For a price, you can now find the iStorage diskGenie portable encrypted USB drive with SSD storage, offering resistance to shock as well as unwanted users

First time we looked at the diskGenie, we were impressed with this drive’s ease of use. You can store plenty of data, up to a 500GB maximum at the time, and use it with any PC bearing a USB port. And it’s all secured with AES-128 or AES-256 encryption.

There’s no utility software to install on your computer, and the unit works entirely independently of the PC platform and its operating system. So whether you use Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris – you name it – this drive will be accessible, provided it’s formatted in a way suited for your needs. FAT is the usual lingua franca for cross-platform compatibility.

You just need to enter your specified number code (six to 16 digits of your choice) in order to access files locked away inside.

Now iStorage is offering a version with solid-state storage (SSD). It’s an expensive choice, but not without some potential benefits.

Most people choose SSDs for speed. There are two main aspects to such speed, but more on that later.

Other unrivalled advantages to SSD include their silent operation, lower weight, reduced power drain and associated heat output, and their overall resilience.

In this application of a secure portable drive, there might just be times when you need a totally silent drive; but maybe not always enough to justify spending over ten times the price (£1209 for 256GB SSD versus £116 for 250GB HDD).

Nor is mass a major issue. After the weight of the case is included, a few grams difference between HDD and SSD is not significant. And heat and power consumption issues are more the presrve of notebook applications. But resilience may be an important factor to you.

Mechanical hard disks are susceptible to shock damage - particularly if the drive is shaken around while the disk is still operating. So all that data neatly secured with AES-256 encryption may be lost to you – as well as unwanted those viewers – should the disk platters crash.

SSDs, on the other hand, have no moving parts and are very resistant to shock and vibration.

iStorage quotes an operating temperature of 0 to 70ºC, or up to 55ºC at 95% humidity for the iStorage diskGenie SSD unit. And the SSD’s overall lifetime is advertised here as five-times that of hard disks. We can’t vouch for all these claims – but a useful three-year guarantee means you’ll have some time to test for yourself.

Which brings us to the iStorage diskGenie SSD's raw performance. Despite the potentially super-speedy flash memory inside, data transfers onto and out of the diskGenie are severely throttled back, we presume by the USB 2.0 interface.

While an unencrypted SATA-mounted SSD can easily zap data to and fro at 200MBps, we found the iStorage diskGenie SSD slower. Much, much slower.

In fact, in read/write speed terms, there’s practically nothing to differentiate this drive from the, relatively speaking, cheaper hard-disk drive diskGenies.

When we tested the 500GB hard-disk version, we used HD Tach to measure read and write speeds. It scored an average 29MBps for data reading, and 12MBps for writing.

Using the same benchmark, we saw averaged read/writes here at 32.5MBps and 18.5MBps respectively. That’s only a bit quicker; and it still means you’ll have to wait around two hours to fill even its comparatively limited 128GB of flash storage.

The HD Tune Pro benchmark test, meanwhile, gave similar results but pegged it slightly slower, with 30.7MBps reads and 15.2MBps writes.

Another aspect to solid-state performance, that typically speeds up real-world SSD operation, is reduced latency. Where hard disks have random-seek latencies of 15ms or more, even inside the iStorage diskGenie SSD’s 256-bit-encrypted USB 2.0 enclosure, the SSD-equipped drive had just 0.5ms latency.

While this attribute is handy for PC operating systems and server applications, we can’t think how this will be of such benefit in storing an archive of secured data.

In every other respect, the iStorage diskGenie SSD behaves just like the original hard-disk version; which is to say very well indeed, with its handy alpha-numeric keypad to assist you in creating memorable passcodes, and a tough non-slip finish to help weather daily use.

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

Read our full review of the iStorage diskGenie 500GB

iStorage diskGenie 128GB SSD review: Specs

  • USB external hard drive
  • 256-bit encryption (AES-256)
  • 0–9 number keypad
  • 128GB 2.5in SATA SSD (also available in 30GB, 64GB and 256GB capacities)
  • soft case
  • USB extension lead
  • 19 x 85 x 120mm
  • 189g
  • 3-year warranty
  • USB external hard drive
  • 256-bit encryption (AES-256)
  • 0–9 number keypad
  • 128GB 2.5in SATA SSD (also available in 30GB, 64GB and 256GB capacities)
  • soft case
  • USB extension lead
  • 19 x 85 x 120mm
  • 189g
  • 3-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

Despite the pricey SSD inside, performance is as slow as any USB 2.0 portable drive. But the diskGenie now offers an added level of robustness and security against damage thanks to that solid-state storage. Only the most paranoid and well-heeled should apply, though, with prices starting at £198 for just 30GB capacity, up to £1209 for 256GB. A 128-bit encryption range is also offered, which shaves around 20% off the price at each capacity level.

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