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Buffalo DriveStation Combo4 (500GB) review

A large external drive with a small desktop footprint

Buffalo DriveStation Combo4
This tiny drive would benefit from some kind of LED activity indicator

Our Verdict

Some build quality issues, but offers generous connection options at a reasonable price


  • Inexpensive
  • Generous connection options
  • Small desktop footprint
  • Quiet


  • Can get hot
  • No LED status indicator except on/off

Housing a single 500GB Samsung HD501LJ drive, the Buffalo DriveStation Combo 4 offers a whopping amount of storage, certainly enough to hold a few years worth of family photos and music, and plenty for the organised professional.

It also gives you plenty of ways to connect it to your Mac and can be used as a Time Machine drive right out of the box.

There's no RAID option with this drive, but RAID isn't for everyone. The enclosure is fairly basic, but that has a stronger attraction for people who just want something to work right away.

Speedy transfers

The speed of the drive was impressive. It has two FireWire 800 ports, one FireWire 400 port, one USB 2.0 port and one eSATA port.

The FireWire 800 random uncached write speed was 36.76 MB/sec, the same test over FireWire 400 returned 32.60 MB/sec and 28.4 MB/sec over USB 2.0 (we didn't test the eSATA port). So not too shabby for this type of drive, but note that the My Book Studio II is much faster over FireWire 800 in RAID 0.

The one thing we would ask for in the next caddy update is some kind of activity indicator on the front panel. There's nothing to show the different functions of the drive, or the current volume of data on the drive at a glance.

By contrast, nearly all of Western Digital's drives, including the whole My Book range, carry an LED indicator to tell you what the drive is doing, including warnings of possible danger.

Questionable build quality

The DriveStation Combo4 is a quiet drive but after a day of activity is was quite hot to the touch.

Also, the material used for the external caddy chips easily, and two of the legs on the four-legged stand buckled during our 'knock' test, which involves dropping a book on the drive. So we had some build quality concerns, though not enough to mark the drive down too badly.