Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/26/review_storage_external_hdd_lg_xd4/

LG XD4 500GB

Not enough capacity by half?

By Tony Smith

Posted in Hardware, 26th June 2009 08:02 GMT

Review There's plenty to commend LG's XD4 external hard drive for: it looks good, it's reasonably quiet and it comes with some handy extras. It's not without its quirks, mind.

LG XD4

LG's XD4: behind the curve?

The 500GB XD4 we tested comes in a 185 x 122 x 36mm matte black shell with glossy rims - red and white versions are also available. Placed flat, the drive's sides are slightly concave, and the top and bottom are etched with tight, concentric circular grooves. It's cute, and while we prefer the solidity of the - admittedly a little larger - Samsung Story, we like the XD4 too. And LG pledges its "anti-hit" aluminium casing will guard against knocks and bumps.

LG bundles the drive with a stand, allowing the unit to be mounted vertically safe in the knowledge it won't be easily pushed over. In fact, there are no feet on the drive itself, suggesting that LG expects you to used the stand and not choose to place the XD4 horizontally.

The XD4's long sides have vent holes, in one of which the red disk activity light is cunningly placed. Perhaps too cleverly - we didn't notice it when we slotted the unpowered drive into the stand and placed it face down.

That's partly because we assumed the light would be on the face of the drive diametrically opposite the panel with all the ports. But no, like the XD2 external drive, the XD4's light is mounted near the business end. Presumably, LG reckons more people have the cables facing them than have the wiring tucked out of the way at the back. We think that might well be the case with a portable drive, but not necessarily with a desktop unit which, by dint of requiring its own mains power supply, is likely to be plugged in permanently.

And it also assumes users put the thing in the cradle the right way up. Ahem.

LG XD4

Make sure you dock it the right way up

To return to the stand, it has matching vent holes that you can align with those on the edge of the drive, though there's gap enough for airflow if you don't. The stand holds the drive snugly with four rubber pads, and while there are also rubber feet on the base of the stand, they don't lift the stand off the deck very much. Still, you can slide a sheet or two of paper under there and that's sufficient to allow air to flow in and up through the HDD. Certainly, we didn't notice it getting particularly hot during use.

The back of the drive - or front, if you follow the logic behind LG's location of the disk light - there's a printer-style USB connector; a power switch, which we like; the power socket; and an "instant back-up" button that taps into the bundled, Windows only software. LG also offers a version of the XD4 with an eSata port, but alas this wasn't the one lent to us for testing.

LG XD4

There's a version with eSata too

LG includes a suitable USB cable and deserves extra praise for including a universal, phone-style AC adaptor and including connectors for the UK, US, Europe and Australasia.

LG XD4

No lights

Nice touch, LG, but you lose the points gained from that by bundling the XD4 with the same poor back-up application, PC Clone EX Lite, that comes with the XD2. This Windows-only tool will copy over as much or as little of your PC's hard drive directory structure as you like. You can tell it to ignore the Windows and My Programs folders, but it's not savvy enough to automatically ignore temporary cache directories within Windows' Documents folder array.

It can also be set to make an initial copy of the files then subsequently only back-up files that have changed in the meantime. Set, yes, but when we tried it, the app still copied everything over anyway.

LG XD4

The rudimentary back-up app can be activated from the drive

At least backing up is easy. A PC Clone EX Lite daemon runs in the background on the host PC to trigger the back-up process if you press the special button on the back of the XD4. Again, because the button's on the back of the drive, not the front, you'll have to position the unit with the power and USB cables facing forward if you want to use this feature.

Whatever negative comments we have about the XD4's software, there's no ignoring the solid performance the drive put in during our tests. Having reformatted the drive to the cross-platform FAT32 file system - it's pre-formatted as an NTFS volume - we connected it directly to a MacBook Air's USB 2.0 port and copied first a 2GB file and then a folder containing 100 10MB files. The file and folder were then duplicated on the drive itself, and we repeated the tests half a dozen times and averaged the data-transfer speeds.

File Transfer Results - Copy to External Drive

Samsung Story

Data Transfer Rate in Megabytes per Second (MB/s)
Longer bars are better

As you can see, the XD4 is no slouch, beating Samsung's Story Station on one operation and falling right behind it on the rest.

File Transfer Results - Duplicate on External Drive

Samsung Story

Data Transfer Rate in Megabytes per Second (MB/s)
Longer bars are better

LG wants around £85 for the XD4, but we've seen it on sale for £70 before P&P. Such discounts take it into the price band that most 500GB desktop external hard drives occupy. LG's bundled software is below par - not that most others are in any way impressive. But since it's a nicely made, good looking drive and a decent performer, we're not overly concerned.

No, we just can't see the point of buying a £70 external drive - good though it is - when you can pay a tenner more and get a good 1TB drive like the Samsung Story.

Verdict

Quirks aside, LG's XD4 is a good external hard drive that performs well and, compared to the competition, isn't unreasonably priced. But it's clearly a lot less value than drives offering twice the storage capacity. ®

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