The Good Large capacity for a travel drive; very compact and light; bus powered; good bundled backup software; cool and quiet in operation; three-year warranty; two free gigabytes of online storage.
The Bad No FireWire; doesn't ship with power cord.
The Bottom Line The SimpleTech Signature Mini Black Cherry is a compact, USB-only external hard drive that will tempt you with its sleek design, and then win you over with its capacity, performance, and price.
SimpleTech Signature Mini
Available in Bubblegum, Marshmallow, Blueberry, and Kiwi varieties, SimpleTech's Signature Mini series of portable hard drives might leave you with a minor sugar high. We tested the top-of-the-line 320GB Signature Mini Black Cherry model (the other flavors range in size from 120GB to 250GB) and came away impressed. Like last year's model, the drive is designed by Pininfarina, the famed Ferrari designer. The drive is compact, stylish, and comes bundled with a backup application, but the one drawback is it provides only a USB 2.0 connection. As a contrast, the OWC Mercury On-the-Go supplies FireWire 400 and 800 connections in addition to USB. To its credit, the Signature Mini boasts a smaller footprint and is almost half the weight of the Mercury, while costing you less per gigabyte. The SimpleTech Signature Mini can be found for roughly $180 online--for a very competitive $0.56 per GB. Though 320GB is rather roomy for a portable hard drive that uses a 2.5-inch laptop drive, the Mercury On-the-Go is still the largest such drive at 500GB. If you don't need the largest capacity and can live without a FireWire connection, however, we like the SimpleTech Signature Mini for its high style, low cost, and compact size.
Design and features
The SimpleTech's Signature Mini Black Cherry ships in a package that looks more like a box of chocolates than an external hard drive. Inside the box, you'll find the drive, a USB cable, and a small Read Me First booklet. You can skip the booklet; simply connect the drive to a USB port on your PC (or Mac), and you'll be up and running. The included cable features a Y-connector that lets you plug the drive into two USB ports in case one doesn't provide enough power. We didn't run into any instances during testing where we needed to use the second connector. The drive works with other single-connector USB cables too.
On the back of the drive, you will find the USB port and a power jack, which is necessary only for old computers with USB 1.1 ports that don't provide enough juice to power the drive. It's hard to find such computers nowadays and for that reason, SimpleTech doesn't include the power adapter in the package. The Signature Mini also lacks an on/off switch, which is convenient for turning off your drive while leaving it connected to your PC for long stretches.