External Storage Guide
First Looks: Buffalo MiniStation Plus – Head Of The Herd
Running With the Bull
It has been quite a while since the new USB 3.0 interface standard was introduced back in November of 2008. Since then, early adopters have been waiting with bated breath for the first consumer devices to sport the new interface. The subsequent years saw the arrival of the first wave of USB 3.0 enabled motherboards, notebooks and external hard drives, such as the ASUS NX90Jq, released in the middle of 2010.
For your information, Japan-based Buffalo was the company that brought the world’s first USB 3.0 external hard drive, the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 external DriveStation HD-HXU3, in November 2009, just one year after the standard was completed. Today they offer a number of portable hard drives, and leading the herd with its high-speed interface is the MiniStation Plus
Storage manufacturers rarely experiment with the external design of their portable hard drives, preferring to keep them as small, sleek and inconspicuous as possible, given the nature of their use. Buffalo is no exception, and their latest MiniStation is no exception. In fact, it looks almost generic as the “Buffalo” and “MiniStation” logos are hardly readable on its black edges, which are only disrupted by a flushed indicator light, which we noticed turns blue when the drive is plugged into a USB 3.0 port.
It isn’t the sleekest of portable hard drives, nor it is the most ruggedly-constructed either. It has a decidedly run-of-the-mill feel and look about it. The only sign of its cutting-edge innards is the blue stripe on the USB plug at one end of its cable, and the micro-USB 3.0 socket at the opposite end, which looks like two micro-USB 2.0 sockets stuck together. This design allows for a greater flow of electricity and, therefore, much faster data transfers over the previous generation USB 2.0 interface.
Performance and Special Features
Our ATTO hard drive benchmarks revealed the read and write speed gains of USB 3.0, with the MiniStation reaching up to 81.2MBps on USB 3.0 compared to just 24.7MBps write and 31MBps read speeds on USB 2.0. In comparison, the Transcend StoreJet 25M3, also a USB 3.0 portable hard drive, reached only as far as 48MBps on USB 3.0. As for file transfers, we were able to copy a 700MB movie file in 14 seconds and a larger 1.76GB HD movie file in just 26 seconds, over USB 3.0.
|External Hard Drive||Read Speed (in MBps)||Write Speed (in MBps)|
|Buffalo MiniStation Plus||81.1||81.2|
|Transcend StoreJet 25M3||48||45|
The Buffalo MiniStation Plus comes with a software suite common across all of Buffalo's external storage line. These are Turbo PC, Turbo Copy, RAMDISK Utility, Backup utility and SecureLock Mobile. Turbo PC and RAMDISK Utility speed up your system by providing an external high-speed cache. SecureLock Mobile, on the other hand. lets you encrypt your data with a password, but you run the risk of losing all of it if you lose your password. Finally, Turbo Copy supposedly makes file transfers even faster even with the already blazing-fast USB 3.0 connection, however, we did not observe any significant increase in transfer speed.
All in all, we think that Buffalo has a solid product with the MiniStation Plus. Its plain-Jane looks and average build quality are not really an issue since these features do not really affect the drive's overall performance. We were definitely impressed though with its USB 3.0 capabilities, clearly leapfrogging over the older USB 2.0 standard in terms of transfer, read and write speeds. The bundled software is also a plus, providing system performance enhancements and security to an already handy device.