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iStorage diskAshur M2 Review: A Tiny Ultra-Secure Storage Vault Oddity

In many ways, the new diskAshur M2 portable drive is the upgrade to iStorage’s datAshur PRO2 that came out in 2019. It’s larger, faster but the impenetrable security concept remains.

In a nutshell, this is a tiny portable SSD with an integrated keypad that works like that of a safe. So you can think of it as the Apricorn Aegis Padlock‘s arch-rival.

And as such, it’s a formidable one — this review dubs as the matchup between the two.

And here’s the low-down: Both have their pros and cons when stacked against each other, but since I called the Apricorn a portable drive that “makes sense,” the iStorage sure is a bit odd.

But diskAshur M2 is never meant to be a conventional portable SSD. And, as a niche device with a comparatively friendlier cost, it makes an excellent choice for those needing absolute data privacy while on the go.

If you’re that type of user, get one. You won’t be disappointed.

iStorage diskAshur M2 vs Apricorn Aegis Padlock vs datAshur PRO2
Here’s the iStorage diskAshur M2 next to the Apricorn Aegis Padlock. Note its Micro-B SuperSpeed port.

iStorage diskAshur M2's Rating

8.4 out of 10
The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD 4
Performance
8.5/10
Features
8.5/10
Design and Setup
8/10
Value
8.5/10

Pros

Strong hardware encryption and security keypad

Fast USB 3.2 Gen 1 performance

Rugged compact design

USB cables included

Cons

Micro-B Superspeed port instead of USB-C

PIN management can be overwhelming

Capacity caps at 2TB

Software patch needed for each Windows computer

iStorage diskAshur M2 Review: Why not USB-C?

The iStorage diskAshur M2 is the first portable drive I’ve seen in a long time that doesn’t have a USB-C port — the Apricorn drive doesn’t have any port. And considering how tiny it is, that’s quite odd.

(It seems iStorage itself understands this predicament. The company’s webpage on the drive seems to casually mislead users into thinking the drive has built-in USB-C support.)

Carry Case and product
This image from iStorage’s page on the diskAshur M2 suggests that the drive has a built-in USB-C port. This can’t be further from the truth.

Instead, the diskAshur M2 comes with the awkward Micro-B SuperSpeed port. So, to use it with a modern computer, you’ll need a rather unusual USB-C to Micro-B USB 3.2 cable.

The good news is the drive includes this cable, plus a regular SuperSpeed Micro-B one. The bad is, well, if you misplace either, you might have a hard time finding a replacement readily available.

So in terms of practicality, I’d say the Apricorn Aegis Padlock, which has an integrated USB-A cable, is much better. But neither is USB-C friendly.

See also  Device Connections Explained: Thunderbolt or Not, It's All about USB-C

iStorage diskAshur M2 vs Apricorn Aegis Padlock: Hardware specifications

 iStorage diskAshur M2Apricorn Aegis Padlock SSD
Capacities120GB, 240GB,
480GB, 1TB, 2TB
240GB, 480GB,
1TB, 2TB, 4TB
Part NumbersIS-DAM2-256-xx
(xx=capacity)
ASSD-3PL256-xxxF,
ASSD-3PL256-yTBF
(xxx = capacity in GB
y=capaicity in TB)
Security AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryptionAES 256-Bit XTS hardware encryption
InterfaceUSB 3.2 Gen 1 Type A
(formerly USB 3.0)
USB 2.0/1.1 compatible
With a Micro-B SuperSeed port
USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type A
(formerly USB 3.0)
USB 2.0/1.1 compatible
With built-in USB-A cable
Data Transfer RatesUp to 370MB/sUp to 350MB/s
Power Source100% Bus-powered100% Bus-powered
Weight2.3 oz (65 g)3.6 oz (102 g)
Dimensions4.37 x 1.77 x .47 in (111 x 45 x 12 mm)2.5 x 3.3 x 0.55 in
(83.5 x 64.5 x 14 mm)
RuggednessIP68,
Dust/Water-Resistant
Shock/Crush-Proof
IP66,
Crush Resistant: Up to 6500 lbs
CompatibilityWindows, Mac, Linux, and others
SuperSpeed Micro-B supporting cable required
Windows, Mac, Linux, and others
USB-A port or converter required
CertificationFIPS 140-2 Level 3
Common Criteria EAL 5+
FIPS 140-2 Level 3;
CERT #3944 TAA-compliant,
NATO OTAN Restricted (pending)
U.S. Costs (at review)$142 (120GB)
$165 (240GB)
$197 (480GB)
$275 (1TB)
$489 (2TB)
$182 (240GB)
$255 (480GB)
$428 (1TB)
$592 (2TB)
$1200 (4TB)
Warranty3 years 3 years 
Hardware specifications: iStorage diskAshur M2 vs Apricorn Aegis Padlock
iStorage diskAshur M2 vs datAshur PRO2
Here’s the iStorage diskAshur M2 next to its older cousin datAshur PRO2.

Rugged design with a built-in keypad

Out of the box, the iStorage diskAshur M2 is a tiny storage device that fits right in your palm. It comes with a metal sleeve that makes it feel like a flattened Zippo lighter.

You might misplace this lid easily, but the drive works fine without it. In fact, I don’t think the lid is necessary at all.

Without this cover — you can easily misplace it, which would be fine since I find it a bit unnecessary — you’ll note right away that the diskAshur M2 is very similar to the Apricorn Aegis Padlock (as well as the datAshur PRO2).

These are portable SSDs with a built-in alphanumeric keypad. The M2 comes with numbers from 0 to 9, a Lock key, and a Shift key. The Shift key enables access to the alpha letters. (The Apricorn Aegis Padlock doesn’t have this key.)

On top of the keys, you’ll find three Red, Green, and Blue LED status lights.

The purpose of the keypad and these lights are for you to manage the drive’s security within the drive itself — there’s no other way anyway.

Unlike the datAshur PRO2, the M2 doesn’t have a built-in battery — you’ll need to plug it into a computer before you can manage its PINs or unlock it.

iStorage diskAshur M2: Detail photos

The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD
The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD includes two USB cables and a carrying pouch.

The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD
The iStorage diskAshur M2 is super compact and rugged.

The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD
The iStorage diskAshur M2 comes with a sleeve that you can misplace easily.

The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD
The portable SSD uses the old Micro-B SuperSpeed port instead of USB-C.

The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD
The iStorage diskAshur M2 does work with a USB-C port via a supporting cable (included).

The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD
The iStorage diskAshur M2’s underside.

The iStorage diskAshur M2 Portable SSD
The iStorage diskAshur M2’s retail box.

Overwheming PIN options, top-notch security feature

Like the case of the datAshur PRO2 and the Apricorn Aegis Padlock, the diskAshur M2 comes with security features that qualify it as a storage vault. There’s no way anyone can crack it to access the information it stores.

Specifically, the drive requires long PINs of between 7 to 15 characters. It supports three PINs: admin, user (each with a read-only mode), and self-destruction.

As you can imagine, program these PINs and modes can be overwhelming since you have to use a combo of the numbers and the two Shift and Lock keys for the job.

Unlike Apricorn, Storage doesn’t provide the option to use software for PIN management for all of its drives.

iStorage diskAshur M2 Status Light
The iStorage diskAshur M2 has a ton of status light variables for you to remember by heart.

That said, for PIN programming, the only feedbacks you’d get is from the flashing of the status lights. And remembering what they mean can be daunting. The screenshot above shows what you need to learn by heart. (Or not.)

However, in most cases, all you need is a single admin PIN to use the drive. And for that, you can figure things out relatively quickly. If you want to do more, though, make sure you keep the manual handy.

Patch needed for Windows

Out of the box, the diskAshur M2 comes with the default admin PIN, 11223344, which you must change before using the drive.

After that, you’ll note that the drive is formatted exFAT to work with any platform. But you can reformat it into any file system of your choice.

It is worth noting, though, that the diskAshur M2 comes with a patch file — name “patch.” You need to run this file — double click on it and answer the pop-up question affirmatively — on each Windows computer for the drive to work well.

Without this patch installed, the drive might appear disconnected after being idle for a minute or so.

Data breach vs data retention

It’s important to note that the iStorage diskAshur M2 is not a portable SSD for a single copy of your data, as all drives of its type.

Since its purpose is to keep the information safe from prying eyes — its data breach-proof — it’s not designed to keep the data from being destroyed.

Indeed, other than the self-destruct PIN, if you enter the admin PIN incorrectly 10 consecutive times, the drive’s Brute Force protection feature will automatically reset it to default, effectively secure-erase all of its content.

In other words, anyone can intentionally destroy the information on the inside — all they have to do is the way to enter the admin PIN. The point is, don’t use the drive to store the only copy of your data.

iStorage diskAshur M2: Excellent performance

I tested the diskAshur M2 for a couple of days on both Windows and Mac computers, and its security feature worked exactly as intended.

iStorage diskAshur M2 Performance

And for a USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) drive, it was fast, too.

No, it’s wasn’t even close to the fast I’ve seen. But it was faster than the Apricorn Aegis Padlock by a small margin. And since this is a matchup between the two, the little extra in MB/s means we’ve got here the winner.

As for real-world usage, generally, you can expect around 300MB/s of sustained copy speed out of it when using with 5Gbps USB. That’s more than fast enough in most cases.

The drive also worked with USB 2.0 in my trial, but in this case, its real-world speed capped at around 40MB/s.

Conclusion

For the cost, the iStorage diskAshur M2 is an excellent storage vault that you can carry on the go with peace of mind on data. In fact, if you can live with the old-school Micro-B SuperSpeed port, this is arguably the best portable SSD of its type.

While the Apricorn Aegis Padlock sure is more convenient to use, the iStorage diskAshur M2 will give you some extra in performance, compactness, and ruggedness — all at a lower cost. Other than that, both drives will give you the same top-notch level of data security.

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