The Hitachi XL Desktop Drive is a 3.5in external hard drive with a massive 2TB capacity (cheaper 500GB and 1TB versions is also available). It comes with easy to use backup software, it's a cool operator and it isn’t too painful to look at.

Unfortunately, the Hitachi XL Desktop Drive isn’t particularly fast when it comes to file transfers, and it only comes with a USB 2.0 connection (so no eSATA or FireWire). It is also imposingly sized. Nonetheless, if you require a reasonably priced external hard drive with oodles of storage space, we suppose it will fit the bill.

The Hitachi XL Desktop Drive is an interesting looking beast. With its curious contours and matte black finish, it strikes an unusual balance between stylish and boring; like a geography teacher wearing a swanky beret. The casing is bereft of adornment, with the sole exception of a Hitachi logo that lights up when the drive is switched on.

All in all, it’s a fairly pedestrian looking device, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (Does everything you own have to look sexy? We fail to see the point of a tarted up hard drive. What’s next, a designer Wi-Fi router? Ahem.)

With dimensions of 186x132x51mm, the Hitachi XL is definitely on the bulky side for an external hard drive. [Well, it is called the Hitachi ‘XL’. -- Ed.]. If you keep a cluttered desktop you might find it hard to make space for this behemoth. On the plus side, Hitachi has included a stand that lets you prop the device up vertically, like the Western Digital My Passport range.

In addition to the stand, the Hitachi XL Desktop Drive is bundled with the obligatory mini-USB cable, as well as an assortment of power adaptors for different regions. This could prove handy if you regularly travel overseas (it’s one less device you need to buy an international adaptor for). However, we found the cheap-feeling, plastic connectors to be quite finicky. In fact, we couldn’t get the Australian adaptor to work at all. We were consequently forced to use a power supply unit of our own. Our advice: try before you buy.

The drive remained cool during operation; this probably has a lot to do with the gargantuan enclosure. The Hitachi logo — which is quite large — flickers annoyingly whenever the drive is in use. Terrifyingly, there is no option to switch this feature off. As you’d imagine, this is especially irksome if you have a headache or are in the dark.

In order to see how the Hitachi external hard drive would fare under a variety of circumstances, we used a PC equipped with a Core i7-965 CPU, 6GB of DDR3 memory and 300GB Western Digital Velociraptor hard drive, running Windows Vista 64-bit.

Our test files include a 3GB batch of 1MB files as well as a 20GB folder of 3-4GB files.

Small File (3GB) Transfer Test Results
Model Storage Capacity Interface Read
speed (MBps)
Write
speed (MBps)
Read/write
speed (MBps)
Hitachi XL Desktop Drive 2TB USB 2.0 19.1 8.2 5.8
Western Digital My Book 3.0 1TB USB 2.0 25.6 17.6 11.4
Western Digital My Book Elite 2TB USB 2.0 24.6 15.2 10.2
LaCie Starck Desktop Hard Drive 1TB USB 2.0 28.8 17.1 10.5
Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II 4TB USB 2.0 23.4 15 10.7

 

Large File (20GB) Transfer Test Results
Model Storage Capacity Interface Read
speed (MBps)
Write
speed (MBps)
Read/write
speed (MBps)
Hitachi XL Desktop Drive 2TB USB 2.0 29.7 22.6 12.6
Western Digital My Book 3.0 1TB USB 2.0 28.5 24.9 12.7
Western Digital My Book Elite 2TB USB 2.0 27.7 24.1 11.3
LaCie Starck Desktop Hard Drive 1TB USB 2.0 30.3 25.7 12.7
Western Digital My Book Studio Edition II 4TB USB 2.0 26.7 25.1 12.7

As you can see, the the Hitachi XL Desktop Drive didn't fare too well — especially when it came to simultaneous read/write speeds. Operations involving lots of small files were very sluggish indeed. If you’re specifically looking for a backup solution that will chug away in the background, the Hitachi XL Desktop Drive is a reasonable proposition. On the other hand, if you require a high-capacity drive for everyday use, you might want to go with something a bit faster.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Group test: what's the best portable hard drive?

Hitachi XL: Specs

  • External hard drive
  • 3.5in drive
  • 2TB
  • Hi-Speed USB
  • Interface Transfer Rate: 480Mbps
  • AC adapter, DC 12V
  • 185x135x50mm
  • 1.6kg
  • External hard drive
  • 3.5in drive
  • 2TB
  • Hi-Speed USB
  • Interface Transfer Rate: 480Mbps
  • AC adapter, DC 12V
  • 185x135x50mm
  • 1.6kg

OUR VERDICT

The Hitachi XL Desktop Drive offers plenty of storage at a price that wont break the bank. Sadly it's a little on the slow side.

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