Buffalo Technology DriveStation Duo USB 3 review

USB 3-based external RAID storage
Photo of Buffalo Technology DriveStation Duo USB 3
£210 (£175 ex VAT) 2TB from www.amazon.co.uk

Buffalo’s DriveStation Duo has established a name for itself as a fast, efficient way to provide secure, external storage. It comprises two high-capacity, high performance hard drives in a neat external box, connected to your PC via USB. It comes with backup and other support software, requires little power and automatically keeps two copies of everything you transfer to it.

Flame on
The key feature of this model, which distinguishes it from earlier ones, is that it supports USB 3, the new ‘SuperSpeed’ connection type that pushes up the maximum transfer rates from 480Mbit/s to a theoretical maximum of 5Gbit/s. The unit itself is about the size of three Jeffrey Archer novels laid together on their spines, but is considerably more useful. It has three small indicator LEDs for power and data transfer. Either of the 1TB hard drives can be removed from behind the front cover and hot swapped from the RAID 1 array, should they ever fail.

The DriveStation Duo is so simple to set up, you should be up and running within a few minutes. Install the software and plug in the cable and you can immediately see it within Windows or Mac OS X and drag and drop files to and fro. Only USB 2 connectivity is supported under OS X.

The backup software supplied by Buffalo enables you to set up a sound backup regime, copying the contents of My Documents or other selected folders to the DriveStation at specified times. You can select other folders to copy and pick specific file types to include in the backup bundle.

Other software includes TurboPC and RAMdisc, which work together to speed up transfers, and can run in the background while you’re working on other things.

Flame off
There’s a fairly major proviso to the performance you can expect from the drive. It’s not just a question of fitting a PCI Express-based USB 3 card to your PC, but having a fast internal SATA hard drive and controller to partner it. Typical SATA drives from even a few years ago have data transfer rates of around 150MB/s, or 1.2Gbps. This won’t restrict transfers via USB 2, but will prove a bottleneck when transferring files via USB 3.

This is what we found in our real-world tests, where copying 4.7GB of files (one DVD’s-worth) from an internal SATA drive to the DriveStation Duo gave very similar times using both USB 2 and USB 3 connections. When we set up a RAM drive and transferred 1GB of files to and from it, however, the USB 3 speed was between two and a half and three times higher than USB 2.

Buffalo DriveStation Duo with 160GB SATA HD
Using USB 2.0 Read 4.7GB: 1m52sec Write 4.7GB: 1m49sec
Using USB 3.0 Read 4.7GB: 1m49sec Write 4.7GB: 1m53sec

Buffalo DriveStation Duo with 1.5GB RAM disk
Using USB 2.0 Read 1.0GB: 25sec Write 1.0GB: 25sec
Using USB 3.0 Read 1.0GB: 8sec Write 1.0GB: 10sec

Company: Buffalo Technology

Contact: 0845 3511005

Positives
  • Fast, efficient RAID 1 back-up storage.
Negative
  • May require PC upgrade to realise full performance.

Verdict

A very neat, trouble-free way to provide back-up storage or a media store for a busy PC. If you're buying it for the increased speed of USB 3, though, check the rest of your machine is up to the spec of the DriveStation Duo, or you could be disappointed with the overall performance.