Buffalo is known for its tough, durable products and the MiniStation Extreme is no exception. This is the only model in our shootout with shock protection, in the form of integrated U.S. Military grade rubber guards positioned around the drive to protect it from bumps and falls.
The exterior of the MiniStation Extreme features a glossy black finish on one side, and a faux-leather grippy material on the other. A convenient built-in 15cm USB cable wraps neatly around the edge of the unit - very handy if you're one of those people who hate to carry along the connectivity cable (or worse still, keep losing them). A 50cm extension cable is also supplied. An LED indicator is hidden under the cable which lights up a different color according to what type of port it's connected to: orange for USB 2.0, or blue for USB 3.0.
The only drawbacks to the MiniStation Extreme are its slightly larger dimensions (compared to the other drives) and somewhat heavier weight (only the Seagate FreeAgent Go Flex Ultra Portable was bigger and heavier). Rugged drives used to be a lot more bulky, but the Buffalo strikes a nice balance and makes anyone concerned wit the physical aspects of the drive a moot consideration. So portability of the drive is somewhat maintained and once you consider the advantages of the MiniStation Extreme, you get to appreciate it even better.
Buffalo packages a host of software tools with the MiniStation Extreme. SecureLock Manager provides password protection with encryption for the main drive as well as for sub-folders and files. Buffalo Backup Utility, requires an initial setup, but after that has an automated backup procedure. Turbo PC EX is a set of installable drivers designed to speed up transfer speeds by reducing the USB driver overheads normally associated with the standard USB driver built-in to the operating system.
The Imation Apollo Expert M250 will appeal to the minimalist crowd. A no-frills rectangular shape in a matte silver color, you won't find any special gimmicks or design features here. From far away the drive looks quite smart (dare we say, even Apple-esque), but close up, the silver plastic is less convincing and looks rather cheap.
Fortunately, a genuine leather carrying case, which looks much better, is also included:
An LED indicator lights up blue when the drive is connected, and flashes when data is transferring. While this is a nice visible cue to see when your files are done transferring, we found the flashing light to be pretty annoying when moving larger files that take time to transfer.
The drive is quite sparse when it comes to included software. Arcsoft TotalMedia is a tool for automatically backing up the contents of your computer or drive. Other than that, the only other thing you'll find is a trial version of Norton Online backup. Unlike the other drives, no password protection or security features are included.