As anyone who has taken the slightly immature, reasonably toxic and extremely entertaining step of smashing up a cathode ray tube telly will inform you - destroying gadgets is very, very cathartic.

For the most part, we don't want to subject our electronic toys to any sort of abuse that may harm them - but there are a few glaring exceptions.

Panasonic's near-bulletproof ToughBook series is one, and ioSafe's almost completely-bulletproof Rugged Portable external hard drives are another.

When the one-piece aluminium-cased ioSafe Rugged Portable 500MB drive came across my desk, complete with boast sheet of just what the device could handle in terms of violent beatings, I wasn't overly sceptical, having seen it put through living hell at last year's Consumer Electronics Show.


Those who haven't witnessed the ioSafe's abilities - that are so effective the company offers piles of greenbacks for forensic data recovery should the drive actually break - are generally shocked by just how solid the drives are.

The look on the face of an IT mate of mine as I bashed the drive - in the middle of copying movies from my Mac - into the side of the desk was nothing short of priceless.

When I used it to hammer a nail into a piece of wood he was near tears and told me it would never work again before retracting the comment as I plugged it in and let a back-up run. I even threw it in the sink (after unplugging it) with the dishes, dried out the connector and continued the back-up.

ioSafe's drives come in several flavours - titanium or aluminium casings, sizes ranging from 250MB to a terabyte and either hard disc drive or solid state drives. As the spec spread would suggest, there's a fairly wide variety of prices.

The $395 half-terabyte drive tested supports USB 3.0 through a mini-port - although the Mac it plugged into didn't - and quickly fell into step with Apple's Time Machine back-up system. I was told it would need to reformatted to talk nicely to an OSX machine, although the Lion-running MacBook Pro was happy to play nicely.

Windows users are provided with free Genie9 Timeline Pro software for similarly stress-free back-ups. This was given a run on a Windows 7 laptop PC, and again proved faultless. It will also run happily on XP and Vista (although let's be honest, no-one has ever been genuinely happy with Vista, apart from bitchy Mac users like myself).

The drive steps down to USB 2, using a separate cable from the 3.0 one, and ran as would be expected from any hard drive - but it's not what's on the inside that counts with the Rugged Portables.

That said, it's a 2.5-inch drive, weighs in around 450g, and thanks to its billet aluminium casing and clever shock-absorbing technology, runs like a train.

It's not the fastest drive in the world - they come in 5400rpm and 7200rpm versions (tested here) - and consistently sat around speeds between 28 and 32Mb/s on USB 2.0.

ioSafe's data protection guarantees are impressive - it'll survive being dropped from over three metres, can be submerged in saltwater for 72 hours and will take over 1100kg of crush force, which can be doubled for the titanium-cased version.

If you submerge it in chemicals like avgas, it'll still be okay. These experiments - especially the last one - weren't readily endorsed by the workplace safety mafia for some reason, but ioSafe will allow up to US$5000 for forensic recovery.

Some video proof of just what these solid wee beauties can withstand is here - how many external hard drives can you shoot at without being too concerned about your data's safety?

The Cage of Death demo from this year's CES is another impressive PR stunt - a million volts, and the data survives.

ioSafe Rugged portables are available in New Zealand from ClickOnce.

So are the Rugged Portables from ioSafe worth the relatively steep entry fee?

If you're out and about - especially anywhere particularly cold, hot, wet or populated with heavily-armed people - there is a peace of mind that just can't be achieved otherwise.

The fact that the aluminium casing is basically impervious to anything short of armour-piercing bullets is only half of the attraction, the US$5000 that ioSafe puts on the line to recover your data is an impressive guarantee by any standards.