Sil­i­con Power Ar­mor A85 HDD

£78 | $75 www.sil­i­con-power.com Por­ta­ble stor­age that can take some se­ri­ous knocks

Windows 7 Help & Advice - - CONTENTS -

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.

De­sign

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?

Per­for­mance

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.

Sum­mary

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.

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