It's been awhile since Sony has released the HD-S1A external pocket size hard drive. At the time it hit the market, this external hard drive was said to be the lightest and thinnest of its kind and it can still brag about those features today. We only recently received it for testing purposes and, after a few days' worth of testing, we would like to show you what Sony's HD-S1A is capable of. Read this review and find out whether it is worth buying one of the slimmest external hard drives that you can find today:
Unboxing and hardware specifications
The Sony HD-S1A external hard drive comes in a box made from cardboard and transparent plastic. The paper cardboard part is filled with various information about the hard drive: features, specifications, compatibility, warranty details and so on. The transparent plastic covers the actual hard drive. We always appreciate packages with transparent housings, simply because they let you see the device that you want to buy, before actually opening the box.
When you open the package, you find the external Sony HD-S1A hard drive, a USB cable for connecting it to other devices and a series of documents that include a user manual and the warranty.
This external hard drive is available in two color variations: silver and black. As you can see in the picture above, the model we tested is the silver one.
The Sony HD-S1A spins at 5400 RPM (revolutions per minute) and offers 1TB of storage space in a 2.5 inch disk size.
On the drive, you'll find only one USB 3.0 Micro-B connector which is used both for transferring data and to power the drive.
In terms of dimensions, the Sony HD-S1A is a truly pocket sized external hard drive. It is 117mm or 4.60 inches in length, 79mm or 3.11 inches in width and it has a thickness of only 8.7mm/0.34inches. The latter value entitles the Sony HD-S1A to brag about being the slimmest external hard drive in the world. It's also a very lightweight device, weighing only 155 grams or 5.46 ounces.
If you want more details about the features and hardware specifications of Sony's HD-S1A external hard drive, check its official web page: Sony External Pocket Size Hard Drive HD-S1A.
Features and user experience
With a thickness of only 8.7mm, the Sony HD-S1A is the slimmest external hard drive we have ever tested. Put that together with its very light weight and it's obvious that this is a storage device meant to be on the road rather than on your desk. You can get a better idea of how thin it is, just by looking at the picture below. We've put the Sony HD-S1A external hard drive next to a Motorola Nexus 6 and yes, they are almost as slim.
Another thing we like at this highly portable storage device is the fact that its casing is made of metal, and that makes it look sturdy and reliable. The Sony HD-S1A probably won't survive a fall on the asphalt, but the aluminum casing will surely provide more protection to delicate internal mechanisms than a plastic casing would.
When it comes to looks, the brushed finish on the casing looks nice and it also gives you the feeling of owning a high-end device.
However, there are two things we don't like about the way the Sony HD-S1A is built: the blue LED light and the front and back edges of this device.
The LED light uses only one color - blue - and flashes when data is transferred to or from the drive. Unfortunately, the LED light is on the back of the drive, right next to the USB cable. If you want to see the LED light you must position the hard drive with the USB cable towards you. And if you - like us - suffer from a mild form of ataxophobia, which is a fear of disorder and untidiness, that's not exactly great.
The other thing we don't like at how the Sony HD-S1A external hard drive is built is the fact that the front and back edges of its casing are made from plastic. If you place your fingernails between these plastic edges and the metal part of the casing, you can easily create plenty of empty space between them.
Bundled s oftware
The Sony HD-S1A external hard drive comes with some bundled software:
- Data Transfer Accelerator - a program that is designed to accelerate reading and writing data to and from the Sony HD-S1A external hard drive. It works best when you need to move small files to or from the drive and, according to Sony, should be able to provide you with up to two times the transfer speed you would get without using this software. Keep in mind though, that this software is not compatible with Windows 10.
- Backup Manager - software designed to help you make backups to the Sony HD-S1A external hard drive. Although its user interface looks a dated, this tool works well and it knows how to create incremental backups of your files.
- Password Protection Manager - it will help you protect the data stored on the Sony HD-S1A external hard drive. It does that by encrypting all or just part of the contents of your drive using a military grade safe AES 256-bit encryption. In order to get access to the protected data, you have to enter a security password. We like seeing such software being bundled with storage devices of this kind, but our good opinions end here. We used the Sony HD-S1A external hard drive on two different computers running Windows 10 and, unfortunately, its Password Protection Manager didn't want to cooperate with us. Every three clicks or so, the software stopped working. It seems like this software was not designed to be compatible with Windows 10 and it needs an update.
- FAT32 Formatter - a simple tool that is designed to format your Sony HD-S1A external hard drive to FAT32. By default, this drive is formatted to NTFS but, if you want to use it with certain devices that don't support this file system and only work with FAT32, like a PlayStation 3 for instance, this tool will help. We have to mention though, that Windows operating system knows how to format a drive to FAT32 out of the box, so there's not a lot of added value to this FAT32 Formatter tool.
You will find all the above software on the Sony HD-S1A external hard drive. However, if it happens that you lose these programs, because of an accidental formatting for instance, you can download it from this Sony webpage: HDD Smart software for more fun!
Performance in benchmarks
One of the most important parts of a hardware review is the performance section, so we couldn't have ended this review without running some benchmarks. We started by running a few tests with the popular storage benchmarking tool CrystalDiskMark. This program executes a set of tests that aim to measure the speeds at which a drive can read and write various chunks of data. If you take a look at the screenshot below, you can see that Sony HD-S1A external hard drive doesn't offer mind blowing data transfers.The sequential read/write speeds are decent, but the random data read/write speeds are low.
For a second opinion on the performance offered by the Sony HD-S1A, we used another well known benchmarking tool named ATTO Disk Benchmark Tool. This tool runs only sequential tests, but it uses different sizes for the data blocks. This means that it shows how fast the drive being tested is when reading/writing files from small to large. The results that we achieved on the Sony HD-S1A clearly show that this external hard drive offers decent read/write speeds when you work with large files. However, its performance suffers a rather drastic drop when you work with very small files.
The benchmark results we got with both CrystalDiskMark and ATTO Disk Benchmark Tool show that the Sony HD-S1A is an average external drive in terms of speed and raw performance. It's not the fastest storage device out there but it is a good choice if you will use it for data backups or for moving large files between different locations and computers.
The Sony HD-S1A may not be the fastest or the newest external hard drive but it's surely one of the most notable drives of its kind. Its metal casing and incredible slimness, make this drive stand out in the competition for the "best looking and most portable external hard drives " . If you're looking for an external hard drive that is a decent performer in terms of speed, it is easy to carry and it looks great alongside your computers and devices, then the Sony HD-S1A is a good choice. By the way, it's also available in black!