by Kevin OBrien

Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive Review

Lenovo has made versions of their secure external hard drives for a while, we reviewed their eSATA version about a year ago. This time we're looking at the USB 3.0 enabled hard drive, available in capacities of 500GB and 750GB. The new USB 3.0 drives are highlighted by the same security - a ten digital number pad on the front of the enclosure and 256-bit AES XTS hardware encryption running in the background. Couple the security with the fact that the drive requires no installed software and it's built with legendary ThinkPad quality and the drive looks pretty compelling. 

Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive Specs

  • Capacities
    • 500GB (0A65619)
    • 750GB (0A65616)
  • Interface - USB 3.0
  • 5400 RPM hard drive inside
  • Real-time 256-bit XTS AES Hardware Encryption
  • 10-digit keypad
  • BUS powered
  • Dimensions - 0.76” X 34.2” X 4.80”
  • Weight - 7.1 ounces
  • 3 year warranty

Build and Design

The most obvious feature of the drive is the aforementioned keypad. It supports an administrator password, along with 10 other unique IDs making it easy to share with a team in an office. Just make sure to remember your password though, the drive is enabled with a "light" access failure and a "hard" access failure feature. The latter locks the drive and literally throws away the encryption key after a pre-determined number of wrong pass key entries, rendering the drive useless and the data inaccessible. The drive can be re-initialized, but the data will not be recoverable. 

The right side of the enclosure features the built-in USB 3.0 cord that tucks nicely into the side. The drive is BUS powered, so there's no need for external power. And because the cable is built in, there's no need to keep track of yet another piece of equipment in your gear bag.

Once in your hand users will immediately notice the rubberized texture of the case, matching the finish on the classic ThinkPad notebook line. Further, the number pad has additional wear resistant features to prevent wear to regularly used numbers. 

Internally the ThinkPad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive is powered by a 750GB 5400RPM Toshiba hard drive. This drive is also noted for its built-in shock protection feature which parks the head when a drop is detected.

Benchmarks

We tested the Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Secure hard drive over both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 on our test rig using IOMeter. With optimal conditions with native USB 3.0, the ThinkPad hard drive pushed just over 100MB/s read and write sequential. This slowed to 33MB/s read and 28MB/s write over USB 2.0. For secure backups or transfers between systems, this hard drive had no trouble making quick work of transfers.

USB 3.0 IOMeter Results

  Read Write
2MB Sequential Transfer MB/s 100.7MB/s 100.2MB/s
2MB Random Transfer MB/s 70.1MB/s 67.5MB/s 
4K Random Transfer MB/s 0.45MB/s 1.16MB/s
4K Random Transfer IO 114.60 IOps 295.74 IOps
4K Write Latency (avg/max) 3.38ms  581.92ms 

 

USB 2.0 IOMeter Results

  Read Write
2MB Sequential Transfer MB/s 33.01MB/s 28.56MB/s
2MB Random Transfer MB/s 29.12MB/s 28.60MB/s 
4K Random Transfer MB/s 0.44MB/s 1.14MB/s
4K Random Transfer IO 111.68 IOps 291.28 IOps
4K Write Latency (avg/max) 3.43ms  530.92ms 

 

Conclusion

For business users on the road or those who just commute projects between offices or home, the need to securely transport data is one of the highest priorities. Blending capacity, speed, and security, Lenovo's ThinkPad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive puts all of those features into one compact device. Offering 100MB/s read and write over USB 3.0 while encrypted, the Secure Hard Drive doesn't have any slowdown when keeping your data protected, even with a 5400 RPM drive inside. This is rather important, since one of the main reasons most people shy away from encryption solutions is the performance drop seen in many situations.

While not fully rugged, the drive enclosure is build very well, with limited flex under heavy pressure. The grippy exterior may help prevent drops, but the drive inside will detect a fall and park its head in the event of a tumble. Internally the drive is designed with both mechanical and electronic shock protection with a rubber bumper around the hard drive as well as the shock sensor. For the daily road warrior, the drive should more than live up to what's asked of it. 

There aren't many options when it comes to secure external drives, even fewer when it comes to those with an external keypad for an additional layer of security and compatibility. Thankfully though, for those in need of such a device, the ThinkPad USB 3.0 secure hard drive performs well, secures data well and is built well - a great triumvirate.  

Pros

  • Very good performance
  • Driver-free encryption
  • Rugged look and feel

Cons

  • SSD option would be nice

Bottom Line

The Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive does everything you need it to do, without drivers and without impacting speed. Making it super easy to encrypt important information, this drive gets more users in the habit of protecting data before it leaves the workplace.

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