Loaded For Ware — iStorage diskAshur M2 Review

Hard drive
It’s finally come full circle.

Years ago, iStorage sent me a flash drive to review, which helped changed HyperGeeky from just a comic and movies review site to one that included video game and tech reviews.

We’ve obviously gone through a few changes since then — we’re still reviewing movies, tech, and video games, but we’ve left comics and television shows behind for the time being.

Recently, iStorage reached out about having a review done for their new diskAshur M2 solid-state drives, a work-ready line of secure drives that look fantastic and boast some insane features.

I received a 1-terabyte drive, and I’ve found that this little pocket universe is an instant eye-catcher that couldn’t be denied a shot in my everyday carry.

A drive with a keypad
The purpose of the drive is simple: Keep things under lock and key.

Take off the slip cover to expose a rubberized keypad. Typing in the correct code gives you access to the contents of the drive. It’s a simple premise, but there are several companies out there doing amazing things and incorporating a bevy of options

The M2, small yet substantial, doesn’t feel like a normal hard drive when it’s in the palm of your hand. It’s smaller than a smartphone, and while light, its metal on metal construction give it a sort of presence that exudes toughness, durability, and a bit of classy elegance.

It’s the kind of hard drive a super-spy in a slick tuxedo would carry in the inside of his jacket pocket.

As just a hard drive, the M2 is relatively quick with a backwards-compatible 3.2 USB-C port that sends and receives data at 370 megabytes per second. The drive is OS-independent, which means it will work with a PC, a MacBook, and a host of other platforms. It can even be used as a boot drive.

On the physical side, the M2 is stronger than it looks. It can withstand the weight of a 2.7-ton car driving over it, and its aluminum housing gives it protection from sand, dirt, and dust. The M2 can handle water submersion up to 1.5-meters for 30 minutes, and it’s safe from drops at a height of four meters.

That may sound like overkill for a flash drive, but competitors in this space aren’t just fighting over who has the most hard drive space per dollar. Secure-drive manufacturers need every edge in order to stay relevant in the market, and that means packing on feature after feature to keep drives safe from hackers and the elements.

iStorage

Speaking of hackers, the M2 has a tamper-proof circuit board that’s coated in an epoxy-resin that makes it nigh-impossible to circumvent the security features by taking the drive apart. Doing so would damage the inner electronics, rendering the drive inoperable. With a tamper-evident design for the casing, the drive will make it obvious if someone has gone through the trouble of taking apart your drive.

The wear-resistant keypad is coated in polymer, which keeps each button looking fresh. That prevents anyone from deducing your password through wear and tear, and it also extends the longevity of the drive’s usability.

In addition to the aesthetics, hard-drive specs, and the physical security features, the M2 features several awesome passive data-security measures.

According to its website, iStorage’s dataShur M2 carries “FIPS PUB 197 validated, AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption.” It would require something very powerful, somewhere along the lines of a theoretical quantum-based computer, to crack your drive’s code because there is a huge amount of possible keycode combinations (thanks in part to the shift-key that allows users to put special characters into their passcode).

The drive’s microprocessor adds another layer of protection for your data by warding off various methods used by hackers.

Brute-force attacks have a very low ceiling to work with because the drive will automatically wipe its own contents after 10 consecutive failed attempts. And if the drive is unplugged from your computer, it automatically locks.

These layers of security are intended to stop any and every possible situation, and there are plenty of options to work with to fit your needs.

Programmed to protect
The M2’s cornucopia of programmables gives you flexibility in how you handle the drive, use it to pass data, and lock things down.

Sporting both an admin and user feature set, the M2 can be configured with multiple passwords and tiered safety protocols.

In administrator mode, the drive can be set to read-only for users, making it impossible for edits to be made. Other options, like creating a user pin with limited permissions gives you the ability to loan out your drive without giving away all of your data. Admins can also set a recovery pin that provides users who’ve forgotten their codes a way back in.

The user manual, which comes in at about 38 pages in English, has a lot of other options to tweak and toggle. From changing the required password length to checking the firmware number using the LED lights, the customization and quality-of-life options create the impression the iStorage engineers were serious about creating a drive that won’t give away your secrets.

There’s even a way to initiate a self-destruct where the drive instantly wipes its contents.

Carry
A Samsung portable SSD T5 with a terabyte of storage will cost you $129.99 (before tax) on Samsung’s ecommerce site. The T5 is a V-NAND flash memory drive with transfer speeds in the 540-megabyte-per-second range. It’s ultra-portable and even comes in your choice of black, red, or gold.

Right now, the iStorage M2 goes for $275 on Amazon, which makes it more than twice the price of a faster, shinier, smaller Samsung drive. But we’re not really comparing apples to apples here.

The M2 isn’t just a hard drive. It’s a hard drive with a batsuit and a feature-laden utility belt. It’s not a question of whether the security features, build, and programming options are worth the price of two smaller, faster, shinier hard drives, it’s a matter of security as a priority.

iStorage

Industries like medical or, in my case, teaching require strict security measures in order to keep client and student data away from prying eyes. Failure to do so could result in violations and even fines or criminal charges.

I keep letters of recommendation, student-created videos, pictures, and other documents on my laptop and cloud drives, but I’ve started to move things onto externals to open up space and consolidate.

These files need to be kept safe, and secure SSDs aren’t only as safe as my laptop — I actually trust them more because I’ve worked in IT and know how easy it is to crack computer passwords.

Is it the perfect drive — not yet. I would much rather gain access to the drive through my phone with a Bluetooth option, and the slipcase gets caught on the buttons when I take it off or put it on.

At the price point, I don’t think this drive is going to appeal to the masses — if your work stays at home, or you carry most of your data on your phone, the M2 might not be the most practical thing for your data or your wallet. But if you have data that moves with you, it might be worth it to consider what would happen if your hard drive was stolen. Would you be comfortable with someone looking at your files?

We have locks on our gates, doors, and cars — why not on our data?

Don’t think of the M2 as just a drive. It’s something built to prepare you for a worst-case scenario whether you’re MI6 or MBA.


iStorage dataShur M2 1TB
iStorage

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review is based on a review-sample 1TB drive sent to us from the company.

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