If you are in the market for a new external portable hard drive, then the Buffalo MiniStation Metro is a good solution for your portable storage needs. Its smart and clean design is perfect for throwing into a briefcase or pocketbook. Its very lightweight at only 8.5 ounces and it has a unique exterior with an integrated Flex USB cable that wraps around the hard drive, thus alleviating an additional bulge in your bag from a USB cable. As a result, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting to bring a USB cable with you again. And in case the Flex USB cable is not long enough for your computer, then there is an included extension USB cable to attach to your computer as well. The design also features Buffalo’s BumperBody shock absorbers that “surround the hard drive inside a sturdy body that also has rubberized protectors on the outside.” Although not being marketed as a rugged hard drive, we dropped the hard drive a few times from about a foot high on to a desk and threw it around a little to test just how shock absorbing the drive is, and the MiniStation Metro kept on running.
The Buffalo MiniStation Metro is compatible with both Mac and PC out of the box. The hard drive comes with a bunch of software for you to install when you attach it to your computer. This is a nice change from having to run a CD for software and this is a trend that is becoming more common with portable hard drives.
Upon attaching the MiniStation to the Mac running the Snow Leopard OS, it picked it up right away. Unfortunately, the only software included on the drive that is Mac compatible, is the option to enable Turbo USB which makes data transfers speedier. To enable this feature all you have to do is install it and then restart the computer.
After setting up the MiniStation Metro on a Mac, it was time to see if it was just as simple to work with on the Windows side. With a resounding yes – it was. The drive is compatible with the Windows 7′s latest release candidate, as well as Windows XP. We were up and running in no time. The Drive Navigator software popped up just the same as it did when I selected it on the Mac computer. This time however there were a lot more software options.
Testing in Windows, HDTach reported that the drive could read files at an average of 19mb per second which is pretty much on average with similar USB 2.0 bus powered portable hard drives. However, once we installed Buffalo’s Turbo USB, HDTach reported read speeds to be an average of 44.3mb per second! That is a 133% increase and way above average for other USB 2.0 hard drives in its class! Unfortunately we were not able to test write speeds in HDTach without having to format the drive and its partition, which would mean losing all of the included software. But we imagine that write speeds are not too far off. Transferring a 1.15gb file on to the drive took 1:40 seconds with Turbo USB installed. Before Turbo USB was installed, the same file took a 2:38 to write on to the drive. With Turbo USB enabled, file transfer times were significantly cut down in half.
The MiniStation Metro also played back 720×480 videos seamlessly when played directly off of the hard drive. Notably, the drive is also completely silent when spinning. The only thing that indicates that it’s working is the busy light which is purple in color.
First and foremost is the Encryption software which lets you encrypt your drive so that if you have confidential files that you don’t want preying eyes to see. Just enter a password of your choosing and the drive is locked and only unlockable with the code. However, the software warns you that If you want to take advantage of this encryption feature you will not be able to use the drive as a standalone simple drive or with a Mac. This is kind of a bummer personally since we use both Mac and PCs on a daily basis, and we imagine that many other people also do.
The other software included for the Windows side is Picasa, an already free Photo organization app that is easily downloadable for Mac too. Eco Manager is also included which monitors the power of the drive so that its doesn’t waste unnecessary power, saving you money in the end and probably extending the lifespan of your drive. Lastly, Memeo Autosync is also included which lets you backup and sync two selected files or folders and constantly sync to the hard drive. This software only comes with a 30 day trial period, which is annoying. Quite surprisingly, there was no back up software included. So Windows users who want to use the hard drive for backup purposes, will be left to their own resources. Fortunately for Mac users, the drive is Time Machine compatible. The one software program that both Mac and PC shared was the Turbo USB which is a nice inclusion since it certainly makes the file transfers peppier.
Overall I wasn’t at all disappointed with the hardware side of the Buffalo MiniStation Metro. It is a smartly designed hard drive that is well constructed and pretty slick. I was however disappointed that all of the software included with it didn’t work for both Mac and PC, and I was also disappointed by the fact that one of the software applications included was trialware. It also seems off that that Backup software is left out. That said, the MiniStation Metro is really about being a portable hard drive that you can carry in your bag to transfer files back and forth between computers, more so than a backup hard drive. But putting the software issues aside – installation of the MiniStation was a breeze and it does run nice and quietly and its fast performance (with Turbo USB installed) make it ideal for those high-level executives who will use that encryption software and need to sneak out quickly without being detected with their MiniStation safely tucked away.
The MiniStation Metro Portable USB 2.0 Hard Drive comes in capacities from 250GB to 500GB and the colors Black, Red, and White. We’re especially fond of the red version which we reviewed – the color pops, and we also appreciated that the integrated USB cable and extra included USB extender cable even match it. Fortunately, the Buffalo MiniStation Metro is also very competitively priced, it retails upwards from $82.06 for the 250GB version, $89 for the 300GB version, and $110.98 for the 500GB version.
The Good: Great lighweight and portable design with three colors to choose from (white, red, black), included encryption software adds level of security, integrated Flex Connect USB cable so you don’t have to worry about bringing along a cable, both Mac and PC compatible, Turbo USB makes drive extra peppy
The Bad: No backup software included, don’t like that trialware is included, encryption mode not supported with Mac