There are no shortage of ruggedised hard drives - LaCie's Starck Mobile Hard Drive can be run over by a car without worries, and its Rugged All-Terrain Hard Disk will certainly survive knocks and bumps. Transcend's StoreJet 25M-R even claims to withstand US military drop-test standards.
There isn't much to differentiate the Hitachi SimpleTOUGH from other rugged drives, though at least it doesn't look quite as bricklike as the alternatives. Available in red, blue and "carbon fibre" colour schemes, the enclosure is made of a hardened plastic and flanked on both sides by rubber strips. This makes for a slightly curved shape, ensuring the hard drives always lands or rolls onto its front or back for best protection.
The USB 2.0 cable has been embedded directly into the hard drive so it never gets lost. It's not quite sealed when inserted back into the drive, however, so we doubt it's fully protected against contact with liquid. Like the Hitachi SimpleDRIVE Mini, the Hitachi SimpleTOUGH has a DC port for computers that don't provide enough power to the drive over USB. Because Hitachi doesn't bundle the adapter with the drive, this inclusion is largely useless.
The Hitachi SimpleTOUGH external hard drive is preformatted with the FAT32 file system, so it's compatible with both Macs and PCs. If you need to transfer files greater than 4GB in size, Hitachi provides instructions on formatting the hard drive to suit either operating system. Any software on the drive that isn't backed up will be lost during the format.
The Mac/PC compatible Hitachi Local Backup software bundled on the SimpleTOUGH is actually Acronis TotalMedia Backup, which is easy to use and provides comprehensive backup and synchronisation options. Backups can be scheduled or initiated based on folders or file types, with presets for regularly used file formats. Unlike the WD SmartWare software that accompanies Western Digital's My Passport SE, advanced users will be able to add their own file formats to be backed up.
The file transfer results were unsurprisingly identical to the Hitachi SimpleDRIVE Mini's - good but not fantastic. Of course, you can only expect a certain level of performance from a 2.5in hard drive running over a USB 2.0 connection, especially without optimised drivers.
The SimpleTOUGH has a relatively low cost per formatted gigabyte.
The Hitachi SimpleTOUGH external hard drive's rugged enclosure and embedded USB 2.0 cable make it a good option for carting around data, though style-conscious road warriors may want to look elsewhere.