Digital files can exist at one moment and, a hard-drive crash or accident later, disappear forever. Losing data is not an everyday occurrence, of course. Neither is being struck by lightning. That doesn’t mean you should tempt fate.
But how far should you go? If you hear a rumble of thunder far off in the distance, do you carry on as normal until it seems closer? Or do you have a weather app on your phone that alerts you when troublesome storms are within 50 miles and prepare accordingly? For those who lean towards the second answer, ioSafe has the external drive of your dreams.
IoSafe calls it the Solo G3. It’s the size of a mini-ITX computer and weighs in at a hefty 15 pounds. According to ioSafe, the drive is rated to protect data from temperatures of up to 1550 degrees Fahrenheit and can withstand full immersion in 10 feet of water for three days. There’s also a cable lock mount to prevent the drive from walking away.
Unlike the smaller ioSafe Rugged Portable, which we reviewed last year, this drive is meant for mass storage. It comes in capacities between one and three terabytes and is priced between $299 and $399. That’s a lot for an external hard drive, but then again, most external hard drives won’t survive if you stick them in an oven.
The strong, silent type
All rugged drives are limited in their design because priority must be placed on function over form. Inevitably, a drive meant to be this durable is going to end up large, heavy and blocky. It can’t be helped.
IoSafe does what it can. Some graceful swooping curves have been added to the corners, and the front of the drive features a bubble design that we wouldn’t call but attractive, but does add a little spice. The only other physical feature of note is the blue drive activity LED which happily blinks whenever files are moved to or from the device.
The back of the device has the same design as the front, but is of course dotted with the power jack, the USB 3.0 port, and the power switch. There is also an engraved serial number attached to the back which will be useful for cataloging where important data is physically kept. After all, if a disaster does happen, it’s unlikely that your ioSafe drives will remain in the place they were originally stored.
No fans are used in this drive, which makes the drive extremely quiet, something that doesn’t change when it is actively being used. Most of the noise of the mechanical drive is absorbed by the hefty case and insulation, and will be lost in the ambient background of your office or home
Our only complaint about the drive’s feature set is the USB cable. One is included, which is typical, but it is only three feet long, and therefor useless for anything besides connection to a desktop or laptop in extremely close proximity to the drive. It’s obviously inadequate for many users, and seems like a strange oversight in this otherwise superb package.
A large external drive like the Solo G3 is built for storage capacity more than performance, which is why this model has no solid state drive options, but the Rugged Portable does. Still, performance does matter. Even the smallest capacity of 1TB represents a lot of data and you’ll require many hours to fill the drive.
With HD Tune, we recorded an average data transfer speed of 91.8 megabytes per second and a burst rate of 117.2 megabytes per second. These figures are solid for a mechanical hard drive and put the ioSafe Solo G3 at the upper end of the performance scale. Its access time of 15.3 milliseconds is, once again, good for a mechanical drive.
Benchmarking with ATTO produced similarly strong figures. The 4KB read/write returned 43.81 and 40.45 megabytes per second, respectably. A larger 4MB read/write offered 124.56 and 128.43 megabytes per second. Again, this represents strong performance for a mechanical drive.
It should be noted that the native USB 3.0 support of this drive seems to have fixed the declining performance problem we noted with the ioSafe Rugged Portable. That drive, which supported both USB 2.0 and 3.0, would experience a slow-down in read/write speeds during long file transfers. No such issue occurred with the ioSafe Solo G3.
Nothing about the G3’s performance has blown our minds, but we didn’t expect that to happen. Mechanical drives seem to have nearly reached the limits of their performance potential and the differences between high-end drives on the market are small.
The rugged construction of the ioSafe Solo G3 is not just for show. According to the company’s website, this drive is rated to endure temperatures of up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour and can endure full immersion in up to 10 feet of water for 72 hours.
Unlike the ioSafe Rugged Portable, the Solo G3 doesn’t make claims about impact protection. This is probably a trade-off for the driver’s higher potential capacity and fire protection. It’s also unlikely to be an issue for users of the Solo G3. The large size and hefty weight of the product makes it unsuitable for mobile use, so it will spend most of its time safe on a desk, in a closet or nestled next to some server equipment.
Since we don’t have an oven hot enough to melt aluminum or a swimming pool to toss it in for three days, those limits went untested, but we definitely got the impression that the Solo G3 is equipped to meet iosafe’s claims, and perhaps a bit more. Hopefully you will not have the chance to test it yourself.
Of course, surviving extreme conditions is not the same as remaining operable. We imagine that high temperatures would do nasty things to the drive’s connections, even if they don’t harm the data inside. IoSafe offers Data Recovery Service plans starting at 99 cents per terabyte per month to cover such an event. The plan is essentially a warranty that will pay for up to $2,500 dollars of forensic data recovery. The more expensive Pro plan, priced at $2.99 per terabyte per month, covers up to $5,000.
Everyone who purchases the drive receives a one-year warranty against defects. This is (unfortunately) now the industry standard. We’d hoped ioSafe would provide a better standard warranty given the price of the product. The one-year warranty is extended to up to five years when you buy a data recovery service plan.
The ioSafe Solo G3 is even more of a mission-dependent device than the ioSafe Rugged Portable. Everyone can understand the idea of a rugged portable hard drive. Such devices, which are frequently placed in backpacks or slung in the cup-holders of cars, are subject to many risks. It’s almost inevitable that a portable hard drive will at some point be dropped or splashed with water.
The same scenarios don’t threaten drives that sit in one place. These drives have to only resist major disasters – like floods and fires. The ioSafe Solo G3 is built for that, but anyone looking at the drive will of course have to ask how likely it is that they’ll experience such an event.
The ioSafe Rugged Portable, which can be had for as little as $200 online (in the 500GB capacity), protects better against the types of accidents that commonly occur in the home. This makes the Solo G3 a device better suited to an office environment – though there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Rated against submersion and fire damage
- Excellent build quality
- Fast read and write speeds
- Heavy and large