iStorage DiskAshur2 USB 3.1 Encrypted HDD Review

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iStorage DiskAshur2 1TB Review

Introduction

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There are many different programs and applications offering solid unbreakable encryption of your files and documents, but what if there was a device which allowed your data to be locked at hardware level? Say hello to the new DiskAshur2 (pronounced Disk Assure)…

The DiskAshur2 is available in a wide variety of colour options and capacities, which are:

Capacities

500GB
1TB
2TB
3TB
4TB
5TB

Colours

Fiery Red
Phantom Black
Racing Green
Ocean Blue

What is the diskAshur2?

An easy to use ultra-secure, PIN authenticated, portable USB 3.1 hard drive with real-time AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption, software free design, and super-fast data transfer speeds. The diskAshur2 has an easy-to-use keypad design enabling you to securely access the drive with your own unique 7-15 digit PIN and with software free setup and operation, the diskAshur2 is platform/device independent and works across all operating systems including all versions of MS Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Chrome, Thin Clients, Zero Clients and embedded systems. In fact, it will work on any device with a USB port! One of the unique and underlying security features of the GDPR compliant diskAshur2 is the dedicated hardware based secure microprocessor (Common Criteria EAL4+ ready), which employs built-in physical protection mechanisms designed to defend against external tamper, bypass attacks and more. Unlike other solutions, the diskAshurreacts to an automated attack by entering the deadlock frozen state, which renders all such attacks as useless. In plain and simple terms, without the PIN there’s no way in!

To further clarify this, iStorage sent us a sample of the 1TB diskAshur2 complete in a very striking fiery red. Let’s take a look at it, but not after the specifications of course…

Specifications

Capacity 500GB, 1TB & 2TB
Data Transfer Speed Up to: Read 148 MBps / Write 140 MBps
RPM 5400
Buffer Size 8MB
Power Supply Bus Powered
Dimensions (W, D, H) 124 mm x 84 mm x 19 mm (500GB,1TB,2TB)| 124 mm x 84mm x 27mm (3TB,4TB,5TB)
Weight 500GB/1/2TB max. 216 grams approx. | 3/4/5TB max. 325 grams approx
Approvals FIPS PUB 197 Validated, FCC, CE, RoHS, WEEE, TAA Compliant
Interface Super Speed USB 3.1 – up to 5Gbps. Backward compatible with USB 3.0/2.0/1.1
Operating System Compatibility MS Windows, macOS, Linux, Chrome, Thin Clients, Zero Clients, Android & Embedded Systems
Hardware Data Encryption Real-Time Military Grade AES-XTS 256-bit Full-Disk Hardware Encryption
Warranty 2 Years
iStorage Part Number IS-DA2-256-xxxx-xx   (xxxx-xx = Capacity and Colour) B = Phantom Black:  BE = Ocean Blue:  R = Fiery Red:  GN = Racing Green:
Box Contents Portable Hard Drive, Protective Carry Case, QSG (Quick Start Guide)

 

Closer Look

So, you’re probably wondering why you may need such a high level of security for your files, but I guess this depends on what kind of data you’re storing and what kind of field you’re in. Sure, if you’re working for the government or with highly valuable data which in the wrong hands would be disastrous, then I think we’ve hit the nail firmly on the head. Most of you reading this probably won’t need this level of security, but with all the nasty data hungry malware and viruses, why not consider the next level of data protection, especially for all your valuable assets that would consider putting on an encrypted hard drive.

On the front, a numeric keypad takes centre stage which provides hardware level encryption meaning that without the pin number, you’re not getting access making this one of the most secure portable consumer level hard drives on the market. The rubberised coating not only feels good, but it looks good too…

iStorage DiskAshur2 1TB Front 1 iStorage DiskAshur2 1TB Front 2

Integrated into the diskAshur2 is a USB cable which is long enough to be useful, but also short enough to be placed back into its little cubby hole.

iStorage DiskAshur2 1TB Cable

The rear isn’t much to look at aside from the usual label with all those regulatory European safety logos such as RoHS compliance etc. It also has 4 rubber pads allowing for sitting on a desk, although if plugged into a PC, depending on the placement of your USB ports, it’s more likely to be placed on top of your system.

iStorage DiskAshur2 1TB Back 1

Usage & Performance

Out of the box, the iStorage diskAshur2 uses a default admin PIN code which you’re going to want to change after using for the first time. One thing to note when creating a new pin is that this device doesn’t allow for the use of sequential numbers meaning you can’t use repeated numbers. Once you remove the USB from your system, the drive automatically locks back down, but you can manually change this which means you can have the drive unlocked for a prolonged period of time; from 5 and 99 minutes to be exact.

Focusing more on the encryption levels, the diskAshur2 has AES-XTS 256-bit encryption at a hardware level meaning that no software is required. This is perfect for those who plan to use this drive on multiple systems, even those where software access is denied, this allows you to keep full military level encryption 100% of the time; aside from the time the drive is unlocked of course!

Touching more on the performance…

iStorage DiskAshur2 Performance

The performance of the diskAshur2 isn’t the most potent we have seen and some will be slightly disappointed with the figures above, especially for a USB 3.1 compatible device. Sure, the speed could be greater, but this product isn’t designed to be fast, but more… safe and sturdy! Safe and sturdy the diskAshur2 is, but high performance it certainly isn’t!

Conclusion

It’s quite clear and ever so apparent that the diskAshur2 isn’t your regular and conventional portable hard drive, but overlooking all of that for the moment… for what it actually is and what it’s designed for, it’s mind numbingly brilliant.

Performance

While actual drive performance is somewhat sub par for a USB 3.1 compatible device, it’s not that bad, not by any stretch. With read speeds of just under 100MB/s and similar write speeds (96MB/s), the performance aficionados aren’t going to be very impressed and neither was I to be brutally honest. All that aside, the actual performance of the encryption is evident and unless you have the user defined pin number to hand, you’re not going to be able to access it, especially since it’s tamper proof throughout.

Design

As mentioned at the top of the page, the iStorage diskAshur2 is available in 4 very tempting colours, but reigning in and looking at what we have in hand, I am very impressed with the look and feel of the fiery red; even if my true passion lies with blue! One point I would like to discuss however is the cable, but more so the length… the length is way too short to meet my standards! Sure, it’s fine if you’re using a laptop, but as I found and as the drive is currently plugged into my system, it’s hanging from the back due to its relatively short length. Could the cable be longer? Sure, it could, but it would of course have to be extra from the drive thus being counterproductive, as I quite like the cable built in!

Value

While most ‘regular’ portable 1TB drives range from £45 onwards, some may be shocked with the pricing of around £220 for the diskAshur2 solution. For basic storage needs, those options will be fine, but I believe iStorage have priced the diskAshur2 rather well considering what’s on offer. You really need to understand that for hardware level encryption products, you’re going to pay a premium. As for the type of people to use them probably won’t see £200+ as a problem, considering the value of the documents can be sometimes priceless, it’s a small price to pay in relative terms.

Final Thoughts

Having used the diskAshur2 1TB drive from iStorage for just over a week now, I’m actually impressed with how good it looks and how robust it feels; it certainly doesn’t feel cheap at all and feels like it was built to last. The keypad is responsive and the integrated AES-XTS 256-bit encryption is a very nice touch for those wanting to keep their private files, well private! For a regular user, £220 is very steep indeed, but for those looking for an option that requires a solid level of encryption and doesn’t want to be limited solely to software solutions, the diskAshur2 is the drive you want!

Huge thanks to iStorage for sending the diskAshur2 in for review.

fPlay3r Recommended Award

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

Pros:

- Solid and robust build quality
- AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption as standard - No need to faff around with software
- Available in 4 different colours - Fiery red is vibrant and cool as can be
- Available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and soon to be launched with 3TB, 4TB and 5TB options
- Tamper proof
- Easy to use and set up

Cons:

- Way too expensive for users looking for a 'basic' portable hard drive

3.5

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