We don't test external storage devices very often here at TR. The reason is simple: the products generally aren't that exciting—or at least not as exciting as all the other components that pile up in our labs. Every so often, though, something unique piques our interest. Recently, it was Adata's DashDrive Durable HD710, which stuffs a terabyte of storage inside a waterproof, shock-resistant enclosure, that caught our eye.
Now that could be fun to test.
The concept makes a lot of sense. Portable hard drives often spend their lives on the go, where they can face rough handling and the occasional fall. They're also vulnerable to spilled beverages, rain-soaked bags, and other water-borne attacks. Your data should be protected from these threats, especially if you're one of the many folks who use external drives to store essential backups.
Like most of its contemporary counterparts, the DashDrive Durable HD710 encases a 2.5" hard drive inside a plastic shell. On top of that, Adata adds a rubberized layer that wraps around the edges and covers all the corners. The extra protection brings bulk, ballooning the drive to 5.2" x 3.9" x 0.9" and 0.49 lbs. This thing is practically the same size and weight as a bare 3.5" hard drive.
The rubber armor's ribbed design and grippy texture should keep the drive from slipping through your fingers. Unfortunately, the tackiness has a tendency to attract dust and other particles that don't wipe off easily. Also, while the armor is wrapped snugly around the drive, you can easily roll up all of the edges. The glue evidently stops a few millimeters short, making the DashDrive feel a little bit cheap.
The loose edges shouldn't affect the DashDrive's ability to survive a tumble, but extended use could deform the rubber enough to compromise the seal around the USB 3.0 port. The port is covered by a rubber door that's part of the armored exterior.
Adata includes the requisite USB cable, which provides about 11" of reach. When it's not in use, the cable can be wrapped around the exterior. A deep groove cut into the edge of the armor holds the cable tightly, ensuring that it won't be lost.
Quite a few DashDrive reviews on Newegg and Amazon complain about a loose USB connection causing frequent disconnects. Adata says the problem was fixed months ago, and the reviews seem to agree. The complaints I see are from earlier this year and late 2012. We certainly didn't encounter any issues with our sample. The plug fit snugly into the port, and the connection was solid. We were even able to wiggle the end of the USB cable during a benchmarking session without causing disconnects or performance degradation.
That said, we were a little surprised that the USB port moved at all. Its connection to the chassis isn't especially rigid.
When we plugged the DashDrive into our system, we were pleased to find it formatted and completely empty. Newbies may benefit from bundled backup and cloning software, but enthusiasts can do without the bloat; they typically have those bases covered already.
Now, for the fun stuff. The DashDrive Durable meets the IPX7 standard for liquid ingress, which means it should remain functional after being submerged in water up to a meter deep for 30 minutes. To test the waterproofing, we sunk the drive in a pitcher of water for half an hour.
The DashDrive emerged from its dip in perfect working order. The bath even got rid of some of the dust that had clung the rubber armor. I'd recommend letting the drive dry out before plugging it in, though. It's easy for droplets to seep into the USB connectors, and you don't want to risk shorting the drive or your system. You can squirt some rubbing alcohol into the connectors to displace the water, accelerating the drying process, or you can resort to shaking out the droplets.
Since it complies with the MIL-STD-810G 516.6 shock tolerance specification, the DashDrive should handle a little shaking. The long-winded military spec covers a variety of physical trauma, but we're mostly concerned with whether the drive can survive a fall. So we dropped it multiple times on different surfaces. The tests were conducted from a height of about three feet over laminate flooring and slate tile. In separate tests, the drive was dropped so that it fell flat, on one of its edges, and on a corner. That last test caused a couple of bounces, but the abuse didn't faze the DashDrive. All our data remained accessible, and a quick benchmark run confirmed that performance was unchanged.
After our first round of drop tests, we sent the DashDrive into free fall during a CrystalDiskMark run. Hard drives are much more vulnerable to physical damage when their platters are spinning, but the DashDrive apparently braced for impact before hitting the ground. It shook off this test with no ill effects.
We didn't know whether the DashDrive would survive our dunk and drop tests, so we measured its performance beforehand. For comparison, we tested the WD My Passport 500GB we have floating around the lab. Let's start with some results from CrystalDiskMark's sequential transfer rate tests.
These synthetic tests represent a best-case scenario for sequential throughput, and there's little difference between the drives. We'll call this one a tie.
Next, we have TR RoboBench, which reads and writes real-world files using eight simultaneous threads. Our movie test is made up entirely of large video files, while the mixed test has a few movies in addition to loads of MP3s, RAW images, Excel spreadsheets, and TR web files.
RoboBench is considerably more challenging than CrystalDiskMark, and the DashDrive wilts under the pressure in the write speed tests. The Adata drive fares much better in the read tests, especially when dealing with our larger video files.
For what it's worth, the DashDrive hits much higher speeds with single-threaded file transfers. We've seen transfer rates exceed 100MB/s when copying movies, RAW images, and MP3s to and from the drive. We're also fairly certain that submerging the WD drive would kill it.
Although the DashDrive Durable certainly isn't the fastest external hard drive on the block, it may be among the most resilient. The extra protection doesn't carry much of a premium, either. Terabyte USB 3.0 drives typically sell for around $90, and you'll pay just $10 more for the blue HD710 we tested. The drive is available in black, too, and there's a yellow version for $5 less. Regardless of the color, you get three years of warranty coverage.
With an affordable price tag and a shock-resistant, waterproof exterior, the DashDrive Durable is easy to recommend to folks looking for something more robust than typical portable hard drives. The HD710 may not be as hardcore as bomb-proof devices like ioSafe's external drive, but it provides practical protection for less than one third the price. That said, I wouldn't mind paying a few bucks extra for a sturdier USB connection and more glue under the armor.