Review: SimpleDrive External Hard Drive

Judging by the description of the product — fast, sleek, shiny and designed by Pininfarina — I could scarcely contain my glee at the chance to review the latest exotic Italian sports car. But it turned out to be a different kind of “drive,” because what showed up at my door was a SimpleDrive, one of SimpleTech’s new line of external USB hard drives.

Let’s face it, “stylish” isn’t a word that usually comes to mind when thinking about a storage device. For a while now, vendors have done well offering jazzed-up models that are somewhat less staid than the hard drive of old, but SimpleTech has taken that concept a step further with the SimpleDrive, created in collaboration with the venerable automotive designer.

Design and Features
The SimpleDrive stands less than 1.5-inches high, comes in red, white, blue, black or gray (or, as SimpleTech calls them: fire, pearl, sapphire, onyx and charcoal) and looks as glossy as the hood of a freshly waxed Ferarri. Each color corresponds to a specific drive capacity — 160, 250, 320, 500 and 750 GB, respectively — so the amount of storage you need dictates the color you get. There’s also a 1 TB charcoal model on the horizon. All SimpleDrives come with a single hard drive, so if you want RAID capability, look elsewhere. We tested the 500 GB onyx model, which sells for $199.

In spite of the obvious attention paid to the product’s appearance, SimpleTech kept function as well as form in mind — the drive comes bundled with ArcSoft TotalMedia Backup and Record software as well as a 2 GB storage account at (not surprising given that Fabrik actually bought SimpleTech earlier this year).

The SimpleDrive connects to a PC via USB 2.0 (a deluxe model being introduced in June adds a FireWire port). A large SimpleTech logo atop the drive doubles as a one-touch backup button, but it only works when paired with the bundled backup software — you can’t configure it to launch an alternate application like you can with Seagate’s Maxtor One Touch button. A lighted ring around the logo/button is divided into four quadrants and serves as a rough visual indicator of the drive’s available capacity.

The SimpleDrive comes is a variety of sporty colors that would make any raciing car enthusiast proud. We reviewed the onyx version (500GB), but the drives also come in charcoal, sapphire, pearl and fire.

The SimpleDrive comes pre-formatted with the NTFS file system that works with Windows Vista/XP/2000. You can also use it with a Mac, but you’ll have to reformat the drive first. Since the SimpleDrive’s backup software is pre-loaded on the drive and doesn’t come on CD, we strongly suggest that you make a copy before formatting.

Software and Account
The ArcSoft TotalMedia Backup and Record software has a clean and simple interface, making it easy to use. Two pre-configured settings allow for quick backups of media files like photos, video and music or for a wider range of data (including Office documents, e-mail and so on). You can easily add or remove file types to customize your backups.

When it comes to backing up an entire system, however, the ArcSoft software’s capabilities are limited. You can configure it to backup all the files and folders on your hard drive, but only by accessing the program’s Advanced settings. The software doesn’t allow you to save operating system restore points or to perform a complete system backup that can be restored from a bootable CD. The software does give you the option to save backups to CD/DVD discs, and it can also burn data and music discs as well as create DVDs.

If you want remote access to your data or the capability to share it with others, you’ll appreciate the 2 GB account at The service lets you upload various types of data — from photos to word processing documents — organize it, and make it available to the public or limit access to individuals or groups that you specify though an e-mail message with a special link. You can also embed files into blogs and social networking sites. (If you need more than 2 GB of storage, you can get it for an additional 49 cents per GB per month.)

The MyFabrik service can be a handy way to get access to your files or to share them with others, but it doesn’t specifically integrate with the SimpleDrive (i.e., there’s no automatic way to upload files or synchronize files between MyFabrik and your system).

True to its name, the SimpleTech SimpleDrive offers a simple way to safeguard personal data — if not perform whole-system backups — and it does so with a bit more panache than your typical external hard drive. It may not be as exciting as a Ferrari, but it has a lot more room in the trunk.

Joe Moran spent six years as an editor and analyst with Ziff-Davis Publishing and several more as a freelance product reviewer. He’s also worked in technology public relations and as a corporate IT manager, and he’s currently principal of Neighborhood Techs, a technology service firm in Naples, Fla. He holds several industry certifications, including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

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