Review: The Rocstor Airhawk A9 Portable Hard Drive

I’ve never used a portable hard drive.

I’ve had plenty of externals, but always opted for the full size, desktop, monster drives. They were always the best bang for buck, and I’d converted an old microphone flight case into a carry case for my last LaCie, if I ever needed to take it with me somewhere.

Well…

I had no idea what I was missing, as storage is cheap now, and having a TON of it in something that can fit in your back pocket is kinda nice…

Enter the Rocstor Airhawk.

The Airhawk A9 is a stealth fighter styled black slab, made out of a grippy plastic. Different storage sizes and speeds can be ordered, up to 500GB and 5400 or 7200RPM speeds. For the review, Rocstor sent over their top of the line drive, 500GB, 7200RPM. Quick and big. I dig it.

The drive features a trio of interfaces, USB2, Firewire, and Firewire 800. The two Firewire ports do support daisy-chaining, and the entire affair is bus powered. There is no AC adapter for the drive. Those of you with laptops will need to know which of your ports are powered, and if you choose to use a 4 pin Firewire connector, Rocstor did include an additional USB cable for power only (even though that means tying up a Firewire and USB port to connect and power the drive).

In operation, the drive was pretty quick. On USB 2 and Firewire I averaged write speeds of about 30MB/s with bursts as high 45MB/s. Read speeds were even faster averaging 40MB/s with bursts up to 50MB/s.  I did not have a Firewire 800 port to test the drive on, but I was happy to see the Airhawk make good use of the older connection protocols.

While this drive is not ruggedized, the plastic does provide a good buffer zone in every direction away from the internal drive proper. I completely expect the drive to handle bumps and jostling in a laptop bag with ease, but I wouldn’t expect it survive long drops, especially while powered. It is also not spill resistant, but few drives in this category are.

Since this is a portable drive, there are no fans or cooling built in to the casing. No other portable drives do this either, but it must be mentioned that portable drives are not designed for long term, mainline use, and the Airhawk will get warm to the touch when used for long periods of time. Heat kills electronics, so it’s aways best to only connect the drive when transferring info, then to disconnect when that transfer is completed to prolong the life of the drive.

Rocstor really prides itself on Mac and PC compatibility out of the box. That is a refreshing change of pace, as lately, most of the newer drives I’ve played with would only work on one OS or the other. The formatting required to get cross compatibility is usually very painful (I’m looking at you Western Digital), so it’s a joy not having to worry about that here.

Truthfully my favorite “feature” of the drive is it’s lack of obnoxious software. Many new drives come with a locked partition now, full of “helpful” software for backing up, or partitioning, or formating, or security, or what have you. I find quite a bit of it bothersome.

Upon connecting the Airhawk, I was greeted by…

Nothing….

Just Windows alerting me to the fact that I had  465GB of post formatted storage to use. A blank slate I could fill with anything I wanted. Glorious.

Build quality is solid. The plastic has a nice feel to it. My review unit felt really wobbly the first day I had it, like the drive was loose inside the case. I noticed that one of the corner plastic clips wasn’t fully snapped together, so I gave it a little squeeze, and it popped right in place. The drive has given me no issues since in the two weeks I’ve used it. The soft touch surface also does a really decent job of hiding the bumps and bruises this drive must be encountering in my camera bag.

In all, I’ve been very pleased with the A9. If you need big storage in a small form factor, I would highly recommend checking one out.

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  • Gary B

    Sounds like just the drive I need – and I have to say NOT pushing all the extra, “helpful” add-ons is a huge plus.

    • Juan Carlos Bagnell

      It’s silly refreshing. Just think how much money those other companies could save by not trying to hold our hands on mass storage.