6 of the best 1TB external hard drives for your Mac

21st Nov 2010 | 10:00

6 of the best 1TB external hard drives for your Mac

1TB external drives rated on performance and features

Best 1TB external hard drives for Mac

Upgrading your Mac's internal hard drive can be a tricky task. It's simple enough if you own a Mac Pro, and the drives in the current MacBook range are designed to be user-accessible.

But if you're running an iMac or a Mac mini, replacing the HDD is a task for the professionals.

Plugging in an external drive is far more convenient and gives you an extra drive rather than a replacement one. But with so many on offer, which do you choose?

For this group test, we're looking at mains-powered desktop devices, based on 3.5-inch form factor hard drives. To make sure we're comparing like with like, they're all 1TB, though most models are available in more than one capacity.

The advantage of these drives is that their price-per-GB ratio is better than that offered by portable drives, which are smaller, use 2.5-inch HDDs and are powered through their USB or FireWire data connection.

Of course, desktop drives are also less convenient to take from A to B. If your external drive seldom, if ever, leaves your computer, a desktop drive is for you.

Macs recognise Windows formatted drives, and reformatting is a simple task anyway, so we've not taken out-of-the-box formatting into account when awarding marks. All drives were formatted to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for testing.

Freecom

External hard drives on test

Buffalo DriveStation - £74
Freecom Hard Drive Quattro - £114
G-Technology G-Drive - £161
Hitachi LifeStudio Desk Plus - £88
Iomega Ego Desktop Hard Drive Mac Edition - £115
Lacie Starck - £99

Design quality and performance

Test one: Design quality

Lacie starck

Full marks for the LaCie here. Designed by top industrial designer Philippe Starck, its sturdy aluminium casing and shiny, molten metal front look absolutely gorgeous. Starck's signature cross sign is projected onto the desktop as a drive status LED too, which is a nice touch.

The G-DRIVE is designed to match the Mac Pro, but looks good next to any modern Mac. Build quality is excellent too, being sturdily crafted from brushed aluminium.

The Quattro is equally sturdy, but is clearly built for function rather than aesthetics. It's not ugly, but it's just not all that eye-catching either.

The Hitachi LifeStudio Desk Plus's plastic build is solid enough, but its form factor and detachable USB key means it demands accessible desk space, and cannot be tucked away out of sight.

Buffalo's DriveStation also features a plastic casing. Its shiny surface is reasonably attractive, but it picks up fingerprints faster than the CSI team.

Test results

test 1

Test Two: Performance

Buffalo drivestation

Of the six drives on offer, the Starck, LifeStudio and DriveStation are USB-only, but the DriveStation includes turbo drivers for increased speed. The others all offer FireWire 800 connectivity.

Only the Quattro has a FireWire 400 port, but the eGo and G-DRIVE units bundle a FW400-800 cable so you can connect the drive to your Mac's FireWire 400 port.

We tested each drive twice, using its fastest connection and bare-bones USB. As most modern Macs have FireWire and desktop drives are rarely carried around and shared with USB-only computers, the fastest test is the most important.

And not surprisingly, quickest off the blocks is the Iomega eGo, closely followed by G-Tech's G-DRIVE, both under FireWire 800. Freecom's Quattro also has FireWire 800, but is a little slow compared to the fastest two. Buffalo's USB 2.0 connectivity is significantly boosted by a bundled turbo driver – a great touch for the cheapest drive on offer.

Test results

test 2

Features and value for money

Test Three: Features

Hitachi

Hitachi describes its LifeStudio as 'the hard drive redefined'. It's far more than a bare storage device.

Its bundled management suite lets you find, organise and share digital content, view your photos on social networking sites, access online content such as games, news, music and videos, and autosync with the removable USB key mounted on the front of the drive. It's probably not the best choice if you only want data storage, though. Check out everything it can do at www.lifestudio.com.

LaCie's Starck has a touch-sensitive section used to launch applications, open files, mount and unmount the drive and more. But the software used to configure it is very flaky when running Snow Leopard.

The Starck also gives 10GB of Wuala online storage for a year and a backup package. Iomega's eGo offers a good range of software, including a year's subscription to Trend Micro's Trend Smart Surfing and 2GB storage with MozyHome Online Backup.

Test results

test 3

Test Four: Value for money

G-Drive

Most of the drives put in a solid rather than spectacular performance when assessed for value for money. The Hitachi LifeStudio Desk Plus is an exception. Given its feature set, its online price of under £90 is a bargain, though once again, not every Mac user wants its unique abilities.

The eGo and Quattro drives are very good value for money given the range of connectivity options they offer, but the also-versatile G-DRIVE is a little expensive for a hard drive of 1TB capacity, despite its good looks and quality.

Considering its pedigree, you'd expect the LaCie Starck to cost more, but it's actually pretty reasonable for such a uniquely fashioned device. It would certainly have scored higher had its support software not proved so unreliable under Snow Leopard.

Buffalo's DriveStation is the cheapest drive on test here, but too many of its bundled features, such as encryption, are Windows-only. Its turbo driver is welcome, though.

Test results

Test 4

The best 1TB external hard drive is...

The Winner: Iomega eGo Desktop Mac Edition

Iomega

When adding an external HDD, most of us just want a big, dumb drive for data storage. Iomega's speedy eGo Desktop Hard Drive Mac Edition is ideal. It boasts FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 connectivity, with a bundled cable that lets you connect it to a FireWire 400 port if necessary.

The bundled stand lets you position it on its side, and with its grey plastic finish and front grille, it looks right at home next to any aluminium-bodied Mac.

Two drives make worthy runners-up. Hitachi's LifeStudio Desk Plus offers a great range of features, accessed via a neat 3D browser, but if all you want is storage, it isn't for you.

The G-Technology G-DRIVE is ideal for Mac Pro owners who like matching peripherals, but it isn't cheap.

Test results

final results

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First published in MacFormat Issue 227

Liked this? Then check out 6 of the best portable hard drives for your Mac

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