Plextor PXE-HDD 160GB review

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An external hard disk is a simple way to add extra storage to your system. There’s no need to open the case and, because the drive is portable, you can also use it to easily transport huge amounts of data between computers.

Plextor PXE-HDD 160GB review

Naturally, you’ll pay a premium for an external drive over an internal one, but the margin isn’t as big as it used to be and the sheer convenience is worth it if the ultimate in speed isn’t an issue. External drives are slower in use than internal ones owing to the limitations of the USB interface. To discover the extent of this slow-down, we subjected this month’s drives to the same test as the flash drives. For comparison, we also tested our A-Listed internal disk, the Samsung SpinPoint T, and found it able to write 256 4MB files in 32 seconds and read them back in 24 seconds. This established a baseline to illustrate the speed gap between internal and external devices.

Next to the Seagate and the Freecom, the Plextor PXE-HDD 160GB and Western Digital Passport 250GB look tiny and demonstrate just how portable an external disk can be. What’s more, there’s no speed penalty when picking such a diminutive drive. In our tests, both of these units achieved exactly the same read and write times as the Freecom, suggesting that all three drives were saturating the USB controller.

Miniaturisation does have a price, though: the Plextor comes in at £60 for 160GB and the Western Digital costs £91 for its 250GB capacity. If all you need is storage, these drives are poor value compared to the full-sized alternatives.

Where they score over their counterparts is convenience: these drives aren’t just small, they’re also extremely light, weighing just 258g and 172g respectively, meaning you can easily throw one in a bag or even carry one around in your pocket. You don’t have to worry about power supplies, either, as both draw their power from the USB bus.

Confusingly, the Plextor PXE-HDD comes with a proprietary lead that attaches to two USB sockets on the host computer at once, while the Western Digital worked over a single cable. Plextor explains that this is to enable the drive to draw additional power from a second USB port if a single socket isn’t able to power the drive – but this is only an issue if the host device doesn’t fully meet the USB standard. We were left unsure whether the unusual cable was really necessary or not.

Even ignoring these worries, we prefer the Western Digital. It costs more, but offers an extra 90GB of storage and, on a per-gigabyte basis, it’s a shade cheaper than the Plextor – not to mention smaller and lighter.

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