Can a portable hard drive really be worth $100? There’s a company in New York who thinks so. Meet Glyph Technologies, the makers of the BlackBox.
Given that you can get a 1TB external hard-drive for half the price on Amazon, you could be forgiven for wondering why you would splash out on the BlackBox. There are countless examples of drives floating about the $50 price range, including the My Passport Ultra by Western Digital and Toshiba’s Canvio.
But the value proposition of the BlackBox is intrinsically tied to the various value-added offerings of the device. Each drive is assembled in the US (New York, to be precise), and comes is backed by one of the most generous warranties I’ve ever seen for a tech product. But is it any good?
Introducing The BlackBox
The BlackBox is a USB3 hard drive which draws power without the need for an external adapter.
It comes pre-formatted with the HFS Plus file system, which is the default for OS X. Given that the BlackBox is aimed at creative professionals, this makes perfect sense. HFS+ can support files up to 8 exabytes in size, whilst FAT32 tops out at 32GB. You can read more about how file-systems work here.
Like any USB mass storage device, the BlackBox can be formatted with any file system the user chooses.
The BlackBox connects via a standard USB3-B port, a cable for which is supplied. Given that the device comes OS X ready, I’m surprised there isn’t a Thunderbolt port on there, too.
The drive comes in easy-to-open compact cardboard packaging. The box and contents are as utilitarian as the product itself, with few bells and whistles to speak of, and no documentation to ignore.
When the box is folded open, it reveals the BlackBox drive, resting upon a slightly superfluous bit of cardboard origami. Behind this, there’s a USB3 cable.
And that’s it, really. There’s no documentation to speak of, as everything you need to know is written on the packaging. You’re given an overview of the drive’s compatibility with various operating systems, as well as how it performs overall.
As the name suggests, the BlackBox is… black. Besides the logo for Glyph and the word ‘BlackBox’, the device is a constant, unassuming black. It measures at 1.7cm in height, 12cm in length and 8cm in width, meaning it won’t occupy much desk space, and can be easily wrapped up and thrust into your jeans pocket.
The drive is encased in what can only be described as ‘reassuringly thick’ aluminum, meaning it’s pretty resilient. Tapping against the chassis gives a slightly gratifying ‘thud’ sound, and there isn’t anything loose rattling about in its innards. The Glyph BlackBox simply screams premium product.
It’s also surprisingly scratch resistant. Despite being dropped a couple of times, the device still looks brand new. With that said, it is prone to picking up fingerprints.
This spectacular build quality, however, does come with one notable downside. Namely, for a hard-drive, it’s pretty weighty. If you’re carrying it in your jeans pocket, expect them to sag.
The front of the drive contains three grooves, each with a mesh air vent. This doesn’t do much, besides break up the monotony of a solid black box. There’s no fans built in to the device for it to vent anything. It logically follows these open holes will greatly diminish its waterproof resistance, although I’ve not tried this out.
Finally, the underside holds two rubber grips. There’s not much to discuss here, other than they keep the drive secure and prevent it from sliding about.
Living With The BlackBox
The BlackBox is exceptionally well suited to its role as a data-storage device.
Although it performs nowhere near as well as a Solid State Drive (SSD), it does reasonably acceptable for a disk-based mass storage device. As previously mentioned, it connects to your computer over a fast USB 3.0 connection, meaning you get some pretty impressive transfer speeds.
Inside its thick metal case is a 5400rpm hard drive. This isn’t bad, but 7200rpm would be significantly better. This could have easily been achieved without any compromises on how the device is powered; be that through USB, or from AC.
Although there’s certainly room for improvement, the BlackBox is certainly no slouch. In just over one hour, I was able to copy over my expansive Home folder when migrating to a fresh install of OS X Yosemite.
In addition to being stylish, rugged and reasonably fast, the BlackBox comes with a generous warranty. So generous, it’s almost unparalleled.
Glyph promises that should your drive fail within the first year of its warranty, they’ll overnight a replacement to you for free. They’ll send it out on the same day you contact them with a problem.
Should it fail within the first two years, they’ll attempt to recover your lost data, although they make no promises as to any success. All this comes in addition to a standard three-year warranty, which offers a non-expedited repair and replacement.
This gives a great deal of reassurance, but remember the BlackBox is almost twice the price of most external HDDs. This is a premium product, and expect to pay a premium price.
Should You Buy It?
There’s a lot to be impressed with here.
The BlackBox’s generous warranty and free data recovery services give it a significant advantage over the competition. Add in its solid build quality, and you’ve got an impressive, high-tier product.
With that said, Glyph are asking a lot for what amounts to a bog-standard external hard drive. If it packed a faster disk, or came with Thunderbolt support, it might be a different story. But it doesn’t.
MakeUseOf Recommends: Don’t buy it. It looks the part, but there’s not a lot to separate it from other, cheaper drives.
How Do I Win The Glyph BlackBox?
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