The SimpleTech SimpleDrive is simple to explain: It's a basic, external hard drive that comes bundled with backup software. While the current version offers only USB connectivity, future versions will offer a USB/FireWire combo. The included backup software makes backup tasks simple to set up, and the free online storage account is a great feature. At $200 for the 500GB version, it's a bargain (the slightly faster LaCie d2 Quadra drive offers the same 500GB for $300 and doesn't include online storage). If you're interested in even faster data transfer, check out the Seagate FreeAgent Pro, which offers an eSATA connection (you may need to upgrade your hardware, though) and free online storage (for only six months). For backing up your data with minimal fuss, we like the SimpleDrive.
The SimpleTech SimpleDrive offers a sleek design. The body was designed by legendary design company Pininfarina. Yes, that Pininfarina, designer of Ferraris. It sports an aerodynamic-looking design with a tapered side and side-panel markings that suggest forward motion. The drive measures 8.25 inches long, 1.5 inches tall, and 5 inches wide. The six capacities come in different colors, but all have a large, oval button mounted on the top, surrounded by a capacity meter ring. All house a 7,200rpm 3.5-inch hard disk drive.
The back edge houses the power jack and a USB port. Currently, only the USB 2.0 model is available, but a USB/FireWire version--called SimpleDrive Deluxe--will be available shortly. Setup is simple: just connect the drive to your PC using the USB cable, plug the drive into an electrical outlet, and power it on--it's plug-and-play.
The SimpleDrive is available in six capacities: 160GB, 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB (currently, not all capacities are represented on SimpleTech's Web site). The drive comes preloaded with ArcSoft Total Media Backup and Record software, which you can install by opening the folder on the drive and double-clicking the setup utility. ArcSoft Total Media provides a clean, easy-to-use interface for setting up backup profiles. You can pick files by category, file types, or using the advanced tab, pick individual files and folders. You can set the backup target as either the SimpleDrive or a CD/DVD burner. Backups can be one-time events, or you can schedule them to occur at regular time intervals, and each occurrence can be a full backup or incremental (where only changed and new files are backed up). It should be noted that ArcSoft Total Media can only backup files and folders; it can't create a bootable backup of your operating system or backup system settings as you can with the EMC Retrospect software bundled with the Western Digital MyBook. You can, however, use the program to burn data and music discs (Windows users only). Once you have a backup profile set, you can press the top-mounted backup button to initiate a backup sequence.
The previously mentioned capacity meter gives only a rough estimate of remaining capacity. Each of four sections represents 25 percent of the drive and lit sections represent available space (that is, when you first install the drive, the ring should be fully lit). When available capacity drops below 10 percent, the ring flashes red when you first power it on.