Our first contender is Buffalo, with two drives: the MiniStation and the MiniStation Plus. Although the names suggest variations on a theme, the two drives look quite different: the MiniStation is almost featureless but for a piercing cyan strip along the back of the drive that serves as a power and access indicator; the Plus is a bulgier affair, in black, red or silver cladding, with a softer blue access light at the rear-left corner. Their looks divided opinion in the PC & Tech Authority office, but neither can be called ugly.
Practically speaking, the two drives are fairly similar. The Plus is designed with a degree of shock protection, but it doesn’t make the same claims to robustness as the LaCie Rugged. It also features hardware-assisted encryption, but both drives come with Buffalo’s SecureLockMobile encryption software, so you can easily use 256-bit AES encryption with the regular MiniStation.
You also get the Buffalo Tools suite, including a potentially useful RAM disk utility, Buffalo’s own backup software and its Turbo PC tool, which speeds up file-copy operations. This improved both drives’ scores in our small-file read test by an impressive 25% (the graph on our USB 3.0 hard disc Group Test page shows performance without the software installed).
Overall, though, both MiniStation drives proved slow, placing at or near the bottom of the pack in all of our performance tests. They’re expensive for their size, too, and that remains true if you step up to the 1TB model. That makes them hard to recommend, even if you love the design and the software bundle.