The Axxer BXE-210-U2SR is a 2.5in drive caddy equipped with an RFID reader and two RFID 'keys' to help keep your private data from prying eyes.

Storing data on portable external hard disks remains a popular way of carrying files with us. Flash memory USB sticks are smaller, often faster too, but if you need to carry more than 32GB, the external drive is the only way to go.

So now that we can easily carry vast amounts of data, the next issue is security. Ever stopped to wonder what could happen if you lose that drive, or if someone were to browse through it in your absence? It's not just embarrassing family snaps you might worry about. Personal financial details, login passwords, confidential company records, payroll information – these are just some things that demand being locked away from prying eyes.

You can elect to encrypt the data using any of various security software programs, to be opened only by typing in a good password. Or you could lock the drive using a physical key – or its modern-day equivalent, the RFID tag.

In the UK, RFID tags are already in common use, found in new British passports and in London Transport Oyster cards – a means to embed personalised data in a passive card or tag, which can be read at will without direct electrical connection.

The radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag allows unique data to be stored on a small chip, which can be scanned by a nearby RFID reader. No battery power is required for the chip, as it receives a small amount of electrical power inductively by being placed close to the reader, where it picks up a small current from its aerial-like coil.

In the case of the Axxer BXE-210 mobile disk, we have a 2.5in drive caddy equipped with an RFID reader, and two RFID ‘keys' to unlock it. These physical keys contain a passkey stored in an internal chip.

Sold by the Storage Depot as either an empty caddy or ready-fitted with a 2.5in SATA hard disk, the Axxer BXE-210-U2SR's key must be swiped across the rear of the drive, within a few millimetres, to allow it to mount on the computer's operating system. Thereafter it can be used as a regular external disk drive.

NEXT PAGE: using the Axxer BXE-210-U2SR, and our expert verdict > >

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You can lock the Axxer BXE-210-U2SR drive with a swipe of the tag, any time it's connected to a computer; or remove in the normal mannner, when it will be automatically locked again. A blue/green LED on the rear shows when it's unlocked, which turns to blue/red when locked.

When you first plug the Axxer BXE-210-U2SR in, it makes a long beep; after swiping the tag across to unlock it, you hear two short beeps as confirmation.

In our tests, the Axxer BXE-210-U2SR drive had a write speed of 25.6MBps and read speed of 38.5MBps, suggesting that the drive caddy with its fitted Fujitsu 80GB disk did not suffer any significant speed hit from the encryption system.

The original manufacturer claims AES-128-level encryption for the Axxer BXE-210-U2SR system; although this is only for storing the RFID chip's ID in the controller's flash memory. The data encryption on the disk is somewhat weaker but ought to be enough to keep casual browsers from decrypting the volume and reading the data stored thereon.

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Axxer BXE-210-U2SR: Specs

  • USB 2.0 hard disk enclosure
  • RFID lock security
  • takes 2.5in SATA HDD, max height 9.5mm
  • 122x78x17mm
  • 50g (without HDD)
  • USB 2.0 hard disk enclosure
  • RFID lock security
  • takes 2.5in SATA HDD, max height 9.5mm
  • 122x78x17mm
  • 50g (without HDD)

OUR VERDICT

The Axxer BXE-210-U2SR is an easy-to-use mobile storage device, built around a smart black case of ABS plastic and anodised aluminium. Its RFID lock works well, but as with any security system that requires a key, make sure you don't lose your tags or you risk rendering all the data inaccessible.

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