Aegis Bio – USB 3.0

There are plenty of reasons to own an external hard drive. Whether as a simple backup, to free up space on a full notebook drive, or for data portability between work and home, a portable hard drive is the tool of choice to offload serious data off a system hard drive. Sure, a USB flash drive on a key ring is great for convenience, but when it comes time to move hundreds of gigs of data, a mechanical hard drive can offer capacity like nothing else can.

The downside of putting sensitive data on a hard drive, and taking it out and about is that then the data is vulnerable. While Windows 8 is password protected on bootup by default, there is no such default level of protection on an external drive. Those hundreds of gigs of data, now can be accessed by anyone that finds such a drive forgotten at the local Starbucks. That external drive is now becoming somewhat less attractive.

However, there is a solution that allows one to have the cake and eat it too. Apricorn makes a whole line of products that offer portable capacity that is encrypted, and protected. Today, we look at the Apricorn Aegis Bio – USB 3.0.

This device is available in a range of sizes at different price points:
  • 500 GB - $199
  • 750 GB - $219
  • 1 TB - $249

All the drives in this series are encrypted at 256 bits. This is military grade encryption, that fits the requirements of governments for “Top Secret” documents. While any encryption scheme can be theoretically broken, we are talking about 1.1 x 1077 combinations of passwords, that is estimated via a brute force attack for a computer to take 3.31 x 1056 years to break. Let’s just say that no one is getting into one of these drives anytime soon is an understatement.

The drive ships with the Aegis Bio – USB 3.0 which has the hard drive preinstalled. It is a black plastic case, and it has an integrated USB cable (19mm X 84.5mm X 120mm (0.75” X 3.3” X 4.7”) Weight: 6.2oz). It has the blue connection and can work both with a USB 3.0, and is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 (but you’ll want to plug it into the newer slot when you can- more on that a little later). The box also ships with some accessories, including a USB Y-connector, and a nylon case. The Y-connector is useful if your USB port does not provide enough power, you can up the juice by plugging it into 2 USB ports simultaneously. The case has some padding, closes with Velcro, and is made of nylon. It looks durable and slick, and is a step up from what these types of drives have shipped with previously.

The Aegis Bio – USB 3.0 has its encryption based on fingerprint password protection. Up to 5 fingers can be enrolled, which means that the device has scanned them by swiping the finger across the biometric sensor. This insures that the device can only be unlocked by the owner. Even if the case is cracked open, and the drive is mounted in another reader, the drive is still encrypted, and you can start guessing for the next billion years or so. Whenever the drive is unplugged from the USB port, it automatically locks again, making sure only the owner can get into this thing. Another feature is that the drive needs no software installed on the PC, aka: no “administrator rights” are required. This also means that is can work with any OS- including Windows, Mac or Linux.

The innards of this include a Toshiba MQ01ABD100, which is a 2.5 inch notebook hard drive, and uses a SATA 3 GB/s interface internally. It has a slim height of 9.5 mm which allows the case to remain at a svelte size. It spins at a pedestrian 5,400 rpm, has a 12 ms average seek time reported and has 8 mb of internal buffer memory. The usual “format shrink” applies, with the 750 GB capacity coming up at 697 GB, which was the capacity tested.

The speeds were tested using HDTune. The results are reported below, along with my notebook’s system drive for comparison. Testing was done with a Lenovo notebook, running Windows 8, with 4 GB of RAM, and an Intel Core i3-3217U chip. Of course, all other processes were shut off for testing so the notebook could give this its undivided attention. Speeds reported are the average read speeds.

  • Aegis Bio on USB 2.0: 28.9 mb/sec
  • Aegis Bio on USB 3.0: 84.4 mb/sec
  • Western Digital 500 Gb system drive (SATA): 79.9 mb/sec

Looking at the speeds, the USB 3.0 was the clear winner here. I was quite surprised that it exceeded the speeds of the SATA drive, and was almost 3 times faster on USB 3.0 over the more ubiquitous USB 2.0 interface. When moving serious amounts of data, which the capacities of the Aegis Bio – USB 3.0 can handle, the faster USB 3.0 interface is clearly the port to be attached to, and should make a more than noticeable difference in speeds. Thankfully, most new computers these days are shipping with at least one USB 3.0 port.

Overall, the Aegis Bio- USB 3.0 is a useful device. It performed stably in testing, across a variety of Windows computers. When transferring truckloads of data, the Aegis Bio – USB 3.0 can be counted upon to keep it all secure. It is backed by a 3 year limited warranty.

Reviewed by Jonas
Overall Grade: A

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