Review: Sentry Safe Sentry Safe QA0005 External Hard Drive

External hard drives are like the root canals of the gadget world. Sure, plenty of people need one from time to time, but they’re hard to get excited about. A waterproof/fire-resistant hard drive, though? Now we’re talking! In fact, when SentrySafe introduced us to the QA0005, our initial jaded reaction instantly transformed into a frenzied search for lighter fluid and an acetylene torch.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The QA0005 is more than a lightning rod for disaster. It also, you know … stores data.

Unfortunately, that’s where the QA0005 is bare bones at best. At heart, it’s just a Maxtor One-Touch 4 Mini Hard Drive encased in armor. That’s it. So, between the clunky backup software and the bulky design, we were thrown for a loop. Equally puzzling was the lack of a physical install disk. Sure, we get it — the hard drive itself is the physical install disk. But having the manual suggest we “copy all files on the hard drive” in lieu of providing a solid install disk seems strangely low-rent.

Install gripes aside, the QA0005 was everything we expected once we got it fired up. Loading up our precious movie and music libraries was easy enough courtesy of the unit’s zippy write speeds. In general, accessing files on the 250GB hard drive was simple enough, if not a little poky with larger files like DVDs. Of course, none of this really came as a shock. With its rock hard chassis and disaster-loving chops it’s obvious the QA0005 wasn’t designed for the hardcore media streaming set. In fact, even common Maxtor hard drive features like the One-Touch system, an external button that can automatically initiate a full backup, have been tossed to the wayside in favor of the unit’s protective chassis.

But honestly — isn’t a love for pyromania/water torture what got us here in the first place? Right. So, after unleashing hell on the QA0005 we have to say we’re impressed. Twelve hours of submersion (it’s good for up to 24) and some quality time in the oven and fireplace (good for 30 minutes at 1550 degrees) didn’t seem to phase the unit. SentrySafe strongly advises shipping the drive back for data retrieval after such feats, but we found that our unit worked just fine after plugging it back in. However, the one thing the QA0005 didn’t take in stride was shaking. Despite having a tough exterior suited for house fires and floods, the unit seems to be susceptible to earthquakes. Or just old fashioned clumsiness. If you’re lucky enough to live in the path of tornado or hurricane seasons, then the QA0005 is probably the best no-frills solution for keeping your data safe. For the rest of us, though? You’re probably better off spending the extra dough on something cheaper with more capacity.  -Terrence Russell

Additional photos: Terrence Russell

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