Buffalo DriveStation DDR review: Simple, affordable, and unbelievably fast

Setup
There's nothing to setting up the Buffalo DriveStation DDR. Out of the box, the drive is reformatted in NTFS so it works immediately with a Windows computer. For a Mac, you'll need to reformat the drive into HFS+ file system before you can write to it. Before you do this, make sure you back up the drive's preloaded software.

The drive comes preloaded with some utility software applications, including the Buffalo Cache Control tool for both Windows and Mac. This tool allows you to turn on the caching for writing only, for both writing and reading, or turn it off completely. When the caching is turned off, the drive works just like any regular USB 3.0 drive. By default, the Buffalo ships with caching turned on for both writing and reading; this is the setting you should use it with. So really, there's no reason to use the Buffalo Cache Control tool.

The Buffalo Cache Control tool allows for changing how caching works in the DriveStation DDR.
The Buffalo Cache Control tool allows for changing how caching works in the DriveStation DDR. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Performance
I tested the Buffalo DriveStation DDR only with its caching turned on (the default settings) with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0; the drive was spectacular.

When used with USB 3.0, it registered a sustained real-world speed of 216MBps for writing and 217MBps for reading. Note that I tested the drive with a host computer that's powered by a very fast solid-state drive, and these were about as fast as most SSDs could offer. By comparison, the fastest USB 3.0 drive I've reviewed offers just about 113MBps for writing and reading. Most Thunderbolt devices, including a very advanced one with RAID, offers less than 200MBps in the same test.

In other words, the Buffalo DriveStation DDR was shockingly fast for a single-volume storage device. Note that since USB 3.0 caps at 5Gbps (just half of Thunderbolt's current ceiling speed), advanced Thunderbolt-based storage systems can offer faster speed, but only when working with other such storage systems. In real-world usage, where external storage devices are connected to a host computer -- which has an internal storage speed cap of 6Gbps (SATA 3) -- the Buffalo DriveStation DDR is about as fast as you can get for now.

When used with USB 2.0, the drive's performance was about the same as most USB 2.0-based devices, however, averaging 28MBps and 37MBps for writing and reading, respectively. This is likely because of the limitation of USB 2.0. Using the Buffalo DriveStation DDR drive with a USB 2.0 port will greatly diminish what it has to offer.

The fanless drive was very quiet and remained relatively cool, even under heavy loads.

CNET Labs USB 2.0 external hard drive performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write

Note that on the USB 3.0 chart below, the Thunderbolt devices' scores are only for reference. They were all tested using a Thunderbolt connection.

CNET Labs external hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read
Write

Conclusion
Buffalo has done an excellent job with the DriveStation DDR by bringing stellar performance to budget external storage. Now you can get Thunderbolt-class performance, even faster in some cases, at a much lower cost. The Buffalo DriveStation DDR is easily the best single-volume desktop external hard drive on the market right now.

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Quick Specifications

  • Release date May. 6, 2013
About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.