Seagate has raised the bar for portable external hard drives at the CES 2010 with its BlackArmor PS110 Performance kit for portable computers. Comprising a 500GB/7,200rpm half-inch thick external hard drive, power cable and a USB 3.0 PC ExpressCard, this kit promises transfer performance up to three times a typical USB 2.0-based device and doesn't need latest-generation USB support on your laptop to work at full speed.

The advent of USB 3.0 has opened up new horizons for external hard drive manufacturers, which can use this new specification to boost transfer rates. But with Intel announcing its chips won't be supporting the new standard until 2011 and others struggling to keep pace, mainstream adoption is lagging behind. Seagate's solution circumvents the problem by selling a "performance kit" so the drive will work at higher-than-normal speeds with any PC equipped with an ExpressCard slot, which is usually found in high-end laptops such as a 17" MacBook Pro or the Acer Aspire series.

The nominal speed in USB 2 is 60MB per second, but when you account for actual throughput and protocol overheads, the true sustained transfer rate is actually closer to 35MB per second in most cases. Using an ExpressCard and USB 3.0 compatibility, Seagate managed to boost speeds up to a sustained 100MB/s, placing the BackArmor PS100 among the fastest portable hard drives around, being able to transfer a 25GB HD movie in a little over four minutes. Of course, the drive is backwards compatible with the slower USB 2.0 as well.

Only half an inch thick, each drive ships with automated full-system backup and recovery software compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7 and covered by a 5-year limited warranty. The BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 Performance kit can be purchased online or in stores for a suggested retail price of USD$179.99.