology. While USB 3.0 has not had wide deployment yet this is an indication of what will be available in coming months as more computer manufactures get on the USB 3.0 bus.

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Kingston To Release USB 3.0 SSD Drives

Kingston has announced the first portable USB 3.0 SSD (solid state drive).  The news actually came from Engadget Spain, but it appears to be official.  I have not seen the press release, but have contacted Kingston for more information.  I have not yet received a response, but will update this if/when I do.

In the meantime, here is what is, at the least, rumored.  The drives will come in three sizes – 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB.  They will be a  laptop 2.5″ size and be able to read at 195MB per second and write at 160MB per second.  That translates to copying a 10GB file is 72 seconds, which is almost 5 times faster than on USB 2.0.

There’s no price or shipping date as of yet.

Buffalo External USB3 Blu-ray Writer Review

Having won the format wars, Blu-ray is the hi-def standard; USB3 ports are appearing more regularly on motherboards and 3D is definitely flavour of the month.  So it’s not entirely unsurprising that Buffalo has brought out an external drive that brings all three together.

The BR3D-12U3 Blu-ray drive was released back in September and brings together all the latest technologies into a good-looking external drive.  With a USB3 connection, it has 3D playback support for 3D movies and 12x write speed for both single and dual layer disks.  The full technical specs are here and the RRP is £199.

Buffalo kindly lent GNC a drive to test for a couple of weeks and, frankly, I liked it, probably because it matched my PC case.  However, let’s be a bit more objective.

The drive comes in the usual red coloured Buffalo-style box.  Inside, you get the external drive itself, a power supply, a USB3 cable, a quick start guide and a software CD.

The external drive is black and I think it looks good as far as computer peripherals go.  The case is a fairly hard plastic and the top surface has a shiny speckled surface which is attractive.  The other surfaces have a different matt finish which is plainer but not unattractive.  The front panel has a blue LED that lights when reading and writing.  There’s a green power LED at the back that perhaps ought to have been blue as well.

The PSU comes with UK and European plugs and connects into the external drive at the back.  There is no power button.

If you haven’t seen a USB3 cable or connector, you might be a little surprised. The A connector (that’s the bit that plugs into the PC) looks fairly normal, but the B connector (that’s the external drive end) is a bit different – it’s kind of like two connectors piggy-backed on top of each other.

The Buffalo drive was tested on an Ubuntu Linux 10.10 PC and an HP laptop with Windows 7 Home.  Neither of these actually had USB3 ports or 3D graphics cards, so some of the advanced features couldn’t be tried out.  Regardless, this was still a pretty capable drive.

Windows 7

Windows 7 instantly recognised the drive when it was plugged in via USB2 and put a new drive into Computer.  At this stage, any attempts to play a Blu-ray disk were met with errors as there was no media player installed that could decode Blu-ray disks.  Buffalo have helpfully included the ubiquitous CyberLink suite of programs to get round this.

The CyberLink installation went smoothly enough but it could have been clearer.  The laptop already had an older version of the CyberLink software and instead of saying that a previous version was installed, it simply says, “Do you want to uninstall CyberLink Product X”. This is a bit counter intuitive when you are trying to install the software.  Once I’d overcome that hurdle, it was plain sailing, though it takes a good twenty minutes to get everything loaded up.

The CyberLink suite is made up about six different components – one for playing movies, one for working with music, one for video editing, etc.  I tried out the movie player (PowerDVD) and the disk burner (Power2Go)

The Blu-ray films all looked deliciously detailed in comparison to DVDs and the playback was smooth – no problems here at all.  There were a few issues with the main menu, though.  In “Toy Story”, the animated background seemed to display over the menu so it wasn’t possible to see the options.  I was able to play the film by pressing Enter, but you’d have no hope accessing any other content.

The software also has two modes, “Classic” and “Cinema”.  The former plays the film within Windows 7, whereas the latter gives it more of a video player feeling.  The Cinema mode felt much more polished than the Classic with more attractive menus and preferences screens.

The data module (Power2Go) worked as advertised, allowing files to be dragged from the filesystem before being burned to the disk.  Helpfully, it has a thermometer style display showing you how much of your 24GB had been used.  If you’ve used any of these type of tools before, you’ll be right at home.

Apart from the issue with the top menu, the CyberLink suite seemed to work well enough, but it does prompt frequently to register and upgrade (at a cost).


Buffalo doesn’t provide any Linux software but using the drive with CDs and DVDs was trouble-free anyway.  DVD’s played well in VLC and there were no problems burning to DVD-R or DVD-RW.  Blu-ray disks were seen as data devices as there’s currently no Blu-ray players for Linux (AFAIK).  However, Brasero recognised BD-Rs just fine and wrote to a single layer disk without trouble.

Using dd to copy data from a Blu-ray disk gave an average of around 14 MB/s for 43GB disk.  Don’t forget that the drive was connected via USB2, not USB3.


As I mentioned at the beginning, I really liked the hardware.  However, I felt it was a little let down by the CyberLink Suite – if you are paying the best part of £200 for what is a high-spec device, you want the bells and whistles, not nagged into upgrading.

Regardless, movie playback was sweet, with the detail you expect from Blu-ray and I didn’t see any stuttering in the films I watched.

The recording or writing features worked well too, though I wasn’t able to test the high speed writing, partly because of an absence of USB3 ports but also the fastest media I could get my hands on was only 4x.

Overall, I’d say a solid and good-looking device and if you are in the market for an external Blu-ray writer, it’s definitely worth considering.

Thanks to again to Buffalo for providing the review unit.