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

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The Good The new and rugged Silicon Power Armor A15 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.

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8.1 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9
  • Support 8

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.

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.