Silicon Power Armor A30 2TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive

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Product: Silicon Power Armor A30 2TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive
Provided By: Silicon Power
Price: ~$114.99 Online at time of Publication

Introduction:

It's been over a year since we tested a mechanical hard drive of any kind. The move to SSD storage is going strong and with drives such as the Samsung 840 and Crucial M505 and MX100 drives actually quite affordable, mechanical drives are not as appealing as they used to be. If you are looking for a large drive though, mechanical drives still have the edge – but a long shot. The drive we are looking at today is the Silicon Power A30 2TB drive that will set you back a mere ~$120 – about the price of a 240GB SSD on sale.

For the same money as a 240GB SSD, you get eight times the storage and as we'll see in the review that follows, the performance on these drives is very decent. Silicon Power uses a Samsung Seagate Momentus 9.5mm drive that spins at a modest 5,400rpm and is a solid performer with a bunch of storage.

Silicon Power has a lot of different models of external drives and some of these even come with SSDs inside, but if you’re looking for a drive that is very pocketable and you need 2000GB of storage, this is a great option in their lineup. They claim it is tough as well, so we’ll be sure to test it from all angles.

Box - Front Box - Rear

The Silicon Power Armor A30 is a pretty basic piece of kit. It comes in a standard understated box that is very typical of Silicon Power. The box does have enough information on it to convince you that the drive should fulfill your needs and save your movie collection for use on the road. The drive comes with a user manual that should be pretty self-explanatory. Also included is a male-male USB cable that takes a bit of a deviation from the standard micro USB 3.0 cables that often come with external HDDs. While this cable is more proprietary, it should be a lot more durable and the connector is standard.

Bundle

Bundle

First Look:

A closer look at the drive shows that it is a basic plastic enclosure and has silicon rubber corners that serve to protect the drive as well as hold the USB cable. There really isn’t much more to say about the drive at this point, but it looks like it should be able to take a bit of a knock or two and still keep the drive inside protected.

Drive Front

Top Side

Bottom Side

Bottom Side

One thing that I do like about the drive is that it has a standard USB connector on both ends. While these cables aren’t as popular as traditional MicroUSB 3.0 cables, I do have a couple kicking around so they shouldn’t be too hard to find if you lose or damage the cable. This connector looks to be pretty solid and hopefully will stand up to years of use and abuse.

Drive Connector

Drive Connector

On the next page we'll take a look at the features and specifications before we see what's inside and jump into testing.


Features:

The following list of features and specifications have been pulled from the Silicon Power product page here. We've included a few of the highlights below, but if you want the latest information as well as software downloads that are digitally included with this drive, please be sure to visit the manufacturers site to get the full scoop.

  • SuperSpeed USB 3.0 compliant and backwards compatible with USB 2.0
  • Meet the U.S. military drop-test standards MIL-STD 810G Method 516.6 Procedure IV (transit drop test), including specific height free fall test (122cm).
  • Cable carry design
  • Advanced internal hard drive suspension system
  • Easy Plug in and use - no external adapter required
  • SP Widget free download software, providing 7 major back-up and security functions

A30 2TB Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 87.5 x 134 x 18.6 mm
  • Weight: 181g
  • Standard Compliance:USB 3.0 / 2.0
  • Data Transfer Rates:Max. 5 Gb/s (USB 3.0 Mode); Max. 480 Mb/s (USB 2.0 Mode)
  • Power Supply:DC 5V (Power supplied through USB)
  • Supported Operating Systems:Windows 8 / 7 / Vista / XP / 2000 , Linux 2.6.31 or later, Mac OS 10.5 or later (only USB 2.0 currently supported)
  • Operating Temperature:5℃~ 55℃
  • Storage Temperature:-40℃~ 70℃
  • Three-year warranty

Drive Opened

Drive Specifications:

  • Interface: SATA 6GB/s
  • Form factor: 2.5-inch (9.5mm)
  • Spindle: 5,400 RPM
  • Cache: 32MB
  • Average Latency: 5.6ms

Closer Look:

As we planned on testing this drive to the maximum, we figured we'd better take a look inside before we jump into testing - in case it doesn't survive. I was a bit confused at first as the drive is clearly labeled as a Samsung "Spinpoint", but lower down on the drive it states "Momentus" (Seagate property). I then realized that a while back Seagate bought the mechanical drive division from Samsung and this is now their love-child.

The drive is wrapped and padded from all sides by the silicon bumper and there is even a bit of a pad on the top lid of the drive to prevent anything from bumping on that side and damaging the drive where the silicon bumper doesn’t cover. It’s a good idea and we’ll see if it holds up a little later on.

Stripped Bare

Silicon Power has used a small interface card to convert the SATA 3 6Gbps connector on the drive to a speedy USB 3.0 port that is capable of 5Gbps. Thankfully, mechanical drives don't run anywhere near this throughput so we shouldn't be seeing any bottleneck on this drive by the controller and interface.

On the next page we'll cover some of our testing ideas before we jump right into testing the performance of this drive.


Silicon Power A30 2TB Testing:

When we test an external hard drive, there really isn't a ton of things we are interested in when it comes right down to it. We basically want to know how fast it can transfer files back and forth. This is essentially what it is designed to do and so we find out in the real world how good it can do this job. We do use a few benchmark programs to find out what it is capable of. It’s been over a year since we actually reviewed an external USB 3.0 Hard Drive and while we have a ton of current data to compare with SSDs, this mechanical drive is in a different class as it is designed to carry a lot of files for not a lot of money.

As such we don't have comparison charts this time around, but we do have some benchmark numbers to share with you and will wrap it up a video of us testing the "Armor" of this drive.

AS SSD Performance:

While the name suggests that this benchmark is designed for SSDs, it can be used equally well on mechanical drives. This drive shows how well a 5400rpm drive can perform when you have high-density platters. As this is a 2TB drive, the dense platters give you great performance at slower rotation speeds.

AS SSD
(Click for full-sized image)

The limitation of course is on access times and smaller file transfers. This is where flash storage excels.

ATTO Performance:

ATTO tests transfer speeds on both the read and write side of things and compares the performance of different file sizes. As you can see below, files 2KB and smaller are pretty slow and it speeds up quickly until we hit the wall around 32KB where the drive speed basically tops out. Either way, it’s not a slouch for a mechanical drive – let alone an external drive thanks to the wonders of USB 3.0.

ATTO
(Click for full-sized image)

CrystalDiskMark Performance:

This benchmark confirms what we’ve seen in the other tests. The drive does a very good job with sequential reads and writes and even does pretty well with 512KB files, but once we get down to tiny files, performance is pretty sluggish. Keep in mind that most external drives will likely be used for movies, music and backups and the performance will be nice and speedy.

Crystal

AIDA64 Diskbench:

In this last benchmark we performed a linear read from start to finish on the entire drive before we did any torture testing. As you can see the drive performance stays right near the top all the way until about the 94% mark where it drops off for a bit and then hops back up to taper off as it nears the middle of the spinning platter. Even with the drop-off that we saw every time we ran this benchmark, the average read speed over the entire drive is just under 125MB/s - and that is fantastic for an external mechanical drive.

Diskbench
(Click for full-sized image)

On the last page we'll talk about the "Armor" and wrap up with our final thoughts.


Testing the Armor:

At BCCHardware we always try to test products and push them to their limits. Our job is to see if products live up to their claims or fall short. We often do just do this in terms of performance, but when a product claims to be tough or have "armor", we take this as a personal challenge.
To be fair, we don't expect unrealistic results from dropping a mechanical drive or running over it. Anything that is abused will break eventually. Silicon Power claims that this drive has "Military-grade Shockproof Protection" and cites US Military MIL-STD-810G as their reference. Exploring this shows that the drop is a 4-foot drop onto 2-inch thick plywood laid over concrete and I can say from experience that this drive would survive that drop distance all day long.

In reality, that is the specification they claim to adhere to and for that I have to give them full points. It does what the actual specification claims. With that in mind though, there are a few instances on the Silicon Power page where they claim 300cm drop tests that have passed. Challenge accepted.

To set up own drop tests we skipped the plywood and dropped the drive right onto concrete. Right there the impact shock is magnified as plywood does have a lot less coefficient of collision than concrete.  In our effort to find the breaking point we started at 5-feet and went up from there. The results are below.

Final Thoughts:

It's been over a year since I tested an external USB 3.0 hard drive and back then it was a 1TB unit. The performance was pretty good, and things have only gotten better. The Silicon Power Armor A30 drive has great performance, an attractive design and is very rugged. The non-standard USB 3.0 arrangement could be a cause for concern, but I think the connector idea works very well and I won't discount any points for that design.

I was surprised that such a small enclosure could house a 2TB drive and with the dense platters make it perform really well. I was very impressed with the ~125MB/s average transfer for the entire drive. That sure beats my 2x200GB Maxtor RAID 0 array. It's impressive how transfer rates have improved and that with USB 3.0 we don’t have to take a performance hit when we move the drive outside of our system.

In terms of ruggedness and reliability, Silicon Power does in fact meet and pass the US Military MIL-STD-810G impact tests. Their claim to survive a drop of 300cm hasn't been validated here at BCCHardware, but Silicon Power doesn't tell us what they are dropping the drive onto. If they drop it onto a stack of pillows, 70's shag carpet or a batch of kittens, the drive will probably survive the near 10-foot drop. Even if the drive was dropped on the same surface that the MIL-STD-810G requires, it just might - but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Even though this drive didn't survive our torture, we did push it beyond the actual rated specifications. With that in mind I can easily recommend it to anyone that needs a lot of external storage. With your data on this drive, you won't have to worry about every little bump and if it falls off your desk and hit the floor, it will survive just fine.

Pros:

  • Very fast
  • 2TB in a small package
  • "Armor" can survive bumps, bangs and drops
  • Great price
Cons:
  • Non-standard USB cable connector could make finding replacement cable difficult
I'd like to thank Silicon Power for sending this drive our way for a review. If you have any questions, comments or general feedback, please feel free to post at the link below.