Tough mobile disk CalDigit Tuff

Mobile disk drives are essential tools for movie and video makers. Everyone who ventures out in hostile environments to shoot footage needs rugged drives that can withstand some rough handling. It’s the main reason why LaCie has made its Rugged series and why G-Tech jumped on this bandwagon with its G-Drive ev range. CalDigit may perhaps be late to the game, releasing its bus-powered Tuff drive only recently, but it beats the forerunners by a large margin.

The CalDigit Tuff is probably the most versatile drive in this market niche. It has a USB Type-C port that is backwards compatible, so it will work on any machine with USB. It will also work with Thunderbolt 3 machines. The Tuff comes with a 20cm USB Type-C and USB 3 converter cable in its rugged, protective archive case. It complies with the USB 3.1 standard, which allows for 10GB/sec throughput performance. The first and most obvious two aspects that set the Tuff apart is that it currently comes in a generous 2TB hard drive configuration with an SSD configuration in the pipeline. The second is its price of €181.99, which is lower than anything else in this niche.

What sets the Tuff apart

The Tuff has intelligent power management. Bus powering a drive isn’t as straightforward as it seems. CalDigit has engineered a power management system that secures the drive receiving optimal power regardless of other devices on the bus. Even when it has to deliver less than required, the Tuff will receive the power it needs. CalDigit says it is currently the only company using such technology.

tuff in packaging

But the Tuff is better in other areas as well. It has shock protection claimed to comply with military standard MIL-STD-810G. Me dropping the Tuff on a wooden floor from about one metre high didn’t cause any damage. According to CalDigit it has withstood repeated dropping on different materials. It’s a pity, though, the company doesn’t explicitly specify the maximum drop height the Tuff will survive, but I think we can safely assume it will be around two metres.

As far as I know, the Tuff is the only drive on the market to have full IP57 Certification, which means it is waterproof and dust proof. When you make sure the USB-C port has been properly sealed off with the silicon bumper’s port plug, you can drop it in a bath tub filled to the rim (about 60cm in my case) and it will come out soaking wet, but still fully functional.

However, I didn’t wait for the 30 minutes you can leave it submerged until the silicon plug will start leaking. I don’t think anyone in its right mind will deliberately throw a drive in the water without at least trying to recover it as quickly as possible. The maximum depth the Tuff has to be able to remain watertight in order to become IP57 Certified is one metre.

tuff in durable archive case

The LaCie Rugged is only IP54 Certified, which means it only keeps its own when splashed with water, while the G-Drive ev ATC gets aquaphobia from being submerged in 30cm of water for 30 seconds.

Finally, the Tuff has IP57 Certified dust protection. This means ingress of dust must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment. LaCie’s offers the same sort of protection, while the G-Drive ev ATC is dust protected, but with no certifications to back up that claim, it’s hard to tell how well it is protected.

Experiences with the CalDigit Tuff

The first thing that you’re bound to notice is the packaging. I’m always in for beautifully designed packaging and branding and CalDigit has done a wonderful job. The half-transparent rugged archive box looks great and does the job perfectly — it closes with two clips and a latch. Better yet, it allows for a label to be inserted on the inside so you can tag the box without damaging and quickly see which drive you’re working with, even without opening.

Inside is a compartment to snugly hold the Tuff drive with another compartment containing the cables. The latter are a bit too short to my liking. A cable of 30cm would probably have fitted in there too and would have been just long enough for other uses besides hooking up the drive to a MacBook.

The Tuff is fan-less, but never became warmer than my hand. Heat dissipation was flawless, even when it was a damp 30°C.

Speed is excellent. I tested with a USB 3 connection and Blackmagic Design’s Disk Speed Text reported a write speed of 121MB/sec and a read speed of 129MB/sec. That’s exactly what CalDigit claims for the hard disk drive model. When the Tuff comes out with an SSD inside, its performance may rise to 550MB/sec.

In short, the Tuff is silent, inexpensive, fast, has more disk space than others in its market niche and is certified to resist rough handling and hostile environments. It comes with great design, bumpers in different colours, in a rugged and efficient archive case. That makes it the perfect mobile drive for any sort of video shooting, be wherever you are and no matter how careless you handle it. It’s the perfect drive for any sort of usage you can think of.