Buffalo DriveStation Axis 1-3TB review: easy to set up external storage for Mac

The Buffalo DriveStation Axis is a no-thrills USB 3.0 external hard drive that enables you to extend the storage of a Mac with undue fuss. It comes in 1TB, 2TB and 3TB models and a single USB 3.0 Connection enables it to connect directly to your Mac. Plug in the external power supply and you're good to go: we tested out the 1TB model.

It connects via USB 3.0 (backwards compatible to USB 2.0) so just about every Mac will be able to use it. Once hooked up the Buffalo DriveStation Axis offers an addition 1-2 TB (terabytes) of storage space which can be used to store and access files on your Mac.

See: Storage reviews & Hard Drive reviews

It comes pre-loaded with a range of tools for PC users: Turbo PC, Backup Utility, TurboCopy, Eco Manager, Secure Lock Mobile and RAMDISK utility. For Mac users all you get is a folder with a Formatting Guide and Manual (both in PDF format). It's worth noting that the drive (like many external hard drive) comes formatted to the old Windows Fat-32 standard, so a trip to Disk Utility and a re-format to the Mac OS X Journaled standard should be your first step.

Buffalo DriveStation Axis ports

Buffalo DriveStation Axis transfer speeds

During testing the drive averages out at 240 MB/s read and 300MB/s write speed. This is a good speed, although it won't live up to some of the newer external SSD drives that are now on the market. But it's certainly got more oomph than many other drives we've tested recently.

We opened up the Buffalo DriveStation 1TB drive to take a look inside and found a commendable Seagate Barracuda 1TB drive at 7,200 RPM with a dedicated control board attached. This is faster than the 5,400 RPM drive we were expecting. The Seagate Barracuda is the same model that Apple itself often chooses for the 27-inch iMac, so it comes  commended.

See: Lab Test: 27-iMac results 

The board provides the USB 3.0 to SATA connection and has a light. Storage Review points out that this board doesn't have any on-board power supply. So if the power to the drive fails during transfer you will lose that data.

It's worth noting that Buffalo will source different drives for the DriveStation, so you might end up with a drive running at the slower speed of 5,400 RPM. This would affect the data transfer speed and bring it down to a level we were expecting.

Buffalo DriveStation Axis internal drive

But the Buffalo DriveStation isn't really being sold as a high performance, or workstation drive, but an accessible consumer solution (it's billed by Buffalo as "the easy to use 1-drive USB 3.0 storage and backup solution"). And the £49 price point bears that out. Buffalo also sells a DriveStation Axis Velocity with a 7,200 RPM drive as a standard feature and 256-bit AES hardware encryption. Sadly there's no way to tell on the regular DriveStation whether it's also packing the 7,200 RPM drive without breaking it open.

At this price the Buffalo DriveStation provides great performance for a reasonable amount of money and if you get a 7,200 RPM drive inside you're in luck. Packing USB 3.0 is a good standard, and although you might be tempted to get a ThunderBolt drive they currently start at roughly twice as much as this drive. This is a good consumer hard drive.

OUR VERDICT

If only you could tell which drive was going to sport the 7,200 RPM drive and which one a slower 5,400 drive? As it stands you could get lucky with one of these drives. Aside from that the Buffalo DriveStation is a solid performing, no-thrills and no-complications external USB hard drive. You plug it in and use it (although you should format it first to a better Mac standard). It's good value at £50.

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