Silicon Power Armor A85 HDD
£78 | $75 www.silicon-power.com Portable storage that can take some serious knocks
The Silicon Power Armor A85 may look like a hip flask containing some luxurious libation, but in reality it’s a portable external hard drive that’s been built to be abused beyond all reasonable expectations – it’s shockproof, dust-and waterproof to IP68, drop-proof to US military standards (up to 3m) and is pressure-proof too – Silicon Power’s marketing for the product even shows it under the wheels of a parked car, although that’s not something we’d suggest you try.
The 1TB model on test here sells for around £78 in the UK and $75 in the US. It’s also available in 2TB, 3TB, 4TB and 5TB capacities, so you can choose the model which best meets your needs. The top-end 5TB model costs £227/$248.
There are only two items in the box: the Armor A85 and a short (32cm) USB cable that has Type A superspeed connectors at both ends.
The advantage of this design is never worrying about which end to plug in. However, this layout isn’t a common USB cable, so misplacing it might prove problematic.
Silicon Power’s approach to avoiding that scenario is to make the join between the black cap and the sandblasted aluminium section a thick rubber band that you can use to hold the cable. We’re not sure how well this will work in practice, but at least Silicon Power has considered that cable loss could be an issue.
The USB Type A port on the drive is hidden under a thick plug on the black cap end that incorporates a tight rubber seal. The plug looks good for keeping unwanted water and dirt out of the drive, but it’s also an excellent route to breaking a fingernail trying to pop it out.
The temptation would be to leave it in the open state, but failure to replace it after use would undermine the ability of the drive to handle being accidentally dunked in water, of course.
A downside of this level of protection is that if the hard drive dies inside its cocoon, that’s where it will stay – no practical means to extract it exists, at least not without an angle grinder.
Beyond these points, there is relatively little to say about this design, other than it’s built to handle abuse rather than win any style awards.
On one level, the A85 Armor is just a hard drive stuffed inside a thick metal tube. However, that thinking ignores the tricky technical details the Silicon Power engineers had to resolve to make that work. Like avoiding overheating issues with the drive in an enclosed metal space, and cosseting the drive from accidental assaults of water, dust, and the general trials and tribulations of careless ownership.
The solution isn’t subtle, and primarily involves the creation of a
gently curved aluminium tube and a rubber sleeve that isolates the drive from whatever is happening physically to the outer case.
The engineers also created a suspension system that isolates the external connector from the floating internal hard drive, an obvious point of potential failure.
Engineered in this fashion, the Armor A85 survived the MIL-STD 810G Method 516.6 Procedure IV, aka the transit drop test. And Silicon Power’s promotional material claims it can withstand
“Silicon Power specifically told us to get the Armor A85 wet and, unbelievably, drive a car over it”
500kg of force, should something unfortunate happen to it.
As tempting as driving over the device a few times before benchmarking is, the three-year warranty and its ability to handle MIL-STD 810G convinced us that the Armor A85 is tough in more ways than just the looks department.
The transit drop test is to perform 26 drops on each face, edge, and corner from a height of 122cm above the floor. And all those test drops can only be divided among five test items. The device must also survive a single 3m drop test and still be functional afterwards.
Having compliance to IP68 in this context means the device should be dust-proof and protected against immersion in water for more than 30 minutes at a depth of up to one metre.
A reasonable assumption for this test is that the immersion would take place with the USB cover in place, and therefore not connected to another device at the time.
The Armor A85 certainly talks the talk, but can it walk the walk?
Silicon Power has previously used Seagate’s Momentus hard drives in its products and we suspect that’s what’s inside here too.
We only got to test the 1TB model, but as mentioned previously, the same outer shell is used with a range of drives up to 5TB. The only difference, other than the capacity, is that the larger versions are marginally heavier.
Performance isn’t SSD level, but it’s more than acceptable when compared with many portable drive solutions that use conventional drive technology.
In our benchmark tests, CrystalDiskMark rated the read speed at 119.3MB/s and the write speed at just a little less: 118.4MB/s. To achieve those levels you’ll need a USB 3.0 connection with USAP mode active – it should be natively on any Windows 8.x or Windows 10 PC with the right hardware.
Normally, the suppliers of review kit to Windows Help & Advice expect us not to intentionally abuse their device because they’d like it back at some point. However, Silicon Power specifically told us to get the Armor A85 wet, and unbelievably, drive a car over it. So obligingly – post-benchmarking – that’s exactly what we did.
Unsurprisingly, the car exercise did leave some minor abrasions on the Armor A85, but that didn’t stop it from working. The A85 also survived complete immersion in water, though it’s worth noting that it doesn’t float. That’s an issue because dropping it into a depth of more than one metre might be catastrophic even if it can be successfully retrieved.
As far as performance goes, the Armor A85 does what it says on its rather thick aluminium tin.
This isn’t the quickest external drive we’ve tested, but the Silicon Power Armor A85 is undeniably one of the toughest. If you’re taking a trip where data loss might result from dust or water penetration, then the Armor A85 is an affordable solution that can withstand plenty of punishment at your hands.
The only significant caveat is that the drive doesn’t float, so dropping it into anything other than shallow water could be its undoing without some kind of extra means of flotation being added.
The only other issue concerns the unusual twin-ended USB Type A cable, which could be difficult to replace if you lose it.
A USB 3.0 portable drive that performs reasonably well, and under the toughest conditions.