This holiday season, several retailers are advertising external hard drives in their Black Friday flyers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot. Each is offering a 1 TB drive -- a few are offering 500 GB or 320 GB drive as well -- and there are definite bargains to be had. This size drive is ideal, because it will store more than 200,000 photos or songs, or more than 70 hours of video.
Several choices, all mediocre
The cheapest of these four advertised hard drives is a Seagate 1 TB external hard drive ($70 on sale) at Staples, marked down from $130. Judging from the low-rez scan of the leaked Black Friday flyer, this looks to be the Seagate BlackArmor 1 TB NAS 110 (*Est. $180), although we can't be certain. If that's the case, then the markdown is even greater. However, there are no owner reviews of this particular hard drive on the Staples website, and it only receives a handful of lukewarm reviews at Amazon.com.
Mega retailer Wal-Mart is advertising a Western Digital 1 TB My Book Essential Portable Hard Drive ($78 on sale), which is about $10 less than the regular price. Like the Seagate, there are no owner reviews of the Western Digital drive at Walmart.com, and it earns mediocre reviews from about three dozen users at Amazon.com. The majority of users give it a rating of just one star, with many of them complaining of dead drives and glitchy Smartware interface software.
For about the same price as the Western Digital hard drive, Office Depot is advertising the Verbatim 1 TB USB Desktop External Hard Drive ($79 on sale), marked from from $120 on OfficeDepot.com. A handful of owners provide feedback at the Office Depot website, and again, their comments are mixed. A couple owners say the drives failed immediately, while another says he couldn't get the drive to work with his Mac.
Best Buy goes one better with a 1.5 TB drive, the Western Digital My Book Home Edition ($120 on sale), which is $50 less than the regular price. Only one user has posted a review at BestBuy.com, and it's glowing, but a single review isn't much more helpful than no reviews at all. The 1 TB version of the Western Digital drive earns about 75 reviews at Amazon.com (*Est. 130), and like the other drives discussed in this post, they're mixed.
A better, smaller alternative
If you don't need a terabyte's worth of memory, and you prefer a portable drive (that doesn't have to use an AC cord), you might want to consider the 500 GB Western Digital My Passport Elite Portable Hard Drive Titanium ($80 on sale) being advertised by Best Buy. ConsumerSearch named this drive (in its 250 GB incarnation) a runner-up in our full report, and while it doesn't have any user reviews at BestBuy.com, it does earn a respectable four-star rating from about 40 owners at Amazon.com (*Est. $130). And at $80, the drive is $60 less than the regular price at Best Buy.
Given the tone of user reviews for each of these 1 TB drives, we can't recommend them without reservations. The prices are admittedly very attractive, but considering that you'll be using them to store your valuable data, you're probably better off spending a little more for one of the drives recommended in our ConsumerSearch full report on external hard drives, which pros and users alike say are more reliable. As an example, the LaCie d2 Quadra (*Est. 125 for 500 GB) is our pick for the best external hard drive, and user reviews for the 1 TB version of this drive (*Est. $155) at Amazon.com are just as strong as they are for the 500 GB version.