DriveStation Combo 4 review

There’s no doubt that the markets for external storage devices – like the capacities of the drives themselves – are expanding. It’s almost debatable whether consumer demand is driving technological development or vice versa, but each month seems to bring a new crop of devices in varying configurations, and with equally various selling points. The Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 is a case in point.

In terms of design, the DriveStation Combo 4 matches the current range of Macs with its aluminium casing and curved stand. This is rather let down by the slightly tacky looking front panel, which is backlit blue when the unit is turned on.

What really matters with any external hard disk is the contents of the case, and the 500GB unit supplied for testing had the usually reliable 7,200rpm Samsung Spinpoint internal drive, together with the electronics to convert the disk’s SATA connection to the external ones: 1x mini- USB 2.0, 1x 6-pin Firewire 400 (IEEE1394a) 2x FireWire 800 (IEEE1394b), and 1x eSATA connector. Of these, all but the eSATA had a cable supplied. Incidentally, we were surprised to see that the drive had a mini USB downstream port, much like those used on some external Flash card readers and cameras, as cables with this type of connector can be more difficult to source than standard ones, should you ever need to replace the one supplied by Buffalo.

Like many external hard disks, the Combo 4 arrived formatted using the Master Boot Record partition map scheme, and with the volume format MS-DOS (FAT), which is more suited to use with a Windows PC. Anyone thinking of using the device with Time Machine will therefore need to change these settings (to GUID Partition Table and Mac OS Extended, respectively, for Intel Macs, and Apple Partition Map and Mac OS Extended for PowerPC Macs).

On test, the Combo 4 transferred a large (1.25GB) file from our test machine – a 2.8GHz quad-core Mac Pro – to the disk with the following results: FireWire 400, 38.58 seconds; FireWire 800, 23.40 seconds; USB 2.0, 47.06 seconds; and eSATA, 19.92 seconds. These times equate to 33.13Mbps, 54.62Mbps, 27.16Mbps and 64.16Mbps respectively.

OUR VERDICT

For anyone looking for an easy-to-configure backup volume, the Drive Station Combo 4 fits the bill nicely. It also worked well as a remote disk over our Airport Extreme network. Those needing industrial-strength backup should consider investing in a mirrored RAID system, however.

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