Test one: Design quality
Full marks for the LaCie here. Designed by top industrial designer Philippe Starck, its sturdy aluminium casing and shiny, molten metal front look absolutely gorgeous. Starck's signature cross sign is projected onto the desktop as a drive status LED too, which is a nice touch.
The G-DRIVE is designed to match the Mac Pro, but looks good next to any modern Mac. Build quality is excellent too, being sturdily crafted from brushed aluminium.
The Quattro is equally sturdy, but is clearly built for function rather than aesthetics. It's not ugly, but it's just not all that eye-catching either.
The Hitachi LifeStudio Desk Plus's plastic build is solid enough, but its form factor and detachable USB key means it demands accessible desk space, and cannot be tucked away out of sight.
Buffalo's DriveStation also features a plastic casing. Its shiny surface is reasonably attractive, but it picks up fingerprints faster than the CSI team.
Test Two: Performance
Of the six drives on offer, the Starck, LifeStudio and DriveStation are USB-only, but the DriveStation includes turbo drivers for increased speed. The others all offer FireWire 800 connectivity.
Only the Quattro has a FireWire 400 port, but the eGo and G-DRIVE units bundle a FW400-800 cable so you can connect the drive to your Mac's FireWire 400 port.
We tested each drive twice, using its fastest connection and bare-bones USB. As most modern Macs have FireWire and desktop drives are rarely carried around and shared with USB-only computers, the fastest test is the most important.
And not surprisingly, quickest off the blocks is the Iomega eGo, closely followed by G-Tech's G-DRIVE, both under FireWire 800. Freecom's Quattro also has FireWire 800, but is a little slow compared to the fastest two. Buffalo's USB 2.0 connectivity is significantly boosted by a bundled turbo driver – a great touch for the cheapest drive on offer.