The Buffalo DriveStation TurboUSB External Hard Drive is a 500GB external hard drive that claims to be faster than its rivals.

When you're handed a box with a 500GB external hard drive inside, it's a gift. When, according to the writing on the box, the drive inside is "up to 37 percent faster" than most other external USB drives, it becomes a challenge for this reviewer to disprove. That's the gauntlet Buffalo Technology threw down with its DriveStation TurboUSB External Hard Drive.

Of course, it couldn't be true. A hard drive is a hard drive, and whether SCSI, PATA, SATA or SAS, they each have a rated data-transfer speed. Split open the case of the Buffalo drive and you'd find a SATA 3Gbps (gigabits per second) hard disk inside. We could discuss the huge inaccuracies of rating hard drives by their burst speeds, but if we deflate all of the fantasy in the world, it would become a dull place indeed.

The DriveStation attaches to your PC via a USB 2.0 port and that's a 480Mbps pipeline. So, logically, whichever is the slower of the two, the drive or the connection to your PC, will be the limiting factor, and it will always be that way. Well, at least that's the way it would be if we weren't surrounded by magic - or, as some would like to call it, software.

Included on the setup disc (which really isn't because the drive requires no setup; it's plug-and-play) is Buffalo's TurboUSB application. There is some mystery surrounding exactly what it does, but the premise goes something like the following. You install it on your computer, you enable it when the Buffalo drive is connected, you go on about your work.

The Turbo application, according to Buffalo, "adjusts" the amount of overhead required by the standard USB driver, trimming away some of the redundancies and USB delaying tactics (protocols) that normally slow down USB communications.

If you're technically paranoid, that will sound frightening to you. Interfere with the normal operation of the universe!? Why, that's heretical! On the other hand, whether you call it advanced technology or magic, it does appear to work with no obvious side effects.

Without TurboUSB enabled, the DriveStation is fairly mundane. Its 14 percent CPU utilisation and 29.6Mbps average read speed parallels the results achieved by a SimpleTech external USB drive, which scored a 12 percent CPU utilisation and 28.9Mbps average read. Even their burst speeds were relatively the same at 32.1Mbps for Buffalo and 30.3Mbps for SimpleTech. (Both drives were tested using SimpliSoftware's HDTach benchmark.)


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