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Maximum PC Staff

Aug 15, 2008

Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4

At A Glance

Rump Shakin'

USB, Firewire 400, Firewire 800, and eSATA connections; TurboUSB is speedy.

Rump Roast

Not the fastest drive on Vista; security utility comes with a few bugs.

Buffalo’s 500GB DriveStation Combo 4 external drive is the fastest USB drive we’ve ever tested, and it even holds its own on an eSATA connection. That’s thanks to a propriety technology called TurboUSB that squeaks additional speeds out of the device. On Windows XP, a DriveStation connected with TurboUSB improved its synthetic read and write speeds by 20 percent (even though its burst speeds confused our benchmark) over a typical USB connection. The device’s real-world speeds weren’t as dramatic—a mere four percent increase—but it was an improvement nonetheless.

We didn’t see any real-world performance improvement between the two modes in Windows Vista because TurboUSB is built into the operating system itself. We’d definitely use this device on XP, but it’s a wash with Vista.

The DriveStation comes with Memeo AutoBackup software and a full-disk security utility that conceals your drive under 128- or 256-bit AES encryption. The latter program’s lock and unlock shortcuts for the encryption mechanism are mislabeled, but we were more bothered that it accepted our password via USB but rejected it over eSATA.

Minus these quirks, the DriveStation is a fine external storage product. It’s not blazing a speed trail on its eSATA connection, but it stuffs the USB pipe.

Benchmarks

DriveStation Combo 4 (USB) DriveStation Combo 4 (TurboUSB) DriveStation Combo 4 (eSATA) Maxtor OneTouch 4
HDTach Burst (MB/s) 36.2 WNR* 194 35.2
HDTach Random Acess (ms) 17 16.4 16 13.4
HDTach Avg. Read (MB/s) 33.9 41.7 64.2 35
HDTach Avg. Write (MB/s) 32 41.1 59.9 34.4
PCMark 05 Overall 3,698 3,833 6,211 3,519
Best scores for USB/TurboUSB bolded. HD Tach scores taken using version 3.0.1.0. All scores reflect Windows XP benchmarks. *Burst speeds measurements across XP and Vista produced results that were faster than USB’s possible bandwidth.
THE VERDICT

Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4

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