ioSafe Solo review

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent


  • Extremely rugged
  • Waterproof and fireproof
  • Data recovery service included


  • USB 2.0 connectivity only
  • Bulky, heavy and expensive

We recently reviewed rugged storage specialist ioSafe's Rugged Portable hard drive, which more than lives up to its name. Here we examine its entry-level desktop stablemate, the ioSafe Solo. Like the Rugged Portable, the bulky Solo drive majors on physical robustness at the expense of slimline dimensions, performance and affordability.

We looked at the 1TB model, which costs around £170 (inc. VAT; £142 ex. VAT) online; the 2TB model will set you back around £260 (inc. VAT; £217 ex. VAT).

Like the Rugged Portable, the Solo comes with ioSafe's one-year, upgradable, Data Recovery Service, which in this case provides up to $1,000-worth of forensic services following a data loss event of any kind (including hard disk failure).

ioSafe Solo
ioSafe Solo: 1TB (or 2TB) of disaster-proof external hard disk storage, weighing nearly 7kg

The ioSafe Solo is a bulky and hefty box measuring 12.7cm wide by 27.9cm deep by 18cm high and weighing 6.8kg. That's bigger and heavier than some 2-bay NAS boxes, and is testament to the solidity of the alloy steel case construction and the amount of protection surrounding the 3.5in. 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive inside.

ioSafe Solo
The Solo is a USB 2.0 drive: eSATA is available on the Solo PRO and USB 3.0 on the Solo G3

Despite its military-grade toughness, the Solo looks quite smart, its battleship-grey enclosure enlivened by a grille of circular holes on the front, through which a blue LED shines. At the back there's a single USB 2.0 port, an input for the AC adapter, a cooling fan, a mounting point for bolting the drive to the floor or padlocking it to a secure cable, and a plate with the unit's serial number etched onto it. In the event of really serious damage to the case, you'll be able to recover this as proof of the drive's provenance.

ioSafe Solo
Inside the Solo's fireproof and waterproof case is a standard 3.5in.desktop hard drive

Inside the case, the cleverly designed protective material keeps the drive safe from extremes of heat (temperatures of up to 843.3°C [1,550°F] for up to 30 minutes) and moisture (submersion in up to 3m (10 feet) of water for up to 3 days). These tolerances are designed to allow the Solo to cope with the sort of conditions experienced in a building fire attended by hose-wielding emergency services.

Top ZDNET Reviews

If you want to see how ioSafe's products, including the Solo, stand up to sustained maltreatment, check out the gallery and video of CEO Robb Moore's visit to ZDNet UK earlier this year.

As mentioned above, this is a USB 2.0 drive — if you want eSATA (and Windows Server or Linux support), you'll need the Solo PRO. A newer model, the Solo G3, offers USB 3.0 support for faster performance.

By default, the Solo is formatted with NTFS for Windows systems (7, Vista, XP), but it can easily be mounted and reformatted for Mac OS (8.6 or higher).

Not surprisingly, there's no user access to the Solo's internals — for example, to swap out a failed disk. If this does happen, you're advised to take advantage of ioSafe's DRS scheme, rather than invalidate the device's three-year warranty.

We tested the 1TB, 7,200rpm ioSafe Solo with the widely-used ATTO disk benchmark, connecting the NTFS-formatted drive to Eurocom's fast Monster 1.0 ultraportable via USB 2.0. ATTO reported data transfer rates of 44.96MB/s (write) and 43.79MB/s (read):

ioSafe Solo

This isn't a fast external drive by any means, and if you need ioSafe-level protection and better performance, you'd be advised to consider the USB 3.0-equipped G3 model. Not surprisingly given all that insulation, the Solo enclosure remains cool during use; the fan is continually active, but thankfully is also reasonably quiet.

Like its Rugged Portable stablemate, the ioSafe Solo is bulkier, heavier, slower and more expensive than less robust external drives of its type. But it works well enough, and if you need your data to survive being burned and flooded, you can put your trust in this device.