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ioSafe SoloPro Disaster-proof External Hard Drive review: ioSafe SoloPro Disaster-proof External Hard Drive

ioSafe SoloPro Disaster-proof External Hard Drive

Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
Dong Ngo
5 min read


ioSafe SoloPro Disaster-proof External Hard Drive

The Good

The IoSafe SoloPro is designed to safeguard your data against fire and water damage and includes a year of data recovery service. The drive supports USB 3.0 and offers decent performance.

The Bad

The IoSafe SoloPro is heavy and bulky for an external hard drive. It doesn't have any protection against hard-drive failure, and its internal hard drive is not user-replaceable. The device is also relatively noisy.

The Bottom Line

For those who need to ensure that their data will survive disasters, the IoSafe SoloPro is one of a few, if not the only, worthwhile options on the market. General users, however, won't find much appeal in it.

The IoSafe SoloPro is an external hard drive designed with a very specific user in mind. It's huge, heavy, and comparatively expensive, starting around $250 for 1TB ($320 for 1.5TB and $420 for 2TB). To compensate for these shortcomings, it comes with layers of protection designed to guarantee the survival of data it contains, even against extreme heat and water submersion. Oddly, the drive doesn't support RAID or any other redundancy to safeguard data from commonplace hard-drive failure.

If you live in an area with high risk of fire or flood and want to keep the backup of your important data intact, look no further than the IoSafe SoloPro. Otherwise, we'd recommend any other traditional USB 3.0 external hard drives such as the WD My Book 3.0 or the Seagate GoFlex Desk.

Design and features
The SoloPro looks like a gigantic brick with rounded corners. It's as heavy as you'd expect, given the design; it's about 10 times the weight of the Seagate GoFlex Desk. That said, it doesn't look half bad.

Drive type 3.5-inch external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 2.0, USB 3.0
Size (WHD) 5.0 x 7.1 x 11 inches
Weight 15 pounds
Available capacities 1TB, 1.5TB, 2TB
Capacity of test unit 1TB
OSes supported Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Mac OS 8.6 or higher
Software included None

On the front, the SoloPro has a large LED light that indicates the power status (solid blue) and hard-drive activity (flashing blue). On the back, it has one USB 3.0 port, a small ventilation fan, and an on/off switch. The drive comes with either a USB 3.0 port or an eSATA port (we reviewed a USB 3.0 unit). There's no option that includes both of these high-speed ports. Like other USB 3.0-based external hard drives, the SoloPro is backward-compatible with USB 2.0.

The drive ships with nothing but a power cable and a USB 3.0 cable. Our test unit was painted with regular black paint, but a version using heat-resistant paint is available for an extra $20.

The reason the drive is so big and heavy is because of the multiple layers of protective material that keeps the internal hard drive safe from extreme heat (up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes). The drive is also able to survive water submersion up to 10 feet for three days.

Though we didn't have the resources to test the drive against these extreme conditions, IoSafe has shown us demonstrations. The most recent demo was at CES 2010, where it ran a similar drive, the Solo SSD, through a series of extreme tests. After the barrage of tests, the data that was stored on the drive was easily retrieved.

Despite the large size, the SoloPro is a single-volume external hard drive. This means it doesn't support any RAID configurations (such as RAID 1, which safeguards the data against a single-drive failure). So although the data could survive extreme conditions, it might be lost if the internal hard drive dies from defects, mechanical problems, or just general wear and tear over time. Users are not able to replace the internal hard drive on their own. Once the chassis is opened, IoSafe no longer guarantees the effectiveness of the SoloPro's protection.

It's also important to note that though SoloPro's chassis will protect your data against extreme conditions, the device itself will likely stop working once submerged or put through fire. At this time, you can use a screwdriver to peel off its layers of protection to retrieve the internal hard drive inside. After that, you can use a docking station, such as the Vantec NexStar or the adapter of a Seagate GoFlex Desk, to recover the data. If you don't want to do this yourself, the SoloPro comes included with IoSafe's Data Recovery Service that will do that for you.

The drive works with both Macs and PCs and setup is easy; you just turn it on and plug it into a computer's USB port. The drive is preformatted using NTFS file system (Windows) so if you want to be able to use it with a Mac, you'll need to reformat it into HFS+.

We tested the SoloPro with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, and though it didn't blow us away, its performance met our expectations.

In tests with USB 3.0, the drive scored 77.1MBps and 106MBps for write and read, respectively. Both of these were average among USB 3.0-based external hard drives we've reviewed.

In USB 2.0 tests, the SoloPro was the second fastest in the write test with 28.7MBps, just a tad slower than the 29.8MBps score of the top-runner Hitachi LifeStudio. In the read test, the SoloPro scored 36.6MBps, once again among the average.

The SoloPro worked smoothly during our tests and as expected, it remained very cool. As its protective layer is so thick, we didn't know how hot the internal hard drive got, but the air blown out by the ventilation fan on the back felt rather warm. The fan, though small, is actually noisy enough to be annoying if you use the device in a quiet room.

CNET Labs USB 3.0 external hard drive performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

CNET Labs USB 2.0 external hard drive performance scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Service and support
IoSafe backs the SoloPro 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 should disaster strike or if the drive stops working for any reason. In case the hard drive is so badly damaged that expensive forensic recovery service is required, the warranty will cover up to $2,500 of the cost. Customers can upgrade to a three- or five-year warranty for $50 and $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 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday. At the company's Web site, you'll find FAQs, downloads, user guides, and other support-related materials.


ioSafe SoloPro Disaster-proof External Hard Drive

Score Breakdown

Setup 6Features 8Performance 7Support 9