Freecom – ToughDrive Sport review

rugged outdoor solution for data storage
Photo of Freecom – ToughDrive Sport
£99.99 (250GB), £149.99 (500GB)

If you’re carrying data around with you on the move it’s usually prudent to invest in portable storage that’s a little more rugged and durable than your average external hard drive. Freecom takes an adventurous turn in this market with the Toughdrive Sport, an external, 2.5-inch, USB 2.0 drive for Macs and PCs with outdoors in mind.

It protects data with a range of technology that includes an anti-shock mechanism, integrated USB cable and a toughened exterior that can allegedly withstand drops onto a hard surface from two metres. The case itself isn’t as rubberised as we’d have liked but does feel like it could absorb knocks and scrapes with ease. It features a stylish red and black design with a hole at the top end to thread the supplied karabiner clip though, as a secure way to carry it on a belt or bag.

In addition to this exterior protection, the Toughdrive Sport also includes built-in 256-bit MD5 encryption technology to protect data against prying eyes. This kicks in the first time you plug the drive in, taking the form of a hard drive protection wizard that’ll walk you through the process of setting up a password for your data.

If you choose to use this feature, the password will be required any time you plug the drive in to access data or view contents. If you forget the password, the only option is to reformat the drive, thereby erasing the contents to start again from scratch. Handily, encryption can be removed using the preloaded software which then allows the drive to be accessed as normal.

The ToughDrive also supports Turbo USB 2.0, which allegedly offers transfer speeds up to 40 percent faster than regular high-speed USB and this driver can be enabled from the software provided. We took it for a quick spin and noted that a 1GB transfer time of 48 seconds with a regular connection dropped to 45 seconds with Turbo USB 2.0 enabled. Not quite the quoted 40 percent, but it’s pretty fast anyway so we can’t see too many people complaining.

Other supplied software includes NTI Shadow, which allows you to create and modify backup jobs based on common file formats such as audio, video, photos and documents, or custom types and manual file or folder selection. The application is quick and easy to configure and uses a wizard to walk through file selection and scheduling, with multiple-file version backups available if necessary.

There are also trial versions of NTI Ripper for grabbing tunes from audio CDs and MySecurityCenter Internet Security Suite, which includes anti-virus, firewall and anti-spam protection. Since all of this software (along with associated manuals) will be lost if you have to format the drive after forgetting a password, Freecom encourages you to save it all to a local folder on your hard drive, and a small application is even provided to do this.

Typically there’s not a lot to talk about when it comes to external hard drives, so we were impressed to see attention to detail in additions like the auto-encryption, effective backup software and the range of other tools and applications provided here.

It strikes a good balance between being easy to configure and offering genuinely useful features and combines with a stylish, rugged design and choice of capacities from 250GB to 500GB to offer a solid all-round solution. As external hard drive packages go, Freecom has done a nice job of making the Toughdrive one of the most versatile and appealing on the market.

Company: Freecom

Contact: +31 (0)70336 76 00

Despite the premium involved in a rugged, outdoor-oriented drive like the Toughdrive Sport, Freecom stops just short of making it overpriced. When you consider what else you're getting for your money, it's difficult not to like it as a comprehensive backup and security solution for those looking for additional protection.