Lenovo ThinkPad Secure Portable Hard Drive Review

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  1. Andrew

    Andrew Just a Guy Staff Member

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    The Lenovo ThinkPad Portable USB hard driveoffers aunique methodfor storing data in a 128-bit secure manner while you're on the go. Using a physical keypad style input, the data on this portable hard drive can only be accessed after you punch in the right number code. If you don't have the code, you can't access the drive or its data. For business users whose lost or stolen data can cost a companythousands of dollars, the ThinkPad portable hard driveis certainly an interesting device.

    These days there are a lot of options for portable storage devices that can be easily carried along with your notebook.Depending on your needs you could go with a64GB USB flash drive, 32GB SD card, or alarger capacity portable hard drive offering upwards of 250GB in storage. Storage capacity and form factor are certainly important decisions when it comes to selecting a portable storage format, but what is often overlooked is the datasecurity offered for these various storage devices. Price Waterhouse Coopers recently estimated that asingle incident of lost data on average costs a company $10,000. Consider that fact and you'll wonder why anybusiness user would use a flash drive for data storage--flash drivesare easier to lose than a sock in the wash. With business users in mind Lenovo designed the ThinkPad portable storage drive as ahighly secure data storagedevice that is hardware encrypted and accessible only via password.

    [​IMG]

    In the box

    The ThinkPad USB Portable storage drive comes with the following items in the box:


      ThinkPad Secure Portable hard drive with 128-bit hardware encryption(available in 160GB and 320GB)

        Weight: 0.69lbs[/li]
        Dimensions: 3.5 inch x 4.8 inch x 0.9inch (width x depth x thickness)[/li]
      [/li]
      USB extension cable[/li]
      Supplementary USBpower cable[/li]
      Neoprene travel case with storage pocket for cables[/li]

    [​IMG]

    The ThinkPad portable hard drive is available in either a 160GB or 320GB capacity size, the 160GB version retails for $179 while the 320GB version retails for $219 at Lenovo.com. Our review version is the 320GB size drive.

    [​IMG]

    How it works

    Lenovo providestwo USB cables for the portable drive, oneto provide power and the other for data transfer, howeverI found that the just plugging in one cable did both jobs. If your PCis older two cables may be necessary. After connecting the drive to your notebook or desktop PC you simplypunch in thepassword number on the keypad (by default when newit is "123456") and hit the unlock key, after which the drive is unlocked and you can access data like any other drive.There is no special software necessary to install,the hardware is self-reliant and takes care of encrypting and securing your data. If you disconnect the drive from your PC it automatically reverts to encrypting and locking the data.

    [​IMG]

    The operation all sounds very simple until you get tochanging passwords or adding user accounts. To get into the details of how this is done is beyond the scope of this review, but suffice to say you will have to read the user guide (link to ThinkPad Secure portable drive guide) for this device. For instance, if you want to access the admin account and change the password, a necessary action since by default it's "123456", you have to follow such stepsas holding down a button for five seconds, watching for a flashing blue light and then also watching for a green light to flash three times. It's downright cumbersome performing admin related functions with this drive, and I wish there was an option forsome type of software interfaceto makecertain changes.

    Design

    While design is often an afterthought for portable hard drives, Lenovo actually put a lot ofeffort into the product design. The ThinkPad secure hard drive has a high quality look and feel. It weighs in at about .70lbs and is under an inch thick, small enough to easily carry in one hand. Thecase feels very solid and the drive is shock mounted inside to protect from falls. The case has the same rubberized paint finish as the ThinkPad X300 series of notebooks. The buttons are inset to prevent accidental pushes yet domed enough that they're easy to feel out. Pushing a button gives a satisfying click feedback feel but it is not loud enough to be heard.

    On the right side of the drive there is acrannyto tuck away the USB cable. This works well for keeping cable clutter down,but becausethe resulting attached cable is so short Lenovo provided a USB extender cable.

    [​IMG]

    It would have been pretty cool to have a backlight for the keys for use in the dark, but obviously that would be extra cost and power draw.

    Performance

    The hard drive inside the case spins at a standard 5400RPM. It would have been nice to have a faster 7200RPM drive given the high price of this device, but again that would require more power draw so there's downside involved there. For most peoples needs the 5400RPM drive will be good enough, I moved a 40MB file to the drivein around 3 seconds and a 1.4GB file in 1m 20s. Most business users are just concerned with moving documents and not enormous files, so this is more than acceptable.

    Below is a screenshot of HDTune performance for those that are interested in benchmark performance results:

    [​IMG]

    Conclusion

    The security features of the ThinkPad portable hard drive are great. Though it's a pain to setup user accounts and passwords for the device, once you're setup there the operation is simple. The automatic 128-bit encryption of all your data via the hardware features keeps the process simple yet ensures your data is secure. The design is pleasing, the product looks and feels very high quality. The price of $219 for the 320GB is about twice what you'll pay for a Western Digital My Passport portable drive of the same capacity, but for business users whose data simply has to be secure oris worth thousands of dollars the extra cost won't be a concern for the extra peace of mind.

    Pros


      Keypad password protection provides innovative and easy way to secure data in 128-bit encryption[/li]
      Nicely designed drive case with great fit and finish matching the ThinkPad X300[/li]
      Travel case for drive and wires is included[/li]

    Cons


      Entering new users and changing passwords is cumbersome[/li]
      Pricey, about twice the cost of a regular portable hard drive[/li]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  2. manola

    manola Pen Pal - Newbie

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    For business users whose lost or stolen data can cost a company thousands of dollars, the ThinkPad portable hard drive is certainly an interesting device.
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  3. washington678

    washington678 Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Thanks everyone for your support, you're the best!!


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  4. Bancato

    Bancato Pen Pal - Newbie

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  5. plazake

    plazake Pen Pal - Newbie

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    This anonymous, yet nefarious looking device -- Lenovo's ThinkPad USB Portable Secure Hard Drive -- has a passcode system that uses a physical keypad (see photo), which should be handy for you always on-the-go, James Bond types. In fact, the tiny unit (3 x 5-inches), which is designed to pair up with ThinkPad laptops, can have up to 10 unique user IDs, and an admin account, enabling the whole family to be in on the encrypting-action. We hear the "Vault" (as they like to call it) will be available by month's end, and that the 160GB model will be $180, while the 320GB will run $219. All we need to do now is find some data worth protecting...
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  6. banmark

    banmark Pen Pal - Newbie

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