Revving up the hard drive: Solid-state discs (SSDs) are the sports cars of external hard drives. But running an SSD on USB 2.0 is akin to buying a Ferrari with only three gears. Buffalo is putting the foot down by revamping its lineup of external SSDs to run on the much faster and newer USB 3.0 connections. The difference is a speed limit of around 480Mps compared to 5Gbps. The new drives, the SHD-PEHU3 series, hit the market May 10 and come in a selection of three storage sizes — 64-, 128- and 256-gigabyte models. The devices fit in the palm like a mobile phone and draped in a glossy black finish they even look the part. Beyond speed, the devices also put a premium on portability, weighing a slight 66 grams and measuring 97 mm in width by 57 mm in height and a slim 12 mm in depth.

The drives come with a Buffalo software suite that includes the ability to create backups and to encrypt data. PC users solely benefit from the included programs with all three main varieties of Windows — XP, Vista and 7 — all working with the packaged software. Mac users can hook their computers up to the Buffalo products and use them as external drives but have to do without any of the bonus software. Apart from the flagship USB 3.0, the drives will also happily offer compatibility with the relatively pedestrian USB 2.0 and even indulge the museum exhibit 1.1 and its 12Mbps sluggishness. The last feature is crucial in allowing the units to still be useful while a user waits to upgrade their computer to USB 3.0.

Just like Italian dream machines, USB 3.0 devices place extraordinary demands on your wallet. The SHD-PEHU3 start at ¥26,400 for the 64-gigabyte model. Considering you can get a terabyte or more of conventional disk storage for the same money, the premium is blatant. Moving up to the 128-gigabyte model pushes the price to ¥47,700, and there is no discount for upping the capacity to 256 gigabytes, with the top model SHD-PEH256U3 topping out at ¥100,900. If you are one of those who just has to blow past the speed limit, then the Buffalo trio will appeal to you. If you don’t already have or need USB 3.0 then it is better to wait for the new technology to drop in price. buffalo.jp/products/new/2010/001129.html

Sony reshapes the speaker: “Thinking out of the box” hardly begins to describe Sony’s latest addition to the Walkman family. The Sound Mug RDP-NWV500 is a speaker that looks like an elongated coffee mug or smart thermos flask. The device fits into a vehicle’s cup holder and is tethered to the vehicle. The speaker is then plugged into the onboard audio system or a portable media player.

Once hooked up, the Sound Mug can pour out 16 watts of 360-degree sound via its 56 mm woofer and 20 mm tweeter. The nature of its audio output suggests it is best positioned in the middle of an area, such as between car seats or on a coffee table if used indoors. The controls for the Sound Mug sit on its top, preserving its sleek lines. It also comes with a remote control to allow a driver to adjust settings, such as volume and navigation between tracks, without the distraction of fiddling with it directly.

The speaker also comes with a dock that feeds off a vehicle’s main power source, allowing it to recharge a Walkman portable media player. An audio-in capability allows the Sound Mug to be hooked up to other PMPs such as iPods. The dock is also used for powering the Sound Mug itself, which has no internal battery. It can also run off the vehicle’s power via the tether. The speaker itself comes in black or bright orange, with the dock only available in black. The pairing was released recently and costs ¥19,800.

Sony has taken the entrenched rectangular box of the speaker and tossed it out like the dregs of a cup of coffee. The result is a visually stunning product. Its looks alone may tempt buyers to take it home and sit it around the house. But ideally it belongs on four wheels.

It might be an indulgence, but for drivers, at least, it will be a seriously tempting one. www.sony.jp/system-stereo/products/RDP-NWV500

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