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Silicon Power Armor A15 review: Superfast portable storage for rough environments

Looking for a superfast portable drive that's also rugged? The Silicon Power Armor A15 is the answer.

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Dong Ngo
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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.

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4 min read

Silicon Power's new Armor A15 portable drive is not a replacement of but a companion to the company's previous Armor A80 portable drive that came out last year. The new drive offers protection against shocks but is not designed to be waterproof, which the Armor A80 was.

ArmorA15_(9).jpg
8.1

Silicon Power Armor A15

The Good

The new and rugged <b>Silicon Power Armor A15</b> is very fast, and can protect data against shocks and vibrations. It's also comparatively inexpensive.

The Bad

The included software and the new one-touch backup button don't work as expected. The drive isn't waterproof.

The Bottom Line

Fast and affordable, the shockproof Silicon Power Armor A15 is an excellent buy for mobile users, especially those working in rough environments.

Similar to its brother, the new Armor A15 is very fast, compact, bus-powered, and meets the U.S. military's MIL-STD-810F drop-test standards. It also comes with a one-touch backup button and has a shock-absorbent silica gel cover to protect the internal drive from vibrations and shock.

Though the new one-touch button and the included SP Widget software are essentially just gimmicks, at the current price of just $90 for 1TB (or $75 for 500GB), the new Silicon Power Armor A15 is still an excellent portable storage choice, especially for those working in rough environments. General users should also check out the alternatives on this list for more options on design and storage space.

Drive type 2.5-inch external USB hard drive
Connector options USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Available capacities 500GB, 1TB
Capacity of test unit 1TB
Special features
MIL-STD-810F ruggedness compliance
Dimensions (LWH) 5.4 x 3.2 x 0.8
Weight .55 lb
OSes supported Windows XP or later, Mac OS 10.5 or later
Software included SP Widget
Service and support 3-year warranty

Design and features
The new Armor A15 drive looks somewhat like the LaCie Rugged portable drive thanks to its shock-absorbent silica gel chassis. Measuring 5.4 inches by 3.2 inches by 0.8 inch and weighing half a pound, the drive is still very compact and light.

On one end it has a Micro-USB 3.0 port, which is used for both data and power. Bus power is a common feature for most portable drives and makes the storage device more convenient to use on the go. The Armor A15 includes a USB 3.0 cord in the package, which is all you need. In my trial, the drive also worked with USB 2.0, but if you want to get the the most out of it performance-wise, USB 3.0 is recommended.

The new Armor A15 looks quite different from its brother, the Armor A800 (top).
The new Armor A15 looks quite different from its brother, the Armor A800 (top). Dong Ngo/CNET

On top, at the same end as the USB 3.0 port, the drive has a small button, which works as an indicator light and also supposedly starts a backup job. Unfortunately, there's no instructions on how it works or how to configure it, so most users won't see anything happen when this button is pressed. It seems that the button works with the SP Widget software that you need to first download from Silicon Power, then copy the executable file on the portable drive, and then run the file from there. This is a rather awkward process that could be avoided easily if the Armor A15 just came with the file preloaded on it.

The SP Widget itself supposedly offers a few backup and security features for the Armor A15 but in my testing, it was too poorly designed and buggy to be even usable. In the end I concluded that you should use the Armor A15 without the software at all.

Like the Armor A80, the new Armor A15 is designed to meet the US MIL-STD-810F ruggedness standard. This means it has enough protection to survive drops from up to 4 feet during transit on a hard surface. Note that US MIL-STD-810F is a rather low grade of ruggedness; the Armor A15 is not supposed to survive heavy abuse, like the Rugged Portable from ioSafe is.

As far as setting up the Armor A15, there's nothing to it. Out of the box, it's reformatted in FAT32, meaning it will work immediately when plugged into a Windows or Mac computer. FAT32, however, doesn't allow storage of files that are larger than 4GB each. If you want to carry large files, such as HD movies, you will need to reformat the drive into either NTFS or HFS+, but then the drive will work with only Windows or Mac, respectively. The formatting is a very simple task and took just a few second in my trial.

Despite the fancy look, the SP Widget software is useless.
Despite the fancy look, the SP Widget software is useless. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET
Performance
As with the Armor A80, I tested the Armor A15 both with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, and it did very well in both.

With USB 3.0 the drive registered 113MBps and 112MBps for writing and reading, respectively, topping the charts. When used with USB 2.0, the drive's speed was about average for USB 2.0-based portable drives, scoring 26MBps and 33MBps for writing and reading, respectively, slightly below the average.

The drive worked well during my testing and remained cool and quiet the whole time.

CNET Labs external hard drive USB 3.0 performance scores (in MB per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  

Silicon Power Armor A15
112.09 
113 

IoSafe Solo G3
110.98 
109.1 

Seagate Backup Plus
110.1 
90.9 

Lexar JumpDrive Triton
112.19 
90.8 

Toshiba Canvio Desk
103.74 
88.9 

Silicon Power Armor A80
102.7 
87.8 

LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
104.9 
87.7 

Clickfree C6
103.4 
87.7 

LaCie FastKey
115.5 
87.1 

G-Drive Slim
100.3 
86.7 

Hitachi Touro Mobile Pro
103.5 
86.2 

WD My Passport Edge
97.68 
82.6 

Seagate GoFlex Slim
101.9 
82.4 

HP Portable Hard Drive
83.65 
69.4 

LaCie RuggedKey
116.82 
41.7 

CNET Labs external hard drive USB 2.0 performance scores (in MB per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  

G-Technology G-Connect
31.3 
30.9 

LaCie FastKey
36.6 
28.8 

Lexar JumpDrive Triton
33.13 
28.8 

Seagate Backup Plus
33 
28.74 

LaCie Minimus USB 3.0
36.5 
28.7 

Clickfree C6
33.1 
28.7 

Seagate GoFlex Slim
37.3 
27.7 

LaCie Rugged Key
35.22 
26.6 

Silicon Power Armor A15
32.64 
26.4 

Toshiba Canvio Desk
32.71 
25.8 

G-Drive Slim
32.74 
25.6 

WD My Passport Edge
32.69 
25.1 

Conclusion
Though it doesn't quite live up to Silicon Power's goal of being a rugged portable backup solution, the Armor A15's superfast speed and affordable pricing are enough to make it an excellent buy.


ArmorA15_(9).jpg
8.1

Silicon Power Armor A15

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 9Support 8
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