REVIEW: Buffalo DriveStation HD-LBU2

Buffalo might not be the first company that comes to your mind when considering a backup drive, but its family of devices provide a simple and cost effective solution to back up your information. Unlike the company’s LinkStation range which is designed for medium-sized businesses, the DriveStation series is best suited to individuals or even homes wanting to share central data. And unlike Buffalo’s NAS devices which include software to manage your essential backups, the DriveStation’s low cost means they don’t include any software. We had a look at the company’s latest USB 2.0 drive to see if it delivers any of these benefits.

What is it and who is it for?

Buffalo’s DriveStation HD-LBU2 is an easy to use external hard disk drive that lets you add additional external storage to any Windows or Mac computer using a regular USB 2.0 port. The DriveStation isn’t the most robust or eye catching device of its type, but its black glossy chassis will be deemed sleek by many and it can be positioned vertically or horizontally, adapting to the location it is used in for an efficient use of space. Like we mentioned above, the DriveStation is best suited to individuals or even homes wanting to share central data.

Pricing & setup

The HD-LBU2 (39x123x189mm, 950g) is one of lowest cost external hard drives in its class. Available in either a 1TB (£45) or 2TB (£62) capacity. It’s also one of the easiest to use. The drive ships with an AC power adapter and USB cable, so you’re good to go straight from the box. Sadly it can’t be powered by your computer because the power requirements from the 3.5-inch drive are too much.

Installation is automatic once you connect the drive to your computer, eliminating the need to install any drivers. It’s even pre-formatted (NTFS) for immediate use. Power on/off is automatic—just plug it in to a PC (Windows 7, Vista, XP) or Mac (Mac OS 10.4 or later) and you can store, access and transfer files, images, documents, backups or whatever.

Does it do it well?

The DriveStation HD-LBU2 is best suited to users looking for a quick and easy way to extend their computers storage capacity. The drive is pre-formatted for immediate use and you don’t even have to worry about installing drivers. The drive itself is functional and it performs reasonably, although you can find faster and more powerful external drives. Ease of use is further exemplified by the fact the DriveStation HD-LBU2 has only a single SATA 3.5-inch (7,200rpm) drive installed, negating the headache of managing RAID configurations.

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Where does it disappoint?

Cost and ease of use are the DriveStation HD-LBU2’s biggest selling points and advanced users will soon be left wanting. Most noticeably, Buffalo fails to include any backup or encryption software, so all data transferred onto the DriveStation HD-LBU2 is accessible to unauthorised third parties. In addition, the single hard drive is inaccessible, so you can’t swap out drives to suit.

Also disappointing is the unit’s plastic enclosure, which feels low cost compared to—albeit more expensive—aluminium-encased Iomega drives. The glossy black finish is also a dust magnet, and the fact that the drive can’t be turned off manually without unplugging one of the two connecting cables (USB or mains) means the drive is constantly whirring away in the background. There’s only one LED too, which flickers on and off when data is being transferred.

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Would we recommend it?

The DriveStation HD-LBU2 is a solid if unremarkable USB 2.0 hard disk drive. It’s good value if you want to keep things simple, but it’s not without its limitations—especially if you plan to use it on a network to protect, manage, and share your critical information. Its build quality is adequate, but the lack of a dedicated power switch is a real annoyance. Another consideration is whether you want the additional speed benefits from the USB 3.0 version for just £10 or so more (HD-LBU3), which transfers data at up to 4.8Gbit/s compared to USB 2.0’s miserly 480Mbit/s. If your PC or laptop is not compatible with USB 3.0, it’s an easy fix to add-in a PCIe or ExpressCard adapter—as long as your system supports these.

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