The ioSafe Solo Hawk is an external SSD drive that is built to withstand some of the harshest conditions a storage device could endure. Build to military standards, the drive is waterproof (up to 10 feet for 72 hours), crush-proof (up to 2500 pounds), drop-proof (up to 10 feet) and can be even made theft-proof, thanks to its built-in security slot. In this review, we will take a look at the ioSafe Solo Hawk, and see how it can benefit photographers who want their data protected when working in harsh conditions.
During the last few years, we have seen an explosion of SSD drives from a number of manufacturers. As prices of SSD drives are coming down significantly, they are already replacing slow hard drives for primary storage, as well as backup needs. Although they are still somewhat impractical to use for storing large amounts of data, SSD drives are great for those who travel a lot. They take very little space, weigh close to nothing and have excellent overall performance. However, most external drive enclosures are simply not built for rugged use, and must be handled with care. Due to their lightweight shell and poor design, they do not do well with moisture, impact and extreme temperatures.
The ioSafe Solo Hawk was specifically designed with all this in mind. Its primary purpose is to use it as a field drive when dealing with harsh conditions while traveling, but you can also use it in both office and home office environments to keep your data protected in case of a flood or other natural disasters. The device can be subjected to both fresh and salt water per IP68 requirements and continues to protect data even when it is connected via USB. ioSafe also states that the device has “ChemSafe” technology, which protects the device against full immersion in diesel fuel, oils, hydraulic fluids, and aircraft fuels, although I am not sure who would ever do that. For me, the most important specs have to do with the ability to withstand UV, sand / dust, rain, fog and ice, as well as ability to operate at high altitudes – those are the conditions that we as photographers often encounter. In short, the ioSafe Solo Hawk is designed to be abused in the field.
Let’s take a closer look at the drive’s specifications.
ioSafe Solo Hawk Specifications
- Crush Resistance: CNC machined enclosure from a solid billet of aluminum alloy. Crush resistant to up to 2500 lbs.
- Full Suspension Drive™ Technology: Full suspension in all six axes of motion. Optimized for data loss protection from drop and shock of 10 feet per MIL-STD810G Method 516.5.
- Water Protection: Waterproof with heat conducting barrier to protect against data loss in submersions up to 10 feet for 3 days in fresh water or salt water per IP68. Protects data even when USB plug is in. No requirement for a connector cap to retain data protection.
- ChemSafe™ Technology: Protects against full immersion in diesel fuel, oils, hydraulic fluids, and aircraft fuels. Submersions of 12 feet for 1 hour with no data loss per MIL-STD-810G Method 504.
- EnviroSafe™ Technology: Withstands continuous exposure to UV, blowing sand, blowing dust, rain, salt fog, ice, or freezing rain for 24 hours with no
data loss per MIL-STD-810G Methods 505.4, 506.4, 509.4 and 510.
- AltiSafe™ Technology: High altitude operation. 15K ft. (Alum.) and 30K ft. (SSD and Ti.) rated altitudes per MIL-STD-810G Method 500.4.
- Theft Protection: Built in Kensington security slot.
- Host Connection: 1x USB 3.2 gen2 Type-C (backwards compatible with USB 3.0 & USB 2.0 ports).
- Host Interface Speed: Up to 10 Gbps (when used with a USB 3.2/3.1 gen2 port on the computer).
- Drive Support: 1x 2.5” SATA solid state drive.
- Capacities: 500GB and 1TB (diskless not available).
- Bus-Powered Operation: Yes, with most USB 3.x ports.
- Supports TRIM: Yes.
- Supports UASP: Yes.
- OS Compatibility: Windows 10, 8.1; macOS 10.12 or newer; linux distributions that support USB 3.2
Environment and Packaging
- Environment: Operating: -20°C to 50°C (-4°F to 122°F), Non-operating: -40°C to 85°C (-40°F to 185°F), Operating Humidity: 5% – 80% (non-condensing), Non-operating Humidity: 100%, full immersion, 10 feet, 3 days.
- Package Content: Solo Hawk, USB Type-C to Type C cable, USB Type-C to Type-A cable, owners manual and warranty
- Warranty: 2 Years No-Hassle Warranty and 2 years DRS.
- Data Recovery Service: Upgradeable to 5 Year No-Hassle Warranty and 5 Years DRS. Certain limitations apply. See website for details.
One of the biggest selling points of the ioSafe Solo Hawk is the 2 year Data Recovery Service, which is provided at no charge (additional 3 years can be purchased separately). This is a pretty nice offering, because if anything happens to your data, you can count on the company to provide “no questions asked” full data recovery. Such service often comes at a very steep price when using third parties, so keep this in mind.
The ioSafe Solo Hawk is built to last, thanks to its high-quality, all-metal chassis that is made from two pieces – the main shell that hosts the drive and its controller, and a bottom plate that securely holds everything in place. The top plate is nicely decorated with an engraved picture of a hawk (the left side of the hawk’s wing spans to the left side of the unit) and the “Solo Hawk” logo, as shown below:
While the front side plate has an engraved ioSafe’s logo. The bottom plate has a couple of other engravings, as well as a sticker with the serial number and the model number of the unit.
Only one side of the Solo Hawk has connection ports and their layout is very simple. From left to right, there is a Kensington security slot, followed by a USB Type-C port, followed by a tiny hole where the blue LED indicator light resides:
The bottom plate has a tiny hole to assist in opening the drive with a screwdriver. There are four screws that hold the bottom plate in place and they are covered by waterproof rubber pieces. I did not bother opening the chassis, since it would void the warranty, and removing the rubber pieces would likely expose the holes, allowing water to come through.
The rugged metal construction obviously adds quite a bit to the weight of the Solo Hawk. At 485 grams (over a pound), this is not a lightweight drive. So keep this in mind when considering it for your travel needs.
Overall, the ioSafe Solo Hawk is built like a tank and seems to have excellent quality.
Unlike bigger storage devices that require installation of hard drives, latest firmware and drive configuration, the ioSafe Solo Hawk is basically ready to use right after unboxing. All you have to do is connect the provided USB type-C cable to the drive, then connect the other end to your computer. If your computer is not equipped with a Thunderbolt / USB Type-C connection, you will find another cable in the package that has the standard USB Type-A male connector. The drive is self-powered via USB, so you do not need an external power source.
ioSafe pre-formatted the drive for Windows OS when I first connected it to my Mac, as shown below:
My primary purpose with the ioSafe Solo Hawk was to use it with my MacBook Pro and my iPad Pro when traveling, so I had to re-format the drive using the APFS file system with the Disk Utility:
Once I did that, I was able to use the drive for read and write file operations. Anyway, let’s see how the drive performs!
Performance / Benchmarks
When it comes to read and write performance, the ioSafe Solo Hawk does very well. I used a couple of different benchmark tools to measure both sequential and random IO performance and the results did not disappoint. Blackmagicdesign’s Disk Speed Test measured between 460 and 480 MB/sec write speeds, while the read speeds stayed close to 520 MB/sec (using 4 GB files), as shown below:
Next, I measured the sequential performance using AJA’s System Disk Test, which showed slightly better results at 492 MB/sec write and 524 MB/sec read speeds when using a 4 GB file size:
The last test was to fire up CrystalDiskMark to measure both sequential and random IO on the drive. Here are the results:
Not bad at all. The ioSafe Solo Hawk was able to do around 180 MB/sec read and 145 MB/sec write speeds for both 4KiB Q8T8 and 4KiB Q32T1, while for 4KiB Q1T1 files it got 25.64 MB/sec read and 50.96 MB/sec write speeds. I ran comparison benchmarks on my Samsung Portable SSD T5 and here are the results:
It is clear from the above benchmark that ioSafe is not using a Samsung-branded SSD drive in its enclosure. As you can see, the Samsung was able to get noticeably faster random read and about 50 MB/sec faster write speeds for both 4KiB Q8T8 and 4KiB Q32T1.
Considering that the ioSafe Solo Hawk is primarily designed to be used as a backup device rather than primary storage, the sequential IO numbers are going to matter more than random IO for most photographers out there. However, if you are planning to use the device for other tasks, then keep the above figures in mind.
After these tests, I also copied a bunch of data (RAW files and video footage) to and from the drive and did not notice any issues.
Overall, the ioSafe Solo Hawk performed as expected.
While the Solo Hawk is a new rugged SSD offering from ioSafe, there are other products on the market that are also designed for similar purposes. Here is a list of competing products I was able to find, along with some information about each product.
|Product Name||Solo Hawk||Mobile SSD||Rugged Thunderbolt||My Passport Wireless SSD|
|Water Resistance||Submersion, 3m for 72hrs||Splashing for 10 min||Immersion up to 1m for 30 min||No|
|Crush Rating||2500 lb||1000 lb||2204 lb||N/A|
|Sun / UV Exposure||24hrs||No||No||No|
|Icing / Freezing Rain||24hrs||No||No||No|
|Chemical Submersion||12ft for 1 hr||No||No||No|
|Altitude Operation||Up to 30,000 ft||No||No||No|
|Salt / Fog||24 hrs||No||No||No|
|Operating Temperature||-20°C to 50°C||N/A||N/A||0°C to 35°C|
|USB Interface||3.2 Type-C||3.1 Type-C||3.0 Type-C||3.1 Type-A|
|Data Throughput||Up to 555 MB/s||Up to 560 MB/s||Up to 510 MB/s||Up to 390 MB/s|
|Capacities||Up to 1 TB||Up to 2 TB||Up to 1 TB||Up to 2 TB|
|SD Card Slot||No||No||No||Yes|
|Data Recovery Service||Yes||No||No||No|
|Hardware Warranty||2 Yrs||5 Yrs||3 Yrs||2 Yrs|
|Price (1 TB)||$399.00||$189.95||$499.99||$450.00|
As you can see, the ioSafe Solo Hawk is uniquely positioned compared to its competition. No other drive on the market offers the same ruggedness and protection against the elements, or provides data recovery services. I would say it has no competition at the moment…
ioSafe continues to make a solid line of products that are designed for those who want to keep their data safe in potentially hazardous conditions. The Solo Hawk is a very different product when compared to other ioSafe products. Unlike big and heavy NAS storage units and external drives that run continuously in home and office environments, the Solo Hawk is made for those who are always on the move. It is small, portable, silent, fast, and it is made to be able to withstand harsh outdoor conditions – something no other ioSafe product can do.
Thanks to all of its unique features, the ioSafe Solo Hawk has no real competition (as can be seen from the comparison table above). With its appealing price of $399 for a 1 TB model, the Solo Hawk is a real bargain and something I can definitely recommend to all creatives out there.
Where to Buy
You can purchase the ioSafe Solo Hawk on Amazon using the links below:
ioSafe Solo Hawk
- Build Quality
- Size and Weight
- Ease of Use
- Speed and Performance
Photography Life Overall Rating
The price isn’t terrible for the size and speed. I tested out, and still have, some Glyph drives that I fell in love with. The weather ratings of this ioSafe are interesting. I didn’t go that far to test on my drives…
Jon, the ioSafe has a very specific set of features that most people probably could care less about. But I like the fact that the drive will keep your data safe in case it floods, which makes it an appealing idea to use for keeping the most critical data. For government employees and people who travel a lot, it will be worth spending the money for getting a truly rugged drive that will deliver.
No kidding! Im one that loves reliability. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one for my next travel drive should my present one die.
Nasim, my apologies for the off-topic message but the website has been very hard to use lately. During the last 3 attempts I made at reading this article I was taken automatically after a couple of seconds to a different website. Pressing the back button on the browser was ineffective. Can you please fix that? Thank you Nasim, I am looking forward to continue reading your articles.
Fabrice, I think we’ve already communicated over email in regards to this issue, but it is a huge concern for us and we have been sending these redirects to our advertising network and they have been banning them, one by one. I am very sorry for this and I hope it does not happen again. Thank you for letting us know!
Nice overview Nasim,
I’ve been looking at getting a portable SSD, and would like to know more about the powering. When it says powered by USB 3.x bus, does that mean it will work straight from a cable plugged into a camera with USB-C port, or does it need linking to a laptop or similar with the larger USB-A sized port? In general, I find it very surprising that these larger, rugged styled portable SSDs do not all have built-in power-packs and card readers like the WD version in your table. I.e. if you’re in a rugged environment, you probably can’t used your laptop safely, or am I missing something?
Yes, it means that the device is powered through the USB Type-C connection directly and you do not need to use a separate power adapter. Now the device that it connects to has to be able to provide sufficient power continuously and a camera would not be able to do that. If you want to back up photos while traveling without a laptop, the WD or the new Gnarbox 2.0 are going to be much better choices.