ioSafe Rugged Portable

The ioSafe Rugged Portable is a toughened, damage-resistant external USB 3.0 hard drive designed to keep your data intact under the most adverse conditions a hard drive is likely to encounter.
  • Harley Ogier (Unknown Publication)
  • 28 November, 2011 22:00

NameExternal hard drive: ioSafe Rugged Portable
At a glance:Rated drop-resistant up to 3m (onto plywood),Tested drop-resistant up to 1.5m (onto solid concrete),Rated water-proof in fresh or salt water at 3m for 72 hours,High dust, dirt and chemical resistance
Summary:The best protection your data can have outside a concrete bunker.
RRP:$276 (250GB), $395 (500GB), $690 (1TB)

The ioSafe Rugged Portable is a toughened, damage-resistant external USB 3.0 hard drive designed to keep your data intact under the most adverse conditions a hard drive is likely to encounter.

Manufacturer ioSafe produces two variants: the aluminium-cased drive I tested, and a titanium-cased drive that comes at an understandably massive price premium. Due to its rather niche appeal, the Titanium version isn’t currently available in New Zealand.

Either case is machined from a single block of material – a manufacturing process made popular by Apple’s MacBook Pro range – which produces a high-strength metal case without seams or joins that may prove points of failure.

The base is similarly made from a single sheet of 3mm-thick metal, with a screw hole in each corner. Providing ingress protection is a single-piece rubber gasket seal between the case and baseplate. It withstands dust, water and a variety of fluids ranging from diesel to jet fuel.

Inside the case is a SATA to USB 3.0 interface, sealed permanently against one end with some form of clear epoxy resin. That little interface board holds a blue status LED and standard USB 3.0 Micro-B connector, which exit through precision-machined holes in the case, alongside a Kensington security lock slot.

The drive, in my review model, was a 250GB 5400RPM offering from Seagate. 500GB and 1TB mechanical drive models are available. For higher performance and impact resistance, SSD variants are also available.

Sitting on a thin metal plate, the drive ‘floats’ freely within a rubber shell – its only connection to the outer housing is a thin, flexible ribbon cable. This ‘full suspension’ provides an enormous amount of shock resistance, both while the drive is running and stopped.

The aluminium 250GB and 500GB hard-drive versions are rated for drops of up to three metres (onto 5cm of plywood over concrete), and immersion under three metres of fresh or salt water for 72 hours (we tested it in a bucket of salt water). This is despite the lack of any kind of cover for the USB socket, which just sits there happily under the water or clogged up with sand until you rinse it out and plug in the cable.

My drop tests were a little harsher than ioSafe’s plywood-over concrete, dropping onto solid concrete through just a thin (<4mm) layer of cardboard. The force imparted to the drive in such a drop is massively more than you’d find in the concrete-over-plywood test, and thus I’d expect a lower maximum height than the stated 3m.

At both 1m and 1.5m, ten drops (at each height) produced no drive damage whatsoever, as confirmed by a series of low-level Verify and Read disk scans across the full drive surface. This means you’re totally protected against drops from a desk or workbench, even onto plain concrete.

When I checked the drive after 10 drops at 2m, the aluminium housing remained intact and water-tight, and the SATA to USB controller sustained no damage, but the mechanical hard drive was damaged internally and wouldn't spin up. I’d say it’s fairly likely that an SSD version of the drive would have survived the drop, though I can’t guarantee it.

If your drive is destroyed, ioSafe includes a data recovery service, up to one year from purchase – “one time, any reason, no questions asked”. Three and five year upgrades to this plan are available from ioSafe, which may prove a smart investment.

In short, this is the most difficult-to-destroy gadget I’ve ever tested. If you need something that can protect your data from dust, dirt, sustained immersion, a 3m drop onto a regular floor, or 1.5m onto solid concrete, while still maintaining a great degree of portability, I’ve yet to see a comparable product.