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First introduced at CES 2011 with much fanfare, the IoSafe Rugged Portable hard drive is the portable version of its 15-pound brother, the IoSafe SoloPro. Much more compact than the SoloPro, the Rugged Portable is about the same size and weight as a 3.5-inch internal hard drive. This is because it's the first portable drive on the market to offer protection against extreme conditions, thanks to its watertight, full metal casing and built-in shock-absorbing technology. Other than extreme heat, the drive can survive almost anything else, even certain types of bullets.
The Rugged Portable offers good performance as portable drives go. It's bus-powered and comes with enough cables to draw sufficient power from a computer's USB ports. With pricing that ranges from $149 for a 250GB version to $399 for 1TB, the Rugged Portable is significantly more expensive than other portable drives of the same capacities. To make up for this, IoSafe bundles the drive with a year's warranty that includes a Data Recovery Service that covers up to $5,000 worth of data damage.
If you work in hazardous environments, travel frequently, or tend to get rough with your devices, the Rugged Portable would be a good investment. Those who want to have an ultrasafe drive to use at home should consider the SoloPro, as it can withstand fire also. Users who don't need these features, however, might want look for more affordable alternatives.
Design and features
|Drive type||2.5-inch rugged portable drive|
|Connector options||USB 2.0, USB 3.0|
|Size (LWH)||5.7x0.9x1.0 inches|
|Available capacities||256GB, 500GB, 750GB, 1TB|
|Capacity of test unit||750GB|
|OSes supported||Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac OS 10.4.6 or higher|
|Software included||Genie9 Timeline Pro backup software (registration required)|
With a casing made out of solid billet aluminum, the IoSafe Rugged Portable looks and feels like a small brick. It's shiny, however, and much tougher. The drive can handle drops from 10 feet, being submerged in water (even saltwater) at 10 feet deep for up to 72 hours, and being crushed by up to 2,500 pounds, and still keep its data intact. IoSafe says the drive is also fully protected from chemicals and dust. There's another version of the Rugged Portable, housed in titanium casing and based on a solid-state drive, that can withstand even more strenuous environmental challenges.
Considering this level of protection, it's quite amazing how compact the Rugged Portable is. The drive weighs just about 1 pound and measures just 5.7 inches by 0.9 inch by 1 inch. To put this in perspective, the SoloPro, which can withstand extreme heat, weighs about 15 pounds and is considerably bulkier.
The IoSafe Rugged Portable has only one Mini-USB 3.0 port, on the back, and comes with two cables. One of them is a regular Mini-USB 3.0 cable to be used with a USB 3.0 port. This cable works as both a data and a power cable. When used with USB 2.0, however, the drive will need the second, Y-shaped cable. This cable can use two USB ports at the same time to draw enough juice to power the drive.
The Rugged Portable doesn't require setup for use with a Windows computer: all you have to do is plug it in and it will work immediately, as the drive is preformatted using the NTFS file system. To use it with a Mac, however, you'll need to use Disk Utility to reformat it to HFS+, a quick and easy job.
At the bottom, the drive has a registration card affixed to it. You will need this card to register the drive with IoSafe to have the IoSafe Data Recovery Service activated. IoSafe says that with the service the company will pay up to $5,000, depending on which model you buy, to recover data if the drive is damaged for whatever reason. This service can be extended to three or five years. Registration will also offer Windows users a full version of the Genie9 Timeline Pro backup software, for free.
We tested the Rugged Portable with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. While the drive didn't blow us away, its performance certainly met expectations.
In USB 2.0 tests, the Rugged Portable scored 27.5MBps and 31.1MBps for writing and reading, respectively, putting it about in the middle of the drives we compared. The drive did similarly with USB 3.0, registering 83.7MBps for writing and 104.2MBps for reading, again landing right about the middle of the chart. At these speeds, the drive will make quick work of it when you need to transfer a large amount of storage.
In our trials, the Y-shaped USB 2.0 cable was indeed necessary with computers that don't support USB 3.0. If you try to use the drive with the USB 3.0 cable in a USB 2.0 port, the drive won't start up. You can use the Y-shaped cable with USB 3.0 ports, but at the expense of much lower performance. If you carry both cables, it reduces the advantage of the drive's portability. All other USB 3.0 portable drives we've reviewed can draw enough power from a single USB port, be it USB 2.0 or USB 3.0.
The drive remained cool during operation, but we could feel its subtle vibration. While we didn't have a chance to really test the limits of the drive's toughness, we did leave it underwater overnight and slammed it on a floor for a few times and it still worked fine afterward.
Service and support
As with the SoloPro, IoSafe backs the Rugged Portable with a one-year warranty that includes the company's Data Recovery Service, which takes care of trying to get the data back for you if the drive stops working for any reason. If the hard drive is so badly damaged that expensive forensic recovery service is required, again, the warranty will cover up to $5,000 of the cost depending on which model you buy, and you can upgrade to a three- or five-year warranty for $50 or $100 respectively. Other than that, you probably won't need much support for the drive. Nonetheless, the company's toll-free technical phone support can be reached Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. At the company's Web site, you'll find FAQs, downloads, user guides, and other support materials.
If it could withstand extreme heat, the IoSafe Rugged Portable hard drive would be the best disaster-proof drive on the market. In its current state, however, the drive still makes an excellent investment for those who need to safeguard their data on the go or in extreme environments. Compared with IoSafe's bulky SoloPro, the compact Rugged Portable is a big step up in terms of design and portability.