Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB full review

Although other hard drive companies have built extensive and frequently updated product lines, Verbatim quietly entered the fray and proved it can compete with the big boys. Verbatim's SureFire FireWire 800/USB is an unassuming but speedy drive that serves as the company's entry to the burgeoning portable hard drive market. We tested the 500GB model and came away generally impressed.

The black aluminum, 5400-rotations-per-minute Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB produced some strong times in our Speedmark tests. Its three-year limited warranty and versatile interface makes it an attractive and inexpensive option for users looking for a portable hard drive.

The Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB has a simple finger-print-resistant black exterior. Its dimensions are slightly wider and taller than an iPhone, so it can fit into your trouser pocket or backpack. The SureFire also weighs less than half a pound, making it one of the lighter portable hard drives we've reviewed. Due to its light weight, the SureFire feels fragile but drop tests confirm it can handle normal wear-and-tear. We put the drive through a "Monday morning stress test" by throwing it around the office for a few minutes and then dropping it from eye level. The hard drive started up as normal and looked no worse for the wear.

You'll know when the Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB is starting up because you can hear a faint hum or see the small blue LED light that denotes activity. The SureFire isn't the quietest drive out there, but the fanless drive never achieved particularly loud levels of activity nor did it ever feel warm to the touch.

The SureFire is technically a dual-interface drive, offering only FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 connection ports. However, the Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB drive comes with several cables, including a FireWire 400 to 800 cord, allowing you to connect to a FireWire 400 port on your computer. The SureFire also comes with a USB power cord that enables the drive to draw additional power from the host computer; this cord is essential to users with older model laptops that don't provide enough power via USB to power up the SureFire.

The Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB comes pre-formatted for the Mac - a bonus for Apple users. Since the drive is already formatted for the Mac, it's also Time Machine ready right out of the box, a nice distinction compared to many competing hard drives. It's also compatible with Windows 2000, XP, Vista and Windows 7.

While the Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB lacks any additional prepackaged software, the unit comes with a three-year limited warranty and a protective carrying case. Though it didn't factor into our ratings at all, the carrying case isn't bad on the eyes and adds some protective cushioning to the drive.

In our time trial tests, the Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB performed admirably, regularly besting some of its stiffest competition in both writing and reading tests. The SureFire finished the 1GB copy test in 34 seconds while using its FireWire 800 connection type. That's one of the best times we've seen for a non-SSD hard drive, particularly a portable drive. The SureFire finished its 1GB copy test with a FireWire 400 connection in 46 seconds and with its USB connection in 51 seconds.

The duplication tests were equally impressive. The SureFire finished the 1GB duplication test in 45 seconds with its FireWire 800 connection - an excellent score.

But the Verbatim SureFire FireWire 800/USB struggled with our regime of low-memory Photoshop tests. While the SureFire has good read and write speeds, the more complex tasks required by the low-memory Photoshop tests taxed the hard drive more.

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