The Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 is the first USB 3.0 external hard drive we’ve reviewed and it proved itself to be an excellent storage device. The drive is bus-powered and works with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 connections. Externally, the Black Armor PS110 USB 3.0 looks the same as the USB 2.0-based BlackArmor PS110–that is to say it’s very sleek and portable. The only difference is its USB 3.0 Mini-USB port on its back. On the inside, the new BlackArmor PS110 USB 3.0 has a 7,200rpm hard drive (as opposed to a 5,400rpm drive in the USB 2.0 version).
Regardless of whether your computer has USB 3.0 built-in, the Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 is worth its $180 price tag, which is just slightly more expensive than the USB 2.0 version. As a bonus, it comes with an add-in USB 3.0 PC card for laptop users.
Design and features
The Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 looks great and feels sturdy. The drive is thin and compact enough to be easily tucked in your pocket to carry on the go. Unlike many other sleek-looking devices we’ve seen, the BlackArmor’s cover doesn’t attract fingerprints, which while not really important, affords the drive a clean look all the time.
As USB 3.0 is new technology that officially debuted during CES 2010, most existing computers don’t have the technology built-in. However, the Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 comes in a kit that includes a USB 3.0 add-in card for laptop users. This card uses the laptop’s PC Express slot to add a USB 3.0 port to the computer. However, the BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 is fully compatible with USB 2.0 and you can use it like any other external hard drive. Since the drive is bus-powered, you need only to plug it into the computer via a USB port to start using it.
The Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 comes with one Mini-USB 3.0 port on the back. This port isn’t compatible with USB 2.0 and you will need to use the included Mini-USB 3.0 cable that comes with the drive. The drive doesn’t offer any other connection options such as FireWire or eSATA; however, since USB 3.0 is faster than any other connection on the market–up to 5Gbps–this lack of connection options makes sense.
Out of the box, the drive is formatted using the NTFS file system and is intended to be used with Windows computers; however, it can be easily reformatted for Macs. Unfortunately, the included PC Express card only has drivers for Windows.
Like the USB 2.0 version, the Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 comes with Acronis-based backup software that allows for easy backing up and restoring of data. You can choose to back up the computer’s main hard drive and restore the whole system to the point when the backup was created, or you can restore a few single files by mounting a backup as a virtual drive. The software also allows for encrypting the backups with AES 256-bit encryption to keep your data safe in case the drive is lost or stolen. Unfortunately, the backup software only works for Windows. If you have a Mac, you’ll need to get another third-party backup software or use Time Machine, Apple’s proprietary backup solution available in OS X 10.5 or later.
Cost per gigabyte
With the price tag of $180, the BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 costs about 36 cents per gigabyte. This is slightly more expensive than the 32 cents per gigabyte of the original USB 2.0 BlackArmor PS 110 or the 30 cents per gigabyte of the Iomega eGo Portable. Nonetheless, this is still much lower than the 56 cents per gigabyte of the Clickfree Portable Backup Drive. Considering its speed, great design, and the added laptop PC card, we find that BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 offers very good value for the money.
When connected to a computer via a USB 3.0 port, the Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 is by far the fastest external hard drive we’ve tested with scores more than double those of even the fastest USB 2.0 external hard drives.
In the USB 3.0 write test, the drive scored 72 megabytes per second compared to 24.7 megabytes per second of the Iomega eGo, which is the second fastest. In the USB 3.0 read test, the BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0, interestingly, did worse than its write test at 59.4 megabytes per second. Still, this is about twice the read speed of even the fastest USB 2.0 hard drives. With USB 2.0 hard drives, generally the write speed tends to be slower than the read speed. This is reversed in the case of the BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0.
When connected to a computer via a USB 2.0 port, the BlackArmor PS 110 was still among the fastest USB 2.0 external hard drives with a write test speed of 25 megabytes per second and the read test speed of 29.6 megabytes per second.
There will be more USB 3.0-based external hard drives coming out in the near future and we can’t wait to see how the BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 will stack up to them. For now, it’s by far the fastest USB external hard drive we’ve seen.
Service and support
When it comes to external hard drives, nothing is more important than its warranty, and nobody can beat Seagate in this regard. The company backs the BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 with a generous five-year limited warranty. Seagate will replace any defective drives under warranty, and you can even choose to upgrade to a larger/newer drive for a discounted price. The company’s telephone support is available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Sunday, and you can find a comprehensive list of FAQs and an external hard-drive knowledge base at its Web site.