There's more to digital storage than you might be aware of, and your needs often require devices across the entire spectrum. Start with the internal drive, then get an external drive, then a portable drive, then something you can access remotely or stream content from. Or just maybe, you might find you need something that works both as a portable drive and a media streamer, even when you're out and about. Yes, you could just realize that you want too much!
But no worries, you won't need to spend too much time on your search. The six storage devices listed here are the best in their categories. You'll find at least one that meets your needs, but very likely you'll pick out more than one that you want to buy. And if you're starting to build (or rebuild) your digital home, chances are you might want to get all of them.
This list will be updated on a regular basis as more devices are reviewed, but for now these are about as good as storage devices can get.
Buffalo DriveStation DDR
The Buffalo DriveStation DDR is a USB 3.0 desktop external hard drive that's the first to incorporate 1GB of DDR3 system memory as cache, and in doing so offers an unprecedented superfast data rate. The drive offers a real-world sustained data transferral speed of more than 200MBps, easily twice that of even the fastest regular USB 3.0 external drive on the market. This is also about the fastest data speed you get for a storage device that's connected directly to a host computer. In fact, the Buffalo DriveStation DDR registered speeds even faster than many advanced Thunderbolt-based storage systems in the same test.
In other words, the Buffalo DriveStation DDR offers blazing-fast speeds for people on a budget, so long as their computer supports USB 3.0. The drive is affordable, costing about the same as other desktop external hard drives that offer the same amount of storage space. Currently it's available in 2TB and 3TB capacities. Read the full review of the Buffalo DriveStation DDR.
Corsair Voyager Air
At its core, the Corsair Voyager Air is a USB 3.0 portable drive. The device, despite its compact physical size, comes with a built-in battery, Wi-Fi network, and Gigabit Network port. With up to 1TB of storage space and up to 7 hours of battery life, you can use it to carry a lot of content on the go and stream to as many as five mobile devices at a time. You can also use it as wireless backup storage for connected devices.
As far as mobile storage goes, the Corsair Voyager Air is the most complete package on the market. Read the full review of the Corsair Voyager Air.
Representing the internal drive category, the OCZ Vector is the latest solid-state drive (SSD) from OCZ, and it's the first drive made entirely by OCZ, from the controller to the flash memory. The result is something quite impressive; it's the fastest consumer-grade SSD to date. Available in the ultrathin (7mm) 2.5-inch design and shipped with a 3.5-inch drive bay converter, the Vector works with all standard systems, from desktops to ultrabooks.
If you're looking to get the most out of your system -- especially desktops, since the drive isn't the most energy-efficient I've seen -- this is the SSD you'll want to equip it with. Read the full review of the OCZ Vector.
Seagate Backup Plus
The Backup Plus (available in 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB capacities) is the latest portable hard drive from Seagate. It replaces the company's popular GoFlex line, which was first introduced back in 2001 and as its name implies, is known for being extremely flexible. You can use any type of peripheral connection with it, be it USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, or eSATA, via separate adapters. You can also use the included adapter to quickly connect any 2.5-inch internal drive to a computer.
Though the name has changed, the new product family retains the flexibility of the previous design; in fact, new Backup Plus drives work with the old GoFlex adapters. However, they now offer a new, easy backup approach, not just for local storage but also for your social-media personal data.
The Backup Plus drives also come in a variety of colors to suit your tastes. In fact, the color of the backup software's interface actually changes based on the color of the drive. This isn't a huge deal, but it's definitely fun and helps you know which drive you're working with. Read the full review of the Seagate Backup Plus.
WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo
If you have a Mac that supports Thunderbolt but not USB 3.0 -- and there are many of them -- the DriveStation DDR listed above is not an option for you. Instead, you should consider getting the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo. This storage device is the second Thunderbolt drive from Western Digital, the first being the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo.
Unlike the Thunderbolt Duo, which uses energy-efficient WD Green hard drives, the My Book uses two of the latest 1TB VelociRaptor hard drives in RAID 0 as its storage. WD VelociRaptor internal hard drives are arguably the fastest and most reliable on the market. The result: the My Book VelociRaptor Duo is by far the fastest dual-bay Thunderbolt drive I've tested. You can also configure it in a RAID 1 configuration to safeguard data against hard-drive failure, although the VelociRaptor is also one of the most reliable hard drives on the market. Read the full review of the WD My Book VelociRaptor Duo.
The Synology DS412+ is a four-bay NAS system that currently offers the best balance when it comes to performance, features, storage space, and cost. With hard drives currently capping at 4TB, the servers offer up to 16TB of raw storage space or 12TB of protected storage space. Like any NAS server from Synology, it runs the DiskStation Manager firmware to offer a vast amount of features and functions that can be managed via a robust Web interface. It's also one of the fastest NAS servers on the market.
Having a NAS server like the DS412+ at home will complete your network and digital life. This is because you can have your mini data center with streaming, hosting, sharing, and personal cloud capabilities -- and a lot more. Read the full review of the Synology DS412+.