Solid-state drives, such as the latest-generation Intel 520 Series, may give incredibly quick file access, but their limited capacity pales next to the huge hard disks that even laptops can now pack. A 1TB internal laptop disk can be found for around £80; an SSD of the same size is a £2,000 option. If you have £500 to spare you might find a 512GB version.
Until we routinely pack 2TB of storage in our smartphone – and even after that point – there’ll be a pressing need for outboard personal data storage. That repository of data should be on tap at home, work and all places between.
The easy way to make way for more photos, video and whatnot is to plug a big external hard disk into your existing PC. Until relatively recently, that would have been choked by the wire used to connect the two. Now that we have USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, the speedblock moves back to the storage media itself. So what do you get when you combine big storage – say, two 4TB hard disks, accelerated by the magic of Raid – with the world’s fastest desktop interface? Find out with our review of the G-Technology G-Raid with Thunderbolt.
Direct-attached storage such as the G-Raid is ideal for mixing maximum capacity with maximum speed. There are more scenarios that instead benefit from network-attached storage, though. The NAS drive is the way forward for sharing files and documents among colleagues in a business network, or streaming your Blu-ray and DVD collection to the screen of your choice at home.
It’s a shame, then, that in the entry-level NAS category such devices can crawl in speed – especially when you come to copy files into them. If you want a NAS drive to approach the responsiveness of internal hard drives, you’ll need a decent processor inside, which takes us out of the realm of budget consumer boxes with low-power ARM chips and into that of pricier SMB units.
Thankfully, you no longer need to be a network maven to administer such always-on storage; the best devices will even walk you through the initial setup. And now, some make a reality the easy access of your data when you’re away, opening up the possibility of a genuine personal cloud.
We've recently assessed four worthy multi-bay units. They may be promoted to business users, and are priced well above consumer toys, but if you’re serious about living the digital life you should invest in a solid NAS drive.
We've also reviewed six mid-priced laptops, although anyone seeking the bleeding edge should wait a short while longer. Intel may have launched desktop Ivy Bridge to great fanfare in April, but the real treats should be the mobile Ivy Bridge chips, due in June.
As well as reducing the oh-so-crucial power consumption (since real all-day battery life is still pending), they’ll also usher in enough integrated graphics horsepower to comfortably drive quad-resolution displays. Retina-like screens on PCs will soon be massive.
Yet also sneaking in, almost under the radar at the moment, is the next big thing in wire-free links for laptops. The forthcoming 802.11ac standard promises gigabit speed – cue salt-pinch, on standby – but should mean that a laptop can network almost as quickly as when it’s plugged into a gigabit LAN.
For my next laptop, I’m awaiting the perfect storm of faster processor, longer battery life, spectacular non-reflective HiDPI display and genuine gigabit connectivity. With no strings attached.