Review: CRU's ToughTech M3 Drive Aptly Named

The Tough Tech M3 from CRU is an aluminum drive enclosure for a single, 2.5-inch SATA 3 drive with USB 3.0 interface for Linux, Mac and Windows PCs. This handsome, rugged unit can house a 7mm or 9.5mm spinning or solid-state drive and gets its power from the USB port; there's no AC adapter. It's available empty or with a 256-GB SSD ($299) or 1-TB magnetic hard drive ($149) preinstalled. For $49 list, the enclosure comes with a heavy-duty USB 3.0 cable, soft cloth pouch and a small Phillips screwdriver for servicing the unit.

The M3 measures 5.2-x-3-x-0.71 inches, or about the size of a deck of Tarot cards. It weighs a third of a pound without a drive or about half a pound with. A pair of screws -- one on either side of the unit -- hold the rounded plastic end plates in place. With the plate removed, the main board is free to slide out of its sturdy aluminum alloy sleeve and accept a drive with four additional screws on its underside.

The M3 is easy enough to work with, but it's clearly not designed for frequent drive swaps. The front panel is home to a single green LED that shines steadily to indicate the drive has power, shuts off when data is being written and flashes during read operations. The rear panel is home to a Micro USB 3.0 Type B female receptacle and a write-protect button to prevent accidental erasure. There's a Kensington lock port on the right side.

For testing, CRU sent the CRN Test Center a unit prepopulated with a 256-GB SSD, preformatted for Mac OS X. To measure the data transfer rate, testers used Xbench 1.3 from Spiny Software.

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A maximum transfer rate of 34.9 MB/s was observed in sequential reads of 256K blocks. The fastest write speed was 29.04 MB/s, for sequential 4K blocks. The fastest random read rate was 25.95 MB/s. Even more impressive was the drive's ability to multitask. While streaming media from the drive, we drag-copied a 1-GB binary file and observed no interruption in the media playback during the 31-second transfer.

Overall, we found CRU's ToughTech M3 to be a sturdy, well-built enclosure that performs well and would be well-suited for spot backups, data migration and extra storage on workstations running any modern operating system that supports USB 3.0. It's covered by a two-year warranty and lifetime technical support.

This product is recommended by the CRN Test Center.