Plextor – PX-SP08U review

robust and compact 80GB portable hard drive
Photo of Plextor – PX-SP08U
£99 + VAT

There are three effective ways of carrying data around with you: for small amounts, say up to a couple of gigabytes, you can use flash drives, and for up to five gigabytes there are rewritable DVDs, but for higher capacities you need a portable hard drive. These can be physically small and with capacities into tens if not hundreds of gigabytes, but there have always been some worries over their robustness. Drop one and you could lose very large amounts of information.

Plextor has just released a pair of new, ruggedised, portable drives, the 120GB PX-SP12U and the 80GB PX-SP08U, the latter reviewed here. The only difference between the two is their capacities. Both are based on 5,200rpm, 2.5-inch drives with 8MB buffers.

The drive is housed in a light alloy case with just a single socket to connect a USB 2 cable. It needs USB 2, and even then the connection’s top transfer rate of 480Mb/s is the governing factor, not the speed of the drive. Plug it into a USB 1 socket and you’ll be lucky to see a tenth of that. The drive needs no extra power source; it derives all it needs from the USB socket.

Under test, we wrote a 1GB mixed basket of files to the drive in 1 minute 37 seconds and read them back again in 1:08, giving an average transfer rate of just under 100Mb/s. This is only about a fifth of the theoretical maximum available from the USB 2 socket, but is still considerably quicker than writing to a DVD, though slower than using a flash drive.

The publicity and the box claim the drive is shockproof when dropped up to 80cm. We tried this onto an office-style carpeted floor and the drive worked fine afterwards. It’s important to keep the silicon rubber surround fitted, though, as this provides most of the cushioning. 80cm is a good height to pick, as it’s the height of most office desks.

Knock this drive off your desk and the data should survive, as long as it’s not plugged in. When you unplug the drive or switch off the PC it’s connected to, it parks its heads so they can’t crash into the surface of the disk platters.

Plextor supplies a copy of its Plextools Professional software with the PX-SP08U and this provides an easy way of setting the drive up, though it’s quite happy on its default settings. It would have been good to see some back-up software, though, as that is likely to be one of the most popular uses for this drive.

Company: Plextor

Contact: 00 32 2 725 55 22

If you need to carry around large amounts of data - perhaps music, photos or video - the PX-SP08U, which comes with a two-year warranty, does pretty much what it says on the box. It's robust and very easy to use. It isn't the fastest drive in the world, but this is more a function of USB 2 than any inherent limitation in the Plextor drive itself.