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Sony HDD HB Portable Drive review: Durable, but overpriced

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The Good The Sony HDD HB portable drive includes Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connections, delivers solid performance and is highly durable and dirt-resistant. It works with both Windows and Mac right out of the box.

The Bad The portable drive has nothing new compared with its competitors, is expensive and includes unnecessary software.

The Bottom Line Though a decent drive for those working in rough environments, the Sony HDD HB has nothing new to justify its hefty cost.

6.8 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 5
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

The HDD HB is sorely lacking innovation. There's nothing new or creative about the external hard drive. Even its name, which is short for hard disk drive, is disappointingly generic.

I also find the drive's bulky design counterintuitive and even somewhat annoying. What's more, the drive's included software isn't necessary (and when used actually makes the drive worse.) At $189 for 1TB and $273 for 2TB, the HDD HB is also expensive.

To be fair, the HDD HB did well in my testing with a sustained copy speed close to what Sony claims. Still, compared with other hard-drive-based portable drives on the market, its performance didn't really stand out. In all, if you want a rugged Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 portable drive, I'd recommended the LaCie Rugged , which is better in every way and some $20 cheaper. Or if you don't care about Thunderbolt, the SiliconPower Armor A60 , which costs just a third of the price, would also make a better buy.

For more excellent choice on portable drive, check out this list of top drives on the market.

The Sony HDD HB comes with a removable silicon casing that protect it from shocks and dirt. Josh Miller/CNET


The Sony HDD HB is a straightforward portable drive with one Thunderbolt port and one micro USB 3.0 port, with a cable for each included with the drive. On the inside, it houses a low-power standard laptop hard drive that spins at 5400 RPM. The performance ceiling of this hard drive is just around that of USB 3.0 (5Gbps). Thunderbolt has a ceiling speed of 10Gbps. Which means it's impossible for the drive to reach the performance cap of Thunderbolt, making the inclusion of the standard largely useless, at least from a performance perspective.

The drive is also compatible with USB 2.0 and the new Thunderbolt 2 and no matter which port you choose to use, you'll at the very least enjoy a bus-powered experience. A bus-powered drive only needs one cable for both the data and power connections.

The portable drive is quite bulky and includes a silicone casing option. Without the silicone casing, the drive measures 3.5x1.12x5.9 inches (90x28.4x150.6 mm), noticeably larger than most portable hard drives. When the silicon casing is put on, the drive is now measure significantly larger at 6.5x1.4x6.9 inches (166x36x176 mm). In all, the drive is not huge, but it's definitely not compact enough for you to tuck it away in your pocket or your purse.

The silicone casing only covers the front, back and sides of the drive, leaving the middle part uncovered. On the bottom, the casing has four little feet to help stabilize the drive on a surface. On its top the casing has four little grooves, just in case you wanted to stack another HDD HB unit on top. Sony says this stackable design is "for easy daisy-chaining with increased air flow between drives for less heat build-up." That might be true, but the HDD HB drive has only one Thunderbolt port. This means in a daisy-chain setup, the HDD HB could only be at the end of the chain (there's no "connection out" option). So you can't use more than one HDD HB unit in a daisy-chain setup at all. In other words, the stackable design is useless for the most part.

The HDD HB has a blue indicator light on its front that flashes constantly when there's data activity and flashes randomly when the drive is idle. This is rather annoying since the light is bright and it's quite big for a compact device. The HDD HB shares its power status with the host computer. It automatically turns itself off when the computer is off or in sleep mode, and back on when the computer is in use.

Sony HDD HB portable drive specs

Drive type Bus-powered portable hard drive
Connector options Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 (USB 2.0 compatible)
Available capacities 1TB, 2TB
Internal drive speed 5,400rpm
Capacity of review unit 2TB
Dimensions Without protection: 3.5 x 1.12 x 5.9 inches (90 x 28.4 x 150.6 mm) / With protection: 6.5 x 1.4 x 6.9 inches (166 x 36 x 176 mm)
Weight 11.3 ounces (320 grams)
Software included Portable Storage Formatter
OSes supported Windows XP or later; Mac OS 10.4 or later
Warranty 3-year

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