The Hitachi SimpleTough external hard drive is one of many ruggedised storage devices we've seen recently. The Iomega eGo Camo and Transcend StoreJet 25 mobile both offer drives with a protective exterior designed to survive drops and physical abuse, but the SimpleTough is truly the toughest of them all, with the ability to withstand drops of up to 3m. The SimpleTough is available in 320GB (£65) and 500GB (£80) versions.
Hard as nails
The general rule of thumb with ruggedised gadgets is: the tougher the device, the uglier it looks. The SimpleTough walks a fine line between beefed-up durability and unapologetic hideousness. The exterior of the drive is wrapped in a carbon-black rubberised weave with a smooth texture that has a surprising amount of grip. Large, rubberised shock bumpers protect the drive on both sides. These barriers are sturdy enough to protect your data from up to a 3m drop -- that's twice as high a drop as the eGo Camo can survive -- and pressure of up to one tonne.
You can only connect the drive to a computer with a USB connection (we wish it had FireWire for Mac users), but the drive has a convenient built-in cord that wraps and neatly hooks itself underneath the chassis. The cord is also wrapped in a hard plastic that we assume will last just as long as the body. The drive is USB-powered, so there's no need for an external power source.
In addition to protection from physical damage, Hitachi gives you a two-tiered solution to prevent data loss because of other circumstances. First, the Local Backup software lets you set up automatic backups to a host computer, and the Ultimate Backup software gives you 2GB of free online storage through Hitachi's off-site servers. You also get a free copy of Joggle, Hitachi's media-organisation tool, which lets you view and arrange your photos, music and videos without clicking through multiple menu levels or Web sites. Finally, the software makes it easy to share content through social networks and personal Web pages.
We performed a simple data-transfer test to compare the SimpleTough with four other external drives in a similar price range. The test results place the SimpleTough right in the middle at 28.6MBps to read and 22.3MBps to write our 6GB mixed-media file folder. The chart shows the faster and slower drives on the market, but the differences are so minor that you probably won't be able to tell unless you're transferring a 10GB or larger file.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
With an ultra-durable design, useful software and convenient integrated USB cable, the Hitachi SimpleTough is ideal for travellers and clumsy folk.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet