Traditional external spinning-disk hard drives can be fragile things — if you’re carrying one around with you it’s almost guaranteed to get a few knocks and bumps, and there’s an ever-present chance that it might fail. You can reduce the chance of this with a portable solid-state drive, but another more inventive solution is to ‘ruggedise’ a traditional drive. See also: Group test: what's the best portable hard drive?
ioSafe Rugged Portable: Design and specifications
ioSafe offers the Rugged Portable in either a SSD or spinning-disk version, but whichever drive you pick is immaterial. What’s more important is the thick aluminium shell that surrounds the drive — hewn from a single block of metal, it’s able to withstand some of the most punishing testing we’ve seen a piece of technology put through. See all portable hard drive
The Rugged Portable 250GB USB 3.0 version, which we tested, is a spinning-disk model with the internal laptop-size 2.5in hard drive running at 5400RPM. ioSafe rates the Rugged Portable against some pretty serious standards, and for all practical purposes the drive should stand up to almost any punishment the average user can throw at it. Visit Western Digital My Passport Essential 500GB USB 3.0 review
The ioSafe Rugged Portable aluminium version is waterproof (under 10 feet for 3 days), crushproof (over 1100kg of direct pressure), drop-proof (up to 26 consecutive drops from 10 feet high), weatherproof, and chemical-proof: you can even leave it a 12-foot deep tank of diesel or jet fuel for an hour. The MIL-STD-810G specification that the Rugged Portable claims to comply with is unforgiving — so unsurprisingly, ‘military grade’ is an accurate description of the Rugged Portable’s build quality. It’s not fireproof though, with this left to the even-more-serious ioSafe SoloPro.
The business end of the ioSafe Rugged Portable drive.
If these ratings aren’t good enough, there’s also a titanium-shell version which is twice as sturdy (but it’s restricted to the SSD versions and comes with a correspondingly high price tag).
It’s a stark and simple device. No superfluous flashy lights or design flair: just a rectangular block of aluminium with a smooth finish and rounded corners. A single USB 3.0 connector at the rear of the ioSafe Rugged Portable looks flimsy, but it actually connects solidly and reassuringly. There’s also a Kensington lock port for securing the drive when it’s not travelling.
The aluminium Rugged Portable weighs just over 450 grams, and measures 10cm wide, 14.5cm long and 2.5cm tall. It’s definitely heavier and bulkier than a standard portable hard drive Because of the thick aluminium casing around the ioSafe Rugged Portable, it’s almost silent during operation. Unless it’s been running for more than an hour, the drive stays cool to the touch.
ioSafe Rugged Portable: Performance and reliability
We put the ioSafe Rugged Portable through a battery of ‘everyday’ tests to gauge its reliability, and we’re pleased to report that it survived every single one of them without as much as an errant noise or read/write error:
• We dropped it from desk height onto carpeted concrete three times, to simulate a few office accidents — not a problem.
• We repeated this from head height three times, onto bare concrete — still working without any issues.
• We dropped it down a bare concrete flight of fire stairs (trying to do the slinky trick, albeit poorly) — it spun up first time with no worries.
• We left it out in a puddle in the driving rain for a full day — and it worked perfectly.
• We drove over it in a station wagon, exerting about 425kg of pressure (a quarter of the car’s 1700kg weight) — not even a dent in the case.
After running these tests, we fully believe ioSafe’s claims about the Rugged Portable’s durability. These tests are about as extreme as we can imagine the drive going through during any average day. Whatever suspension system holds the drive, it does an extremely good job — we didn’t hear any problematic clicking noises after our testing, and HD Tune’s S.M.A.R.T check utility didn’t report any issues. We had the drive running for several hours continuously reading and writing data back and forth without problems.
We thought the connector would be the weakest part of the Rugged Portable, but it's sturdy and can't be bent when connected.
We’re still putting together a photo and video gallery of our testing of the ioSafe Rugged Portable. We’ll link it here when we’re done.
The aluminium version of the ioSafe Rugged Portable comes with $2500 worth of data recovery included in the price, if you’re unlucky enough to break the drive while it’s operating within its specified limits. The drive also comes with a full version of the Genie Timeline Pro backup software included. These extras provide some more peace of mind beyond the already-impressive durability.
When it comes to actually using the drive, it’s more than capable. Being a USB 3.0 drive it’s able to transfer data far faster than a USB 2.0 external disk can, but it will also work with the older standard as well if USB 3.0 isn’t available.
We saw USB 3.0 read speeds of 97MBps and write speeds of 89MBps in our testing, with speeds dropping down to 34MBps read and 28MBps write when the drive was connected to USB 2.0. Real-world Windows 7 transfer testing on USB 3.0 reached a maximum of 82MBps read and 77MBps write with a 14GB folder of large video files taking just over three minutes to transfer from our test system to the Rugged Portable.
These results aren’t blazing fast — an SSD over USB 3.0 or eSATA will provide superior performance and more consistent results — but they’re more than fast enough for the majority of real-world use. We had no problems watching uncompressed Full HD video files from the disk, and no significant slow-downs using the drive as a scratch disk in Adobe Lightroom.
ioSafe Rugged Portable: Conclusion
The ioSafe Rugged Portable stood up to every potentially damaging test we subjected it to with no errors whatsoever, and it’s acceptably fast when plugged into a USB 3.0 port. These key factors are what make it worth the premium over other less impressively featured external hard drives.