iStorage diskAshur 500GB full review

The iStorage diskAshur is the world’s most secure, compact and affordable USB 3.0 portable hard drive, according to UK distributor iStorage. It’s now available with AES-XTS 128- or 256-bit hardware encryption. Read more storage device reviews.

All data copied to the hard disk inside is encrypted and can only be unlocked after entering your six- to 16-digit PIN code. This latest model is available in storage capacities from 250GB to 1000GB. 

We tested the 500GB model with AES-XTS 256 which sells for £159, although prices start at £119 for 250GB with 128-bit encryption, rising up to £219 for 1TB and 256-bit security.

The iStorage DiskAshur is a light, robust, yet slightly bulky black device almost 20mm thick, with a smooth non-slip surface and becelled edges. It’s said to be shock-resistant thanks to a 16-point mounting system. 

The finish can become marked with use, however the soft stretchy case that iStorage provides helps protect the drive from damage and dirt whilst travelling.  

The USB 3.0 port allows ‘super-speed’ connections that should ensure you can access your files faster than ever before. The device is also compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1.

The telephone-style keypad is large, with numbers that are clear and easily distinguished on oval-shaped wear-resistant buttons, reducing the potential for mistakes in the PIN entry.

Aiding its use are letters below each number to help you invent safe passcodes based on memorable phrases.

iStorage diskAshur: Setup

iStorage includes simple printed set-up instructions for the drive, which enable a first-time user to quickly change the default PIN and start using the device.

Simply begin with entering the original admin code of 123456 followed by the Unlock key. This turn the red light green, which clearly informs you that the iStorage diskAshur is ready for use. 

To choose your own PIN, you enter the admin PIN and press 9 and the Unlock button in unison. The light turns blue to show you are in admin mode. Then enter your own 6–16 digit PIN. This is verified with three flashes of the green light when successful. Re-enter the PIN and if it’s been successfully changed it will stay solid green for three seconds, then solid blue.

iStorage diskAshur: Features

If you delve deeper, there are more features to find, although you'll need to carefully read the full PDF manual first to find them.

The device can be assigned a self-destruct password that will reset all encryption and effectively delete all data should it be necessary. An auto-lock feature locks the device after a preset amount of time. 

Additionally, a Brute Force Destruct Feature helps deny access to hackers, reinforced by what Apricorn, the device’s US-based designer, calls VTC Technology.

Details of this are scant but it claims to be ‘working to thwart “timing attacks” aimed at accessing the drive by studying the behavior and infiltrating the diskAshur’s electronics.’

iStorage diskAshur: Performance

We lab-tested the diskAshur, née diskGenie, in its latest USB 3.0 form to see how fast data can be read and written.  

The headline speed for the disk was found to be around 70MBps. And like most disk-based storage, read and write speeds are practically the same.

In the ATTO benchmark test, top sequential speed was met with files from 8kB in size up to 8MB, recording around 72MBps.

HD Tach showed a top speed around 75MBps, falling to around 35MBps at minimum, and giving an average of 58MBps.

HD Tune Pro told a similar story, with max and mins at 71 and 34MBps respectively, and averaging 55MBps. 

Now that Apple Macs can fully accomodate USB 3.0, we also tried the drive with QuickBench in OS X Mountain Lion. Results were broadly similar with cache effects enabled, with reads reported at around 70MBps and writes closer to 65MBps.

While these transfer speeds are all around twice the speed of USB 2.0, they fall short of the capabilities of USB 3.0, even used with notebook hard disks.

With a 7200rpm drive, for example, we would expect sequential read/write speeds exceeding 100MBps. 

In fact, even the use of a 1TB notebook disk, such as the WD Scorpio Blue 1TB or Toshiba MQ01ABD100 1TB, should elicit much spritelier performance to make good use of the USB 3.0 interface.

Until we test an iStorage diskAshur 1TB, we can't be sure what brand and model of disk iStorage or Apricorn is fitting to its largest capacity drives.

iStorage does now sell portable diskAshur drives with SSD storage, which would be an even better match for USB 3.0


iStorage diskAshur 500GB: Specs

  • Encrypted portable hard drive
  • 256-bit AES-XTS encryption
  • USB 3.0
  • soft case
  • USB 3.0 extension cable included
  • 120 x 85 x 19.5mm
  • 181g

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