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Aluratek Tornado Plus review: Aluratek Tornado Plus

Aluratek Tornado Plus

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Justin Yu
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Justin Yu

Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals

Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.

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4 min read

The Aluratek Tornado is an external hard-drive enclosure with a pre-installed drive that comes in a variety of capacities all the way up to 1 terabyte, but for our tests we're using a model with 160GB ($129) of space. The Tornado drive is also equipped with an RFID-security encryption that requires a swipe of a quarter-size key to access the data inside. Aluratek claims that transfer rates can reach up to 480 megabits per second, but our test data shows significantly slower results. Also, the enclosure itself is flimsy and doesn't feel like it can sustain any sort of abuse. And finally, the price tag isn't exactly appealing, either. If you need your data locked down and available on-the-go, your money will go further with the Maxtor Black Armor external hard drive.

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4.5

Aluratek Tornado Plus

The Good

Swappable plug-and-play design.

The Bad

High cost per gigabyte; slow transfer speeds; RFID-security key is easy to lose; flimsy external casing; no telephone support.

The Bottom Line

The Aluratek Tornado external hard drive is a RFID-secured hard-drive enclosure that doesn't have the performance or the innovation to warrant its expensive price tag. We don't recommend the poorly designed Tornado since the competition offers more storage space and a higher level of security at less cost.

Drive type External USB Flash Hard Drive
Connector options USB 2.0
Available capacities 160GB, 250GB, 320GB
Product Dimensions 2.5 inch version: 5.25 by 0.5 by 3.25 inches (LWH) - 49.99
  3.5 inch version: 8 in by 1.31 by 4.75 inches (LWH)
Capacity of test unit 160GB
OSes supported * Windows 2000, XP and Vista
  * Mac OS 9+
Software included Installation CD

Inside the box you'll find the drive, two RFID keys, a carrying case, and the accompanying documentation. The enclosure is compatible with any PATA/IDE hard drive up to 320GB, and installing a new 2.5-inch drive is fairly stress free--Aluratek makes it easy to remove the two screws on the top panel (mini screwdriver not included), connect the new drive, and place it back into the frame. Unfortunately, the enclosure is made of a light metal casing that feels flimsy. In fact, the build quality is so shoddy that the hard drive doesn't even fit flush into the shell, causing it to rattle around inside.

The drive is USB 2.0 compatible and it comes with a two-pronged USB cable in case you need extra power. In addition to the USB port, the top of the Tornado Plus also has an LED-status light and a DC-in port for older computers without the necessary powered USB bus. Aluratek doesn't include a power cord in the box, which leaves us confused as to why they would create the option for external power but choose not to include the necessary accessory to make it work.

The data stored on the Tornado Plus is protected by a security system that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to enable and disable access to the drive. The only way to unlock the information stored inside is with the key included in the package, as long as you remember to associate both keys (Aluratek includes two just in case) with the drive in the initial set up process. We like the idea of mobile data security, but the external key is just one more thing to get lost in the shuffle or increase an already cluttered keychain. We much prefer built-in hardware-based encryption that requires a password for access, even if it does mean one more password to memorize. Still, the Maxtor Black Armor external hard drive is a more practical alternative and serves its purpose well if you don't plan on swapping drives.

Cost per gigabyte
For $129, the 160GB Aluratek Tornado Plus isn't exactly a bargain at 81 cents per gigabyte, although it's still not as expensive as the Maxtor Black Armor. Still, the rest of the industry offers much better deals; the Toshiba hard drive we recently tested is the least expensive, but it also happens to be the slowest. The best compromise of speed and cost is the WD My Passport Studio that offers a 320GB drive for $185 (58 cents per GB) with chart-topping data transfers.

Model Capacity Est. street price Cost per GB
Maxtor Black Armor 160GB $150 94 cents
WD My Passport Studio 320GB $185 58 cents
Iomega eGo Portable Hard Drive 160GB $100 63 cents
OWC Mercury On-The-Go 500GB $350 70 cents
Toshiba USB 2.0 Portable External HDD 320GB $180 56 cents
Aluratek Tornado Plus 160GB $129 81 cents

Performance
The Aluratek Tornado Plus's read and write speeds aren't very impressive, either. The Tornado barely beat the Toshiba and pushes it into the second-to-slowest slot, but that's not saying much given that the Toshiba tested slower than any other drive we've seen. At a blisteringly slow 97.04 megabits per second, the Tornado is a full 41 megabits per second slower than the OWC Mercury On-The-Go.

Write/read speed (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read (Mb/s)  
Write (Mb/s)  
iomega eGo Leather
148.8 
142.8 
Maxtor BlackArmor
139.2 
138.96 
OWC Mercury On-The-Go
162.56 
138.48 
Aluratek Tornado Plus
160.4 
97.04 

Service and Support
Aluratek covers the Tornado Plus hard drive from product defects for one year from the date of purchase. The Aluratek Web site has additional information, including a knowledge base with a comprehensive FAQ list, a file library for manual and driver downloads, and a section that allows you to create a help ticket. Unfortunately, the site gives no mention of a number for telephone support.

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4.5

Aluratek Tornado Plus

Score Breakdown

Setup 4Features 5Performance 4Support 5