If you have a lot of photos and often have a hard time finding a particular image among them, then the LifeStudio external hard drive is probably right for you. The device is bundled with Hitachi's LifeStudio application that automatically finds digital content, including music, photos, videos, and documents, and organizes and displays them in a visually clear, chronological order.
The LifeStudio Mobile Plus is the portable version of the LifeStudio family and comes with a USB key, which is a 4GB thumbdrive designed to store mobile data. With a street price of about $130 (the 500GB version) or $100 (the 320GB version), the LifeStudio Mobile Plus is a good deal with the features it offers.
On the downside, however, the LifeStudio supports only USB 2.0, making it rather out of date considering USB 3.0-based external hard drives are getting more and more popular. Its included software also doesn't support network storage or allow for much customization.
|Drive type||External hard drive|
|Connector options||USB 2.0|
|Available capacities||320GB. 500GB|
|Capacity of test unit||500GB|
|Dimensions (LWH)||5.35 x 3.35 x 3.17 inches|
|Notable design features||Docking station with separate USB key|
|OSes supported||Windows XP, Vista, 7, Mac OS 10.5 or later|
|Software included||Hitachi Backup and LifeStudio|
|Service and Support||Three-year warranty|
The LifeStudio Mobile Plus has an interesting design; it comes in three parts: the external drive itself, a docking station, and a USB key. They key is attached to the docking station with a magnet and can be removed easily. The external hard drive is pretty compact, as are most 2.5-inch-based portable storage devices. However, when all three parts are put together, the whole package is rather bulky. This is when the USB key comes in handy.
Essentially, the key is a thumb drive, with storage being an included 4GB microSD card. You can change this card for another and upgrade the key's capacity up to 32GB of storage.
This key is designed to hold data that you want to carry along with you. This is actually a nifty idea, especially for students who just need to bring a small potion of their data to class. However, if you already have another thumbdrive, the USB key is redundant, unless you want to use it as a microSD card reader.
The LifeStudio Mobile Plus is bus-powered, meaning its included standard Mini-USB cable is used both for the data connection and to draw power directly from the computer's USB port. In case one USB port doesn't provide enough juice, the drive also comes with a second Y-shape USB cable that uses two USB ports at a time. In our trials, however, the drive only needed one USB port to work.
The external hard drive has two separate partitions. You can format the first partition into the file systems you like, such as NTFS, FAT32 (Windows), or HFS+ (Mac). The second partition, however, is read only and is formatted in the form of a CDROM that contains Hitachi's LifeStudio and Backup software. You can't make changes to this partition.
Out of the box, the LifeStudio Mobile Plus is formatted in FAT32 file system and allows both Windows and Mac OS to have full access to it. However, the downside is that the drive can't handle files that are 4GB or larger. Nonetheless, the included LifeStudio software's installer, which prompts to run the first time you connect the drive to a computer, has a function that helps format the drive into any more-advanced file systems.