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For the ultimate in speed, it's hard to beat a solid-state drive. Unfortunately, capacities are limited, and you'll still pay a steep premium for the largest models. Buffalo's new DriveStation DDR attempts to bring together the capacity of a traditional platter-based hard drive with the speed of an SSD in the form of the DriveStation DDR. It's a novel concept, and while we were skeptical at first, the DriveStation has us convinced that it is possible to have it all: super-fast data speeds and lots of storage in a budget-friendly package.
From the outside, the DriveStation DDR looks just like a plain-jane external drive—emphasis on plain-jane; Buffalo isn't known for flash. It's a black box measuring 1.8 x 5 x 8 inches, with a couple of subtle LEDs tucked into one edge. Small rubber feet invite either horizontal or vertical placement. Plug the drive into AC power, connect with the included USB 3.0 cable, and you're good to go—almost.
DriveStation comes formatted for Windows, so Mac users will need to take a quick trip to Disk Utility to reformat. Before you do that, however, make sure to make a backup copy of the folder containing the sole Mac utility that ships on the drive: Buffalo includes an application for turning caching on and off. It's on by default, so chances are you may never need it.
The magic of DriveStation DDR is the 1GB of high-speed DDR3 memory that the drive uses to cache data for optimum reading and writing performance. Essentially, the DriveStation DDR is a hard drive with its own RAM. The end result is super-fast speeds from a USB 3.0 drive, without the high cost associated with Thunderbolt devices (which can actually be slower than the DDR).
In benchmark tests, DriveStation DDR achieved speeds much higher than conventional USB 3.0 drives. Connected to a 2.9GHz Core i7-equipped MacBook Pro, we achieved read and write benchmarks topping 200 MB/s. But even outside the rarified environment of benchmarking software, the DriveStation DDR is noticeably faster in real-world use, making it a perfect repository for media files, photo collections, and whole-computer backups.
The bottom line. Buffalo's DriveStation DDR offers top of the line speeds on a budget. What's not to like?
USB 3.0, AC power outlet
It's fast. Caching is enabled by default.
Skimpy documentation. Needs re-formatting for use with a Mac.