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Editors' note: Updated drive manufacturer name.
Seagate's new 500GB BlackArmor PS 110 external hard drive ($160) provides trustworthy storage and data backup solutions for the consumer who needs more space. The shape and design of the drive isn't a far departure from the FreeAgent Go, another thin external HDD from Seagate. The PS 110 isn't the cheapest drive out there, but the ample backup software suite speaks to the value of this drive. If you're craving more portable storage for your indispensable data, you'll appreciate the versatility of the Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 hard drive.
The Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 replicates the same thin profile of its older brother, the Seagate FreeAgent Go, measuring a very pocketable 5 inches long, 3 inches wide, and half an inch high. In contrast to the Go's array of bright colors and multiple capacities, the BlackArmor distinguishes itself and offers only one 500GB model in matte black. The downward bend at the bottom of the device creates a unique silhouette, with only one USB 2.0 port that sits on the top face. We're a bit disappointed that there isn't FireWire access here, mostly because we've recently been spoiled by the Iomega eGo Portable Mac Edition, an Editors' Choice winner for its triple-interface (USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800) connectivity. The drive is compatible with Windows and Mac OS (with a quick format), but if you're a Mac user hoping to benefit from FireWire's drastic speed benefits, you'll find that Iomega can give you a faster all-around drive.
|Drive type||External USB Flash Hard Drive|
|Connector options||USB 2.0|
|Product Dimensions (LWH)||5.12x 3.15x0.49 inches|
|Capacity of test unit||500GB|
|OSes supported||Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X|
|Software included||BlackArmor Backup by Acronis (Windows only)|
Seagate put substantial effort into beefing up the preloaded software on the drive, and it shows: the BlackArmor Backup software is one of the most comprehensive dashboards for backups and restorations we've seen with an external hard drive. This central location allows the user to back up a full system in addition to file-based backups, using event logs and built-in calendars to schedule automated tasks. Along with the standard recovery operations, you can also use the software to create a bootable rescue CD or, alternatively, an ISO image of the CD to store on the drive for later use.
Seagate also partnered with Acronis Software to include a Try and Decide feature that allows you to download and install new software or open e-mail attachments on the drive in a protected environment, with the added ability to roll back the changes or reimage the drive completely. Starting the management software is simply a matter of hitting a "start" button that turns on a stopwatch and a disk space meter. If you encounter a virus or otherwise harmful malware, hit the "stop" button and the system prompts you to restart and either apply or discard the changes you've made before it locks in. Within the program, "discard" means that your system will revert back to the original image, but only after one restart; the program can't revert after multiple reboots. After playing around with this unique feature, we found that running the program in the background resulted in serious latency issues in system performance, and applying several changes at the end also tried our patience, so we only recommend using this software in at-risk environments where you suspect issues with system security.
Other features in the software suite include the BlackArmor Backup Secure Zone that creates a hidden partition on the disk for storing private backups, specified backup environments including e-mail accounts and address books, image creation of an entire disk or a single partition, and an all-inclusive search function that allows for Google Desktop and Windows Search plug-ins for indexing files in backups archives. Aside from antivirus software, Seagate protects your data across the entire lifecycle, and it comes free and preloaded onto the drive for easy plug-and-play access.
Cost per gigabyte
The Seagate BlackArmor PS 110's price ($160) and capacity (500GB) factor out to 32 cents per gigabyte. In a chart with other recently reviewed external hard drives, the Seagate falls in line with the average. It's not the cheapest or the most expensive, but our judgment is that 32 cents is a small price to pay for the unique software bundle you don't get with any of the other drives. For our most thrifty readers, the Fujitsu HandyDrive continues to be the least expensive at 27 cents per gig, with the Transcend StoreJet Mobile not far behind--both received excellent editors' ratings.
In our review of the Seagate FreeAgent Go, we were disappointed by its slow transfer speeds, which dropped in at a sluggish 18.15MBps to read and 17.84MBps to write our 10GB test folder. We're happy to report that the Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 fixed these speed bumps and blasts out of the gate, leading the competition with an impressive 30.02MBps read and 24.49MBps write benchmark. The Iomega eGo Portable finished at a close second at just a few seconds slower than the BlackArmor, and the difference should be unnoticeable for the average file transfer.
|USB read (MBps)||USB write (MBps)|
Service and support
We have to applaud Seagate for offering a generous five-year limited warranty with the BlackArmor PS 110. We always urge vendors to raise the warranty period to at least three years since many users throw around these portable devices without regard for hardware. Seagate will replace any defective drive under warranty, and you can even choose to upgrade to a larger/newer drive for a discounted price. Telephone support is available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday, and you can find a comprehensive list of FAQs and an external hard-drive knowledge base on the Seagate Web site.