A-DATA SH93 Rugged Portable Hard Drive
Depending on what your profession or hobby is you may only need to backup a small amount of data, or quite the opposite, and have huge storage requirements. The first group can easily get away with using flash memory drives these days. However, if you are looking at storing hundreds of gigabytes of data then an alternate solution will be required.
One of the most typical and convenient options is having an external hard drive. Not only are these affordable and easy to use, but once data has been backed up, you can take it with you or store it at a safe location. You could go with a 3.5″ form factor drive for the lowest possible price, though when portability is preferred, 2.5″ drives are the way to go.
These are considerably smaller, lighter and do not require an external power source — making them more practical. They are not much more expensive than 3.5″ drives, either. For instance, you can buy a 2.5″ portable hard drive with a 500GB of storage capacity for as little as $90, whereas the cheapest we have come across for a similar capacity 3.5″ model is $70.
Reliability and durability should also be taken into account. Portable hard drives are just an accidental drop away from irrecoverable loss, so spending a bit more to ensure data safety is a no-brainer for someone as ham-fisted as myself. Depending on the use you intend to give this drive you might want to consider that as well.
We have seen flash-based thumb drives from the likes of OCZ and Corsair survive large drops, being submerged or even frozen if the occasion presents itself. However, creating a portable hard drive this robust presents a few more challenges, as it will not only be heavier but also more fragile because of its internal moving parts.
A-DATA has taken it upon themselves to deliver such a product with their new SH93 line, bringing the industry’s first waterproof and shock resistant portable hard drive. The SH93 was designed for road warriors who need to take their storage with them on the harshest of environments. Let’s take a closer look…
The A-DATA SH93 is only slightly more expensive than your typical portable 2.5″ drive, priced at around $110 for the 500GB version. Other than that, there’s not much typical about this drive. It is designed to be rugged and durable, with A-DATA aiming at students, people constantly on the move and “sports enthusiasts.”Besides the model we tested today the SH93 also comes in 320GB and 640GB capacities, priced at around $80 and $150 respectively, and your choice between bright yellow and red colors.
The SH93 incorporates a rubber-plastic mix for its housing which acts as a cushion protection against bumps and falls. It fully meets the “MIL-STD-810F 516.5 procedure IV” military standard for transit drop tests, allowing the drive to endure 1.2 m (4 ft) falls onto a hard surface. If you were to drop the SH93 while carrying it or knock it from a desk, this is about how far the unit would fall, so it’s a fair test to certify the drive with.
Its casing also acts as a water proof skin protecting the 2.5″ hard drive inside from water damage. A-DATA claims that the SH93 is completely waterproof, according to IEC 529 IPX7 standards, in up to one meter deep for up to 30 minutes, which should give you more than enough time to fish it out of a pond. It is worth mentioning that the drive itself does not float so don’t go dropping it in the deep end.
We wouldn’t just take A-DATA’s claims without first playing rough with the drive for a few days. Apart from knocking it off the desk around a dozen times, I wanted to see how the SH93 handled rough concrete and gravel. Surprisingly, the rubber took this punishment very well without so much as a scratch. Of course, throwing the SH93 in dusty gravel a few times did make it quite dirty, though its waterproof feature came in handy here.
To clean the drive we simply ran it under the tap and had it looking like new again. Given that the SH93 is waterproof, we then submerged it into the kitchen sink for half an hour, plugged it back in and found our data was still intact as advertised. Upon closer inspection we found no evidence of any leaks when dismantling the SH93. So long as the USB port lid is closed, you’ll get away with exposing this portable drive to water.
Other than the rubbery outer shell there is another unusual design aspect of the SH93 that A-DATA hopes will help make this product a little more desirable. Instead of requiring users to separately carry around a USB cable, the SH93 includes a 30cm long USB cable that wraps around the body of the drive.
This is a great idea, although reattaching the cable to the outside of the housing after every use was quite annoying. The cable is not easily tucked away and the whole process is a little clumsy and awkward. That said, we see no obvious solution to the problem so users will just have to be patient when packing up their SH93.
|Core i7 Test System Specs
– Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Edition (Overclocked @ 3.70GHz)
– x3 2GB G.Skill DDR3 PC3-12800 (CAS 9-9-9-24)
– Asus P6T Deluxe (Intel X58)
– OCZ GameXStream (700 watt)
– Seagate 500GB 7200-RPM (Serial ATA300)
– HIS Radeon HD 5850 (1GB)
– Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)
– ATI Catalyst 9.10
Given that the A-DATA SH93 is limited to the USB 2.0 bus, transfer speeds maxed out at a little over 30MB/s when copying data. With a download speed of 33MB/s and an upload speed of 27.7MB/s, the SH93 performs like a high-speed USB 2.0 device matching the 2.5″ Samsung portable drive and the OCZ Throttle. Of course, the latter had the advantage of being able to use an eSATA interface which greatly improved its performance.
The A-DATA SH93 performed as expected in CrystalDiskMark. Its sequential and random performance was virtually identical to that of the OCZ Throttle and only slightly superior compared to the Samsung Spinpoint M80. When it came to the Random 512KB test, OCZ’s drive came noticeably on top for read speeds among all tested USB 2.0 drives, while A-DATA’s SH93 handled writes a little faster than OCZ and Samsung’s drives.
A-DATA’s portable drive performed considerably better than the Samsung Spinpoint M80 in the first set of PCmark Vantage results. Although it was also slower than the OCZ Throttle in both the Windows Defender and Windows Vista Startup tests, the margins were not nearly as great as those faced by the Spinpoint M80.
Conversely in the second batch of results, which included Gaming and Video Editing tests, we saw the SH93 and Spinpoint M80 deliver very similar results while OCZ’s drive was significantly faster overall.
Finally, we ran the A-DATA SH93 through SiSoftware Sandra 2009 using the physical disks benchmark. The results are not all that surprising as all three USB 2.0 devices delivered very similar performance.
Over the years the portable hard drive market has become increasingly competitive and somewhat overcrowded. A quick search at Newegg.com reveals around 50 portable 500GB hard drives based on the 2.5″ form factor, with half of them priced at around $100 or less, and just a handful featuring rugged designs.The A-DATA SH93 is an eye catching product that delivers on all fronts. Its build quality is first-class and the durability it offers far exceeds that of the majority of 2.5″ portable drives, which often feature flimsy plastic bodies that are easily damaged.
The SH93 features a 500GB Fujitsu MJA2500BH hard drive, available online for around $90. This means A-DATA is only charging an extra $20 for their rugged housing — not a bad deal considering a cheap housing will cost you $10 anyway, and going for a quality enclosure separately could set you back significantly more. Two other rugged drives we could find on offer – the LACIE Rugged 500GB and the iomega eGo BlackBelt 500GB – were priced closely to the A-DATA SH93 however.
In terms of performance, the SH93 was more than capable of topping out the USB 2.0 bus, so anything more substantial than its Fujitsu innards would’ve been a waste. Another could have been the story if the SH93 provided eSATA support for added performance and greater flexibility. With powered eSATA ports becoming a more common sight, this could have given A-DATA’s portable drive the necessary edge against its competitors, though we imagine the more ubiquitous USB connectivity gets them the broadest consumer reach.
Due to the use of thick rubber to protect the enclosure and the drive within, the A-DATA SH93 is bulky compared to your average portable 2.5″ drive. It will still fit in your pocket though, so it’s not deal breaker either.
Although it was added for convenience, we were rather annoyed with the SH93’s wrap-around USB cable. In theory it makes perfect sense to have the cable integrated to the device, but the finished product ended up being a little too clumsy. Removing this cable for use was not a problem, but reattaching it to the enclosure was more often than not a nuisance.
Overall we were impressed with the durability of the SH93, providing a level of toughness unmatched by the majority of portable hard drives. A-DATA has also kept the drive at a very competitive price point of $110 for the 500GB version. If you are seeking for a compact and capacious storage device that can survive knock, bumps and even submersions, then the A-DATA SH93 is the product for you
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