The $140 Hitachi SimpleTough external hard drive is one of many ruggedized storage devices we've reviewed recently. The Iomega eGo Camo and Transcend's StoreJet 25 Mobile both offer drives with a protective exterior designed to handle drops and physical abuse, but the 500GB SimpleTough is truly the toughest of them all with a drop-resistance of up to 10 feet. Combined with a conveniently integrated USB cable and a comprehensive three-year warranty, the Hitachi SimpleTough is the ideal carry-along for the traveler who needs more space and an ultradurable design.
Design and features
The general rule of thumb with ruggedized gadgets is the tougher the device, the uglier it looks, and the Hitachi SimpleTough walks a fine line between beefed-up durability and unapologetic gaudiness. The exterior of the drive is wrapped in a carbon-black rubberized weave with a smooth texture that has a surprising amount of grip, but any concern we have about its backbone is immediately shut down by the large, rubberized shock bumpers that protect the drive on both sides. These barriers are sturdy enough to protect your data from up to a 10-foot drop--that's five more feet of protection than the Iomega eGo Camo offers--and pressure up to one ton. Though we only dropped the Hitachi from various distances around the office, a Hitachi representative told us about his endurance test where he placed a SimpleTough on a concrete road and ran over it with a 1998 Chevy 3500 cab truck. Afterward, the drive performed as new and yes, the truck did weigh one ton. Although we don't have the means to submit the drive to a one-ton pressure test, we assume that the SimpleTough can withstand the rigors of daily transport.
|Drive type||External USB hard drive|
|Connector options||USB 2.0|
|Available capacities||250GB, 320GB, 500GB|
|Capacity of test unit||500GB|
|Operating systems supported||Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X|
|Software included||Hitachi Ultimate Backup, Joggle digital content manager|
You can only connect the drive to a computer with a USB connection (although we wish it had FireWire for Mac users); however, the drive has a convenient built-in cord that wraps and neatly hooks to itself underneath the chassis. The cord is also wrapped in a hard plastic that, we assume, will last just as long as the body. The drive is USB-powered, so there's no need for an external power source.
In addition to protection from physical damage, Hitachi also gives you a two-tiered solution to prevent data loss because of natural disasters and other circumstances. First, the Local Backup software lets you set up automatic backups to a host computer, and the Ultimate Backup software gives you 2GB of free online storage through Hitachi's off-site servers. You also get a free copy of Joggle, Hitachi's media organization tool that lets you view and arrange your photos, music, and videos without clicking through multiple menu levels or Web sites. Finally, the software makes it easy to share content through social networks and personal Web pages.
Cost per gigabyte
The drive comes in three capacities in a variety of colors: 250GB in red ($90), 320GB in blue ($110), and the 500GB in the textured carbon-black finish for $140 that we tested. As you can see in the chart, the SimpleTough costs $0.30 per gigabyte, which comes in at exactly average for an external hard drive. Other drives such as the Seagate Black Armor PS110 cost more at $0.32 per gigabyte, but it's certainly not the cheapest drive out there. That award goes to the Fujitsu HandyDrive, which remains king of the castle at just $0.27 per gigabyte.
As always, we perform a simple data transfer test and compare the Hitachi SimpleTough with four other external drives in a similar price range. The test results place the SimpleTough right in the middle at 28.6 megabytes per second to read and 22.3Mbps to write our 6GB mixed media file folder. The chart shows the faster and slower drives on the market, but the differences are so minor that you likely won't be able to tell unless you're transferring a 10GB or larger file.
Service and support
We have to applaud Hitachi for offering a generous three-year limited warranty with the SimpleTough drive series. We always urge vendors to raise the warranty period to at least three years since many people throw around these portable devices without regard for hardware. We hope the extended durability will save the drive from any physical failure, but you know never know, so we're happy It is providing an extra security blanket. A comprehensive list of FAQs, user guides, and drivers are all available on the Hitachi Technical Support Web site, and telephone support is available 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT Monday through Friday.