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External Storage: Terabyte Drives Compared

External Storage: Terabyte Drives Compared

It’s been interesting to watch storage prices drop in recent months. Hard drives as large as 750 GB have already fallen below $100 and we expect terabyte models to be available at roughly that price during the holiday season. External hard drives used to cost significantly more than bare hard drives. But prices in this market segment have dropped as third-party vendors started offering custom-made storage solutions at more attractive price points than conventional drive makers. Leading hard drive manufacturers are offering some excellent external terabyte drives to satisfy your storage demands, and they’re priced at a reasonable $200 on average.

External Means Flexible

The conventional ways to increase storage capacity are to install a second hard drive in your PC or to replace your existing hard drive with one that provides more storage capacity. However, availability of inexpensive, quick interfaces such as FireWire and eSATA makes permanent installation obsolete, and they allow most consumers to purchase storage products they can use much more flexibly. You can use an external hard drive with multiple PCs or notebooks, to store data in a central location, or to store single-system backups. But more importantly, external drives are semi-portable, which means your data isn’t chained to one PC hosting the storage device. The USB 2.0 interface is ubiquitous, but it isn’t the best choice anymore, as it bottlenecks every external drive and most portable hard drives using 2.5” and 1.8” hard drives.

Throughput Counts

A good external hard drive will not only provide the storage capacity you need, but will also deliver high throughput, as well as low power consumption and a useful software bundle. Throughput is critical—you don’t want large copy jobs or backups to take all day. Think about it: With hard drive capacities of 1 TB (1,000 GB) and heading up to 1.5 TB (1,500 GB), who has time to wait?


Any decent external hard drive comes equipped with USB 2.0 for compatibility with just about any host system. In addition, eSATA drives have also become essential, and many PCs now come with at least one SATA connector for an eSATA drive. Many external drives also feature a hardware power switch, so you can physically switch them off when you’re not using them. Finally, all other things being equal, compare product design and software bundle .

We review the LaCie External Hard Disk, Design by Neil Poulton, Seagate FreeAgent XTreme, SimpleTech ProDrive, and Western Digital My Book Home Edition.

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    goozaymunanos , 20 October 2008 20:38
    hmmz, final power consumption chart states that it's "sorted by stand by", yet on the legend it says that the black bars are stand by?

    so the order goes:



    if anything it's sorted by idle, the yellows bars...

    at least get your charts right..!


    p.s. stuff and nonsense:
  • 0 Hide
    conquerz , 14 November 2008 18:58

    I noticed that error too in the chart, but I also noticed the following in the review for the WD drive:

    "In addition, this is the only drive that still requires 0.4 W once the host system is shut down. Even when the drive is shut off using the power switch, it still consumes 0.3 W. This isn’t the case with the competitors."

    If the WD is the only drive which consumes 0.4W when the system is shutdown, then what is the 5.5W power doing in the chart for the Seagate drive?

    Also, the seagate drive doesn't have a switch, so there shouldn't be a value on the chart for this as it could be misleading.