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Old 06-03-2008, 04:00 PM
Chris Gohlke
Contributing Editor Emeritus
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,291
Default Western Digital Passport vs. Buffalo Ministation: Fight!

On the left, with the glossy black finish and blue LED, we have the Western Digital Passport 120 GB USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive.

Product Category: Portable Hard Drive
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Where to Buy: [Affiliate]
Price: $124.33 USD (320 GB model, the 120 GB model reviewed here is no longer available)
Specifications: USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive

And on the right, with the flat black finish and orange and green LED, we have the Buffalo 320GB Ministation Turbo USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive

Product Category: Portable Hard Drive
Manufacturer: Buffalo
Where to Buy: [Affiliate]
Price: $149.99 USD (320 GB model)
Specifications: USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive

Since I picked up an , Asus Eee PC, I've been looking for a megadose of portable storage. Sure 8 GB SD cards are nice, but I was looking for a bigger fix. When I travel, I'd like to be able to bring a ton of movies so I don't have to decide beforehand exactly what I want to watch. So I picked up a Western Digital Passport and a Buffalo Ministation Turbo to let them duke it out for your entertainment. So who reigned victorious? Keep reading for my full review.


Figure 1: Bottom to top – Buffalo Ministation, Western Digital Passport, and Microsoft Zune 30 (for size comparison purposes).

Both drives are roughly the same length and width at approximately 5 inches long and 3.2 inches wide. However, the Buffalo drive is noticeably thicker at .8 inches versus .6 inches for the Western Digital drive. However, to its credit, the Buffalo drive has built-in shock resistance, which is probably what makes up the additional thickness.

Figure 2: On the left, the smaller Western Digital Passport. On the right, the larger Buffalo Ministation with integrated cable management.

The Buffalo drive also has cable management built in so the the USB cable wraps around the drive and snaps into place. As a result, I ended up putting the Western digital drive in a small case to both protect it and keep the cable from getting lost, making the final package larger for the Western Digital drive. Therefore round one is a win for the Buffalo.

Power Usage
One of the concerns I had regarding these drives was the fact that some of the reviews I had read indicated that some laptops did not put out enough power via the USB ports to run the drive. Fortunately both drives support using an adapter to be able to draw power from a second USB port to provide supplemental power. Unfortunately, only the Buffalo drive included the extra cable in the package. The cable is available directly from Western Digital for an additional $10. Luckily, both drives worked just fine with just the single cable on every device I tried it on, including the Asus Eee. So almost a dead heat here, but round two goes to Buffalo for including everything you need in the box.

Each drive comes with built-in Windows-based software (it's stored on the hard drive itself). Since I'm using these specifically for media storage on Linux, I did not evaluate the built in software. However, I did perform a speed test on each of the drives. Both products feature 5400 RPM drives. As you would expect, nearly another tie: the Western Digital scored an average read speed of 27.6 MB/s and the Buffalo scored a 27.8 MB/s. So for round three, Buffalo wins by a nose.

Other Considerations
I'm more interested in functionality over aesthetics, but the Western Digital drive was more stylish. I also liked the fact that the Western Digital drive had a port cover while the Buffalo drive left them exposed. So, round four goes to Western Digital.

So with a score of three to one, the Buffalo beats out Western Digital. It was a great fight with two outstanding competitors. Really, both of these are great drives. If you shop around, you will find that they are similarly priced for drives of the same size. Personally I preferred the Buffalo drive since its design was more heavily focused on the fact that it was in fact a portable drive.

Chris Gohlke is a Contributing Editor for Digital Media Thoughts. He loves Sci-Fi and loves to get his hands on real-life tech gadgets. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, USA with his wife and three cats.
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