The ToughTech mini is a 250GB 2.5-inch hard drive in a shock-absorbing, grip-textured case that provides a convenient way to carry lots of data around. The two key attributes of it are the ability to withstand daily knocks and its versatile connectivity.

It comes in a solid-looking case about 8cm wide, 13cm long and 2cm thick. There is a green power LED at one end and a connector plate at the other. This has a DC-in jack socket, a FireWire 400 (1394a) port, a USB 2.0 mini port, and two FireWire 800 (1394b) ports. Cables are supplied for these ports.

FireWire 800 operates at 800Mbit/s and two ports means daisy-chaining is possible. FireWire 400 - 400Mbit/s - and USB 2.0 seem pedestrian in comparison.

There is also a ToughTech XE version of the product which has a combination eSATA (external SATA) and USB 2.0 port. The eSATA provides up to 3Gbit/s transfers theoretically.

By unscrewing three tiny Phillips screws - screwdriver supplied - you can remove the connector end plate. The aluminium carrier plate and drive can now be slid out, revealing a 9.5mm high Hitachi 2.5-inch serial ATA (SATA), 5400rpm drive. It is mounted firmly on its carrier and the whole affair is well made. Other make and/or capacity 2.5-inch SATA drives can be used to replace it if you wish, meaning that the carrier and case can be re-used if you want to upgrade disk capacity. But any replacement drive must be 9.55mm high or less.

You can also uncrew the cover plate at the other end if you wish.

The case moulding profile holds the carrier securely with the three screws securing the connector end plate in effect locking the whole assembly together. The carrier plate has shock absorbing material between it and the actual drive mounting card. It's this FlexMount or ToughMount design that provides the ability to soak up bumps and vibrations. Four screws clamp the carrier plate, drive mounting board and drive together. I didn't test how well the FlexMount worked, not wishing to push the drive to its destruction point and reveal what it takes to break it.

The drive will still fail eventually; that's a statistical certainty. However, because of its shock absorbing mounting that time is a lot further away with ToughTech external drives than non-protected ones.

The size of the drive means it can actually fit in a shirt pocket but you will feel the weight and using the supplied leather carry case with its velcro fastener is a more practical idea.

The aluminium carrier plate and the enclosure dissipate heat well enough from this cool-running drive so as not to need a fan; it is quiet in its operation. The power needed might be sufficient from a USB connection but an adaptor and cable is supplied as standard.

The FireWire ports indicate it is supported by Apple Macs, and so it is; also by Unix/Linux if the particular version supports one of the connection types.

I installed it on a Windows XP SP2 Dell PC and, since it used the USB connection, the installation was bullet-proof. The usable space was 232GB and not 250GB. That's because hard drive manufacturers use decimal maths (base 10) and operating system suppliers use binary maths (base 2).

Windows displayed the device as a 'WIEBETECH (J:) device - 'J' because I have far too many USB-connect removable devices, and WiebeTech after the manufacturer. Drag-and-dropping files and folders to it worked as expected, with the green power LED flickering as the drives was accessed for writing. Reading the contents caused no flickering.

It simply works as advertised and certainly looks capable of continuing to do so thoughout a busy and long working life.

OUR VERDICT

If you need to take up to 232GB of data with you then this is a cost-effective and reliable-looking unit to do just that. It could also be used as a backup target.