SlimGate 2.5in HDD External Enclosure review
There are many tempting reasons to upgrade the hard disk in your notebook, and we reviewed six likely options in last month’s PC Pro. But another benefit of the upgrade is that you’ll suddenly have your original hard disk going spare, so why not use it for extra storage or as an external backup drive?
To see how the various offerings compared, we bought two from retail stores (Micro Anvika and Maplin Electronics) and another two from online shops. It’s immediately clear that you can save a lot of money by shopping online, even after taking postage into account. They arrived within two days of our placing the order too. The only drawback is that, with prices this low, returning faulty or unwanted products is almost too much hassle to justify the reclaimed cash.
The performance of our four enclosures was as near-identical as to make it almost irrelevant. Providing you buy an enclosure that boasts the Hi-Speed Certified USB badge (and not the unofficial Full-Speed Certified USB badge, which indicates USB 1.1 rather than USB 2 speeds), you should get similar speeds to ours: with the PC Pro Recommended Seagate Momentus 5400.3 in place, writing 100MB of small files took just over a minute, while a single 100MB file took five seconds. It’s the speed of the disk rather than the interface that’s the limiting factor here.
So what possible reason is there to spend more than £20 on the SlimGate enclosure from Maplin? It’s certainly the most stylish of the four offerings, with rounded edges and a brushed metallic appearance, even though the shell is plastic. Build quality isn’t fantastic, though, with the plastic front actually coming away from the printed circuit board, and the only “extra” is a mini screwdriver.
The Newlink enclosure, which we bought from Micro Anvika, is a little more interesting. Its packaging makes a big point of the inclusion of SyncQuick software (www.syncquick.com), which is a relatively straightforward piece of backup software. There’s quite a neat feature to synchronise folders (or indeed the entire disk) to back up, though, and we certainly appreciate the fact that some software was included.
Nevertheless, we’re not the Newlink’s biggest fans. The casing may be aluminium, but its dark blue finish looks nicer on paper than it does in reality. It’s also extremely fiddly to fit the disk inside, as you have to use four screws to keep it in place; all the other enclosures rely on two, and do just as good a job of keeping the disk secure.
The Mobile Disk provided by www.advdata.co.uk (click on the Ebay store logo and search for “external laptop disk”) comes with a square plastic travel case that you can use to keep it together with its cabling, although the driver CD (necessary for Windows 98 SE) doesn’t fit. Despite the enclosure itself being aluminium, it’s a long way from being stylish too: the attempt at producing a brushed finish just looks tacky in the flesh, especially as the body is so square.
Which leaves us with our winner – the Dynamode – and it’s no coincidence that it’s also the cheapest here. Despite costing only £7 (and still only £12 including VAT and delivery), it’s just as fast as all of its more expensive brethren, it comes with everything you need – a screwdriver to install the disk, a cheap but effective leather-effect carry case, and a mini-CD with the Windows 98 driver – and, although it won’t turn heads, it doesn’t look ugly.