Although USB 3.0 is a relatively new technology that is not yet natively supported by any of the core logic chipsets currently on the market, a number of motherboards from major players like Gigabyte, Asus, and MSI (among others) sport an NEC-built USB 3.0 controller that supports the feature. The main advantage of incorporating such a controller on their products is that USB 3.0 offers significantly more bandwidth than USB 2.0, while also maintaining backward compatibility with the older standard.
To get the most from USB 3.0, however, peripherals that can take advantage of the increased bandwidth offered by the technology also have to be used. A few weeks after motherboards that supported USB 3.0 hit the scene though, a smattering of peripheral manufacturers were at the ready with products that support the new standard as well, including long-time storage giant Seagate.
I was recently given the opportunity to test out Seagate's new Black Armor PS110 USB 3.0 portable hard drive kit. The PS110 USB 3.0 device is a 500GB, 2.5" external / portable USB 3.0 hard drive, which features a 7,200 RPM spindle speed, that's bundled with a couple of interesting accessories and software (please note, a USB 2 version that bares the same name is also available). Of course, a USB 3.0 cable is included in the kit, along with some documentation and software. But more interestingly, a USB 3.0 ExpressCard expansion adapter is included as well, for users who'd like to add USB 3.0 support to a notebook or netbook that features the correct slot.
The drive itself is housed in a sleek, black enclosure that easily fits in a pants pocket. It's quiet and with 500GB of capacity, it'll hold plenty of data. To put some of that capacity to good use, Seagate includes a useful application BlackArmor Backup, that couldn't be easier to use. As its name suggests, BlackArmor Backup can be used to backup files on a system.
The tool is much more capable than a simple file-copier, however. BlackArmor Backup gives users the ability to restore backup images, create protection points, and it has a "try and decide" feature that'll create a secure temporary workspace to testing applications.
Of course, USB 3.0 support is the PS110's main feature. As such, we did some performance testing to see just how USB 3.0 transfer speeds compared to USB 2.0...
As you can see in the ATTO and HDTach scores above, USB 3.0 transfers with the Seagate BlackArmor PS110 are about 3x faster in USB 3.0 mode than in USB 2.0. While connected to a USB 2.0 controller, the drive was able to read data at about 33MB/s and write at about 24MB/s. While connected to a USB 3.0 controller though, the PS110 was able to read and write at about 95MB/s.
If you're in the market for a portable hard drive, the BlackArmor PS110 is an excellent choice. The kit we featured here, which includes the ExpressCard USB 3.0 controller, retails for $179. That's much pricier than generic USB 2.0 500GB drives, but the extra investment nets users much faster transfer rates, some useful applications, and a bit of future-proofing.