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Buffalo DriveStation Velocity Review

Buffalo LogoThe Buffalo DriveStation Velocity is a 2 TB USB 3 external drive, and given the size and the interface, it’s aimed at people who want lots of data and want it quickly. Let’s get the external features of the device out of the way and then check how quick it is.

In the box, there’s only the drive, the power supply, USB 3 cable and the usual paper flimsies for getting started and warranty. There is no driver CD as the files are all on the disk, but more on this later. The drive housing itself is black plastic, with a matte finish on the larger sides and glossy piano black on the thinner side, with a disk activity light that glows blue when on USB3 and green on USB2. The unit can either stand upright or be laid on its side and stacked: I couldn’t decide what orientation I preferred but it seemed to spend most of its time lying down.

Buffalo DriveStation Velocity

Round the back it’s fairly sparse with a USB3 connector, power socket and Kensington lock socket. Observant readers will also spot that there’s no fan so the Velocity runs quietly with only the hum of the hard drive itself, possibly making this a good choice for the living room.  Even while the disk was being thrashed during the read and write tests, the case never got more than lukewarm.

Buffalo DriveStation Velocity Rear

Time for the speed tests. Connected up to USB 3, the Velocity recorded the following data rates:
– hdparm gave 133 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 92 MB/s.
 bonnie++ gave 75 MB/s for writes and 137 MB/s for reads.

Under USB 2, the figures were obviously slower but still fine for a USB 2 device.
– hdparm gave 32 MB/s for buffered disk reads.
– dd gave write speeds around 37 MB/s.
– bonnie++ gave 33 MB/s for writes and 38 MB/s for reads.

Wow! The read speed of 137 MB/s makes the DriveStation Velocity the fastest single USB3 unit that Geek News Central has tested, which is pretty impressive.

As mentioned earlier, the driver and utility software comes installed on the disk rather than on a CD. Generally, this is great and cuts down on CD-waste, but it would be wise to take a copy of the software in case the disk needs to be re-formatted…

…which brings us to the included utility for whole disk encryption. It’s very handy for keeping your data from falling into the wrong hands in the event of theft or other loss, but the utility completely erases the disk as part of the encryption process! So it seems to me that there’s a bit of a problem here for a drive that includes encryption as a feature but then deletes the utility off the disk as step number one. There either needs to be a CD in the box or else the encryption utility needs to make a backup copy of the software locally.

Other than this small issue, I liked the Velocity. I had no trouble getting it to work, the styling was satisfactory and it performed well. In summary, if you need a quiet drive with lots of space and great transfer rates, then put the DriveStation Velocity on your shortlist. Just remember to copy the drivers and utilities off the disk before enabling encryption.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the DriveStation Velocity.

Buffalo Gets Extreme

Buffalo Technology has announced the launch of the MiniStation Extreme, a ruggedised USB3 portable hard drive. Conforming to the US Military’s MIL-STD-810F 516.5 Procedure IV, the shock protection on this drive means that it will survive a fall from over 2 m or 6 ft.

Buffalo MiniStation Extreme Portable Hard Drive 

And if securing your data against physical damage isn’t enough, the MiniStation Extreme also comes with 256-bit AES whole/full disk encryption to prevent unauthorised access to your data. There’s an integrated USB3 cable which snaps in and out of the Extreme, keeping it all neat and tidy.

Paul Hudson, Sales Director for Northern Europe at Buffalo Technology said, “The MiniStation Extreme is a prime example of Buffalo’s commitment to product innovation. This latest addition to the MiniStation family is ideal for globetrotters who travel with their PCs and portable HDDs and demand a robust, fast and secure high performance portable storage device. The MiniStation Extreme can withstand free-fall drops of up to 2.3m making it the most robust MiniStation ever.”

The MiniStation Extreme is available in 500 GB and 1 TB sizes at £78 and £113 respectively, and comes in piano black, silver and red. No white yet for the iPhiles.

Buffalo Portable DVD Recorder

While Bluray and USB3 are where it’s at, it’s easy to forget that there’s a solid market for inexpensive legacy optical drives. And it’s into this market that Buffalo have today released a stylish portable DVD recorder for those of us who have laptops or netbooks that don’t have a CD/DVD drive.

It’s pretty much run of the mill spec-wise, handling all the formats (-R,-RW,+R,+RW, -RAM) and it can also manage dual layer disks. It’s only USB2 but that’s not a problem given the expected data rates. It is bus powered, though, and has a warning light to indicate when there’s insufficient power coming through the port.The USB cable clips neatly into the drive itself, so with no additional power cable, it’s a smart unit that can slip easily into any bag.

Comes with a CyberLink software suite for movie playback and other features.

Available soon from all good retailers. Pricing not yet announced but I’d expect it to be in-line with the older model at an RRP of £60, though you can easily find the drive online for less that half the RRP.

(If you have the money, Buffalo do have a portable optical drive that supports Bluray as well – currently available from Amazon for £182. Your call).


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.

Buffalo March Madness

Buffalo Technology has had a busy month with updates to the TeraStation, LinkStation, DriveStation and MiniStation ranges.

Starting out at the beginning of the month, the new TeraStation NAS range was announced consisting of the Duo, 4 bay, 6 bay and 8 bay versions, all now powered by Intel’s Atom D510 processor.  The new models also come with two USB 3.0 ports (and two USB 2.0) to connect additional storage or to act as a print server. Aimed squarely at the business market, the TeraStations have Active Directory support, RAID 0/1/5/6/10 and come in both desktop and rackmount variants. Available from April 2011.

Mid-March, Buffalo announced the LinkStation Quad Pro, a 4 TB and 8 TB NAS aimed at the home prosumer. It can stream music and film to popular consoles such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and also to any DLNA or uPNP media player. A new feature is support for the Logitech Squezebox which will please music lovers. For photographers, the “DirectCopy” feature uploads pictures from digital still or video cameras direct to the LinkStation. And finally, the new Android version of Buffalo’s WebAccess i app gives access to the multimedia from anywhere in the world. (When’s the WebOS version coming?)

Last week, it was the turn of the external drives, with the MiniStations and DriveStations getting the upgrade treatment. The MiniStation gets a capacity bump to 1 TB and now comes in a glossy black finish. The DriveStation also gets the piano treatment but now comes in two variants: for the price conscious, there’s a USB 2 version in 1 TB and 2 TB capacities but for the speed freaks, a USB 3 version (1, 2 & 3 TB) will satisfy their needs. Available now from all good retailers.

A busy month for Buffalo with something for everyone – I quite fancy upgrading to the LinkStation Quad Pro.


Buffalo MicroStation SSD Review

Buffalo LogoIf you’re the kind of person who has to have the fastest processor, the quickest memory and the nippiest hard drive, then you might as well stop reading this review and simply go out and buy a Buffalo MicroStation SSD. Because it’s fast. Probably not the fastest SSD out there, but in comparison to a spinning hard disk drive, it’s like a Formula 1 car racing a family runabout – no contest.

So what are we actually talking about here? The Buffalo MicroStation SSD is a 2.5″ form factor internal SATA solid state drive aimed squarely at the laptop upgrade market.  With an additional mini-USB port on the SSD and Acronis True Image software, it makes swapping the hard drive for the SSD as easy as possible.

Box contentsIn the box, you get the MicroStation SSD, a quick setup manual, the True Image DVD and a USB cable.  In your hand though, the SSD is a pretty boring lump of plastic.  An HDD is much more solid and satisfying but that’s progress for you. The model reviewed here is the SHD-NSUH256G-EU.

Let’s say you want to convert your laptop from an HDD to an SSD.  You’ve two choices.  Option 1 – rip out the HDD, stuff in the SSD and re-install Windows and all your software, then somehow copy your personal files off your old disk.  Not a great option.  Option 2.  Connect the SSD via USB, boot from the Acronis True Image DVD, clone the HDD to the SSD, swap the disks over and boot the laptop.  Job done.  It really is that simple.

You do need to set aside an hour or two to clone a 256 GB HDD and if you want more control, e.g. changing partition sizes, then you have to install the full version from the DVD.  However, it’s all straightforward.

USB PortOnce you’ve fired up the laptop, you’ll be totally amazed at how much faster it’s become.  It’s like buying a new computer!  In my thoroughly unscientific testing, with the HDD installed my laptop took about 50 seconds to get to the Windows 7 login screen from power on, of which about 10 seconds was the BIOS checks.  On logging in, it took 20 seconds to show the desktop background and a further 40-odd seconds to show the Windows Sidebar.  Basically from pressing the power button to having a working laptop takes 2 minutes.

After installing the SSD, it took just 28 seconds to get to the Windows 7 login screen, 8 seconds to show the background and only another 20 seconds to show the Sidebar.  Total time about a minute.

Launching applications was amazingly fast.  Word took about 2 seconds from clicking in the Start menu to a blank document appearing.  Sun’s VirtualBox started in a similar time. Even iTunes started in about 6 seconds. That normally takes about 18 seconds from the hard drive. It’s just stonkingly quick.

In slightly more scientific testing, hdparm -t consistently gave disk reads of 234 MB/s. By comparison, the fastest disk drive I tested performed at 98 MB/s.  On disk writes, the peak was about 140 MB/s with the average not far below that. The full technical specs for the SSD are available from Buffalo.

It may seem blindingly obvious but the other surprise was the SSD’s silence. I could only tell that the laptop was doing anything by the flickering of the disk activity light.

But easy as it is to change the hard drive for the SSD, it can be hard on the pocket. The MicroStations come in a range of sizes from 32 GB to 256 GB, with former costing £110. However, the 256 GB MicroStation SSD costs a whopping £500, so if you want speed and silence, you pay for it.

Overall, this is a great upgrade for any laptop and Buffalo make it as easy as possible to transfer your data.  But you’ll need big pockets for the big capacities.

Thanks to Buffalo Technology for the loan of the MicroStation SSD.

Buffalo AirStation Wireless-N Review

In a little bit of a UK scoop, the folks at Buffalo lent GNC three of their latest wireless “n” products for a first review.  The three AirStation devices were announced and covered by GNC back in October, so we’ll skip the usual pleasantries and get down to business.

First up, was the AirStation N-Technology USB2 adapter (WLI-UC-GNM) which is as small as it looks in the picture.  Installation is very straightforward – run the installation CD first to install the drivers, pop the adapter into a spare USB port and job done.  I was able to connect to an existing 11g network and the 11n network without any problems at all.  There’s also a little application installed which allows selection between the 20 MHz and 40 MHz bandwidths which equates to the 75 Mb/s and 150 Mb/s settings.   There’s more on the real-world data transfer rates later.

Next was the AirStation N-Technology 150 Mb/s router (WCR-GN).  This is actually smaller in real life than the picture would suggest, being only 11 cm high, excluding the aerial.  After connecting the router to the network via an ethernet cable, the installation program allows the user to choose from two different possible scenarios – router or bridge.  Once selected, the installation program finds the router and configures it.  The user is asked to set a device password and to give the device an IP address.  Although a configuration program is included, I found it easiest to use the router’s web interface to set things up.

The configuration for the wireless side was pretty impressive, with support for multiple SSIDs, including one that was passed directly out over the WAN and was unable to access the LAN.  This caters for legacy devices such as media streamers or games consoles that only support unsecure WEP.

The WCR-GN supports WPS and AOSS, Buffalo’s equivalent. Frankly, I could never get the AOSS pairing to work. It’s so little effort to put in an encryption key, I’ve no idea why anyone bothers with these user-friendly time savers, because they never are and never do.

To give the 11n devices a proper evaluation, I carried out some data transfer rate testing using LAN Speed Test for TotuSoft.  The table below gives the nominal and measured data rates for different connection types.

Connection Nominal Data Rate Measured Data Rate
LAN 100 Mb/s 65 Mb/s
11g 54 Mb/s 20 Mb/s
11n @ 20 MHz 75 Mb/s 34 Mb/s
11n @ 40 MHz 150 Mb/s 44 Mb/s

Bear in mind that with all the encryption on the wireless transmissions, the measured data rate will be much lower than the nominal data rate.  These figures are broadly in line with other data rates reported on the Internet.  HD video requires a minimum sustained data rate around 25 Mb/s, so it looks to me that the 11n data rates are good.  Microsoft have an article on HD formats which is worth a read.

Finally, I got out the Nfiniti Dual-Band Wireless-N Ethernet Converter (WLAE-AG300N).  I was most interested in this as it promised to be convertible between an access point, extender and bridge, and a full 300Mb/s device.  The Converter has two ethernet ports meaning that things like Bluray players and IP TVs can connect through the bridge back to the Internet.

As before, the installation was a breeze and in the first instance, I set up the Converter as an access point.  This worked great and I was able to get data throughput in the 44Mb/s range.  Remember that although this was a 300Mb/s device, the USB adapter on the laptop was only a 150Mb/s device so the data rate was limited by the USB adapter.

Setting the WLAE-AG300N as a bridge back to the WCR-GN Router was less successful.  Although I was able to get the two devices to connect, I was never able to establish a 11n level connection; it only connected as if it were an 11g network and throughput was around 20 Mb/s.  I worked with Buffalo’s tech support to try and get a resolution but it wasn’t sorted by the time I returned the device.

Overall, the USB2 adapter and the 150Mb/s router worked well and I think they’re good value for money at RRPs of £19.99 and £29.99 respectively.  Judgement is reserved regarding the Ethernet Converter (£39.99) as it worked well as an access point but the bridging was poor.  If you were only setting up a 150Mb/s network, a pair of WCR-GN routers would actually be a cheaper way of establishing a connection from ethernet-only devices.

Thanks to Buffalo for the loan.

Buffalo Updates NAS with LinkStation Pro and Pro Duo

Buffalo Technology has announced updates to its LinkStation range of NAS devices in the shape of the LinkStation Pro and LinkStation Pro Duo.  Part of the new V-series, these offer additional features that will be of interest to business users.

LinkStation ProThe LinkStation Pro (LS-VL) retains the familiar LinkStation and DriveStation shape but the addition of a faster processor boosts file transfers when compared to the previous model. Aimed at the prosumer and small businesses, the LinkStation Pro can serve photos, music and video from the built-in DLNA media player. There’s also a BitTorrent client for downloading large files such as podcasts or Linux distros. Available from mid-November in 1 TB (RRP £160)  and 2 TB (RRP £240) flavours.

LinkStation Pro DuoThe big brother of the Pro is the LinkStation Pro Duo (LS-WVL), offering double the storage with dual disk drives in a RAID 0/1 configuration. Although having a similar built-in software, small businesses will be interested in the RAID redundancy for protecting their data and the quick swap hard drives. (Readers are reminded that RAID is no substitute for regular backups). Available in 2 TB and 4 TB variants with list prices of £230 and £360 respectively, also from mid-November.

Where the V-series has additional benefits to business users is in the integration with ActiveDirectory, thus avoiding lengthy setup and configuration of the NAS with users and permissions.

If desired, it’s also possible to access these devices across the Internet, using either the BuffaloNAS on-line portal service or the WebAccess i app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

I’ve always been a fan of the LinkStation range so I look forward to doing a hands-on review in the not-too-distant future.

Apple’s White Buffalo – iPhone

A White Buffalo is a rare thing. The Native American nation regards them highly – a sacred item. The calf comes out with blue eyes, as oppose to any other albino animal, which normally have pink eyes.

So is a white iPhone the sacred device?

Apple announced the other day the white version of an iPhone will not be available until Spring 2011. The reason why is the case becomes too light and effects the Facetime camera. They cannot have that.

Coming out in Spring could mean that the White iPhone might be an iPhone 5 on that speculated Verizon network. After all, since we’re talking about mythical items (at this time), we might as well put it all out there.

Maybe it’ll also have an FM radio on it.

I am not sure why people want a White iPhone. Is it a stylish thing? Is it functional? Why not a Bondi Blue, Strawberry, Lime, Grape or Tangerine like the iMac G3 was?

Would a White case be the answer? Not really, for having a case on an iPhone is not the stylish thing. I have a case on my iPhone – then again I have a 3GS. Oh yeah – Black case 3GS.

Well, at any rate, the white iPhone won’t be around until next year. Just remember – even with some White Buffalos, eventually some start to brown. Just like the white 3GS’s did when the processor overheated.